University of Cambridge > > Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars > Improving the pollination of the field bean (Vicia faba L.)

Improving the pollination of the field bean (Vicia faba L.)

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Legume species, such as the field bean (Vicia faba L.), are important crops due to their high protein content. In recent years, the yield of V. faba has become more variable. This yield instability has been linked to insufficient pollination – the yield of V. faba has been shown to be positively correlated with the amount of bee visitation in multiple studies. With declining bee populations it is therefore becoming increasingly important to optimise pollination of this crop. Here work is presented on a little studied approach to improving yield and yield stability of crops – identifying floral traits which can be used in breeding programmes to improve pollination. By increasing the attractiveness of the V. faba flower to its bumblebee pollinator, it is hoped that pollination rates can be improved. Few studies have attempted to investigate the effect of floral variation on pollinator preference in V. faba, and none comprehensively. Therefore I have measured the floral traits of thirty inbred V. faba lines, determining the variation seen in floral colour, petal epidermal morphology, general floral shape, and the reward provided. Work is now beginning on understanding how the extremes of floral traits affect the behaviour of Bombus terrestris under laboratory conditions. Alongside this work, a candidate gene approach is being used to determine which genes are responsible for the formation of conical cells in this crop, which allow pollinators to more easily interact with the flower.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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