New research shows ozone’s effects on oil seed rape

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rapeseed

Increased ozone levels as predicted by global climate change experts could cut oil seed rape yields by up to 30 per cent by the end of the century, according to new research.

Rapeseed is a member of the brassicaceae family and is distinguishable by its bright yellow flowers. It is grown for animal feed use, for its oil for human consumption, and for biodiesel.

This latest research from scientists at the University of Antwerp was presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow on Monday, and the researchers have suggested that the increased ozone levels as a result of climate change could affect crops in various European regions differently than previously expected.

The project’s coordinator, Karine Vandermeiren, research manager at the Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre in Brussels, told that higher levels of ozone affect not only the yield, but also the percentage of oil content.

She said: “If the predictions of the global panel on climate change are correct, we could be looking at a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in yield by 2100. If you combine that with oil productivity loss it’s even more…Combined, these two aspects would be serious for farmers.”

Regional differences

However, it is warmer, wetter conditions, such as those predicted for central and northern parts of Europe that provide the worst scenario for oil seed rape productivity loss in this part of the world.

“For Europe, it was often thought that Southern Europe was experiencing the highest ozone levels,” ​said Vandermeiren. “However, ozone needs to go into the plant before it’s affected. But if plants are not irrigated and experience drought stress it’s not taken up. Now we see in central and northern areas the effects might be greater because the plants take up the ozone more than in southern countries.”

But she added that highly polluted environments in rapidly developing countries, combined with their warmer climates, is an even greater worry for the future of oil seed rape crops.

“In developing countries in Asia, China, for example, where there is still a lot of pollution, there will be yield reduction that can never be matched in Europe.”

Antioxidant levels

The researchers’ preliminary findings have also suggested that higher ozone levels increase levels of glucosinolates, as well as other antioxidants, including vitamin C and tocopherols, in broccoli.

“There is a change in glucosinolate concentration and composition. It has the potential to increase the anticarcinogenic properties but we still need to confirm this.

“For oilseed rape the changes are not so clear cut as for broccoli.​”

The research is still in progress, and is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Related topics: Europe, Grains, Sustainability, R&D

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