Discovering the genes that control flowering time in canola

Time of flowering is a key adaptive trait in plants and is conditioned by the interaction of genes and environmental cues including daylength, ambient temperature and vernalisation (i.e. the cold temperatures experienced during winter). Understanding how these genes work will help plant breeders develop varieties adapted to a changing climate.

Professor Nelson leads a team who aims to identifying the genes that control flowering time in canola (Brassica napus). In order to understand how Australian canola responds to different environmental cues, the team crossed an Australian variety with a European variety, developed a population of experimental progeny and measured their flowering time in both long day and short day conditions. They discovered that daylength had a profound effect on flowering time but that it affected all progeny equally (all progeny flowered earlier in long days compared to short days), indicating that both Australian and European varieties had the same genes for daylength response. However, within each daylength treatment, they observed a huge range of flowering time among the experimental progeny. Using molecular markers the team identified several regions of the canola genome containing genes controlling flowering time. Further research is underway using genome sequencing technologies to identify those genes and to understand how they interact to produce this huge range of flowering time. Professor Nelson and the team aims to extend the scope of their research to other Australian and overseas varieties so that they can provide plant breeders with knowledge and molecular marker tools to more efficiently develop varieties that are adapted to a rapidly changing climate.


  • Professor Ravikesavan Rajasekaran, Tamil Nadu, India