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No rest for weary canola plants

You’re not the only one who can’t get any ‘sleep’ during those sweltering summer nights

Turns out your canola plants just need to get a little rest.

When high temperatures, especially at night, prevent them from “sleeping” properly productivity takes a hit, and now researchers from Kansas State University are trying to figure out why.

What exactly is the plant doing at night? It’s not sleeping like humans do, but it is carrying out important processes. During the night, the plant performs maintenance at the cellular level, allowing it to grow new cells and repair damaged ones.

In the case of canola, it must also flower, produce pollen, be pollinated, generate a pod, and fill it with seeds.

All of these important steps are limited when the temperature increases, including during nighttime.

“High night temperature stress changes different physiological processes that ultimately lead to decreased seed-set, grain number, grain filling duration, grain filling rate, and final grain weight in canola,” said Meghnath Pokharel, a doctoral student in agronomy.

In their research, the scientists studied many different aspects of canola. For example, they looked at what time of day the plants flower under normal conditions compared to high nighttime temperatures and quality of seed produced.

“The temperatures caused the flowering to shift to earlier hours of the morning,” Pokharel said. “The timing of flower opening is important for the plant, as it determines aspects related to fertilization and ultimately seed-set.”

The researchers say the higher nighttime temperatures will have a long-term impact due to global climate change.

Ultimately they hope to explore how to breed canola that isn’t as severely affected.

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