, Volume 102, Issue 6-7, pp 841-846

Persistence of oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) outside of cultivated fields

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It is widely assumed that most cultivated plants cannot persist in natural or semi-natural habitats. Most people thus assume that the plants growing outside of fields (in particular oilseed rape along roadsides) find their origins in the current or previous year’s cultivation of that crop. One consequence of this assumption is that the identity of plants growing on road verges is thought to reflect one of the cultivars currently or recently cultivated, while another consequence is the widespread belief that transgenic plants can be simply managed and controlled by stopping their cultivation. Our work shows that this assumption is false. We identify relict plants of a now unmarketable cultivar type of oilseed rape which have persisted in a semi-natural habitat (road verges) for at least 8 years according to farmer surveys in the studied area. More generally, we confirm that the dynamics of the feral oilseed rape plants of road verges is more complex than those resulting from spillage from agricultural machines or from neighbouring arable fields cultivated the previous year. Within the scope of transgenic oilseed rape cultivation, these results suggest that more studies on the dynamics of feral oilseed rape are needed in order to assess more precisely the risks of its invasiveness and its potential impact on genetic pollution between GM fields and non-GM fields.

Received: 15 June 2000 / Accepted 31 July 2000