Plant of the Month - December - Brussel Sprouts/Brassicas

1st December, 2020

Artist

Lorna Jenkins is an artist and illustrator. She paints impressionist landscapes and nature.
@lornapaintsandwrites
@lornabdavies

Why did we pick it?

Brussels sprouts are part of a varied but closely related family called the brassicas. We use brassicas for everything from fuel (oilseed rape) to condiments (mustard). But brassicas are very sensitive to weather conditions, which are becoming more unpredictable as the climate changes. We're supporting work to make brassicas more resilient to varied weather, reducing waste and environmental impact.

Brussel Sprouts/Brassica extras

Cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts are all the same species, Brassica napus.

Brassicas are threatened by climate change partly because key stages of their development (e.g. flowering) are controlled by the weather – remember the great broccoli shortage of 2017? “Oilseed rape and Brassica vegetable crops have a combined UK market value in excess of £1 billion, but suffer yearly losses of up to £230 million, primarily due to increasingly unfavourable and unpredictable weather patterns.” https://bbsrc.ukri.org/news/food-security/2019/190509-n-the-winter-weather-window-that-is-costing-uk-rapeseed-growers-millions/

BBSRC have research on finding the genes responsible for weather-sensitive development, with a view to making more climate change-resistant varieties with less waste.
https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BB%2FP003095%2F1 This led to an ongoing trial to test how these genes work in the field: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-2060128

More relevant research:
Control of brassica pests: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-2059789 and https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-1897825 and https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-1644829
Genomics of Indian mustard to help breed resistance to new diseases: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-1782601
Getting renewable industrial products from oilseed rape https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BBS%2FE%2FF%2F00042721 and https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BB%2FL002124%2F1
Robot broccoli harvester: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BB%2FN004841%2F1
Disease-resistant baby kale https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=studentship-1940795