Do Soil Warming and Changes in Precipitation Patterns Affect Seed Yield and Seed Quality of Field-Grown Winter Oilseed Rape?
Increasing air and soil temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns as consequences of climate change will affect crop production in agricultural ecosystems. The combined effects of soil warming and altered precipitation on the productivity and product quality of oil crops are not yet well studied. Winter oilseed rape (OSR) (Brassica napus L., cv. Mercedes) was field-grown under elevated soil temperature (+2.5 °C), reduced precipitation amount (−25%), reduced precipitation frequency (−50%) both separately and in combination in order to investigate effects on crop development, seed yield, and seed quality. Soil warming accelerated crop development during early plant growth and during spring. At maturity, however, plants in all treatments were similar in quantitative (aboveground biomass, seed yield) and qualitative (protein and oil content, amino acids, fatty acids) parameters. We observed the long-term effects of the precipitation manipulation on leaf size, leaf senescence and biomass allocation. Seed yield was not affected by the altered climatic factors, perhaps due to adaptation of soil microorganisms to permanent soil warming and to relatively wet conditions during the seed-filling period. Overall, OSR performed well under moderate changes in soil temperature and precipitation patterns; thus, we observed stable seed yield without negative impacts on nutritive seed quality