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Pollen-mediated intraspecific gene flow from herbicide resistant oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.)

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The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) herbicide resistant oilseed rape (Brassica napus) has increased over the past few years. The transfer of herbicide resistance genes via pollen (gene flow) from GM crops to non-GM crops is of relevance for the realisation of co-existence of different agricultural cultivation forms as well as for weed management. Therefore the likelihood of pollen-mediated gene flow has been investigated in numerous studies. Despite the difficulty to compare different experiments with varying levels of outcrossing, we performed a literature search for world-wide studies on cross-fertilisation in fully fertile oilseed rape. The occurrence and frequency of pollen-mediated intraspecific gene flow (outcrossing rate) can vary according to cultivar, experimental design, local topography and environmental conditions. The outcrossing rate from one field to another depends also on the size and arrangement of donor and recipient populations and on the ratio between donor and recipient plot size. The outcrossing levels specified in the presented studies are derived mostly from experiments where the recipient field is either surrounding the donor field (continuous design) or is located as a patch at different distances from the donor field (discontinuous design). Reports of gene flow in Brassica napus generally show that the amount of cross-fertilisation decreases as the distance from the pollen source increases. The evidence given in various studies reveals that the bulk of GM cross-fertilisation occurs within the first 10 m of the recipient field. The removal of the first 10 m of a non-transgenic field facing a GM crop might therefore be more efficient for reducing the total level of cross-fertilisation in a recipient sink population than to recommend separation distances. Future experiments should investigate cross-fertilisation with multiple adjacent donor fields at the landscape level under different spatial distributions of rapeseed cultivars and different cropping systems. The level of cross-fertilisation occurring over the whole field is mainly important for co-existence and has not been investigated in agricultural scale experiments until now. Potential problems with herbicide resistant oilseed rape volunteers arising from intraspecific gene flow can be largely solved by the choice of suitable cultivars and herbicides as well as by soil management.

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We thank Ralf Wilhelm for critically reading the manuscript. One of the authors (A.H.) was supported by an EU grant (project SIGMEA).

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Correspondence to Antje Dietz-Pfeilstetter.

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Hüsken, A., Dietz-Pfeilstetter, A. Pollen-mediated intraspecific gene flow from herbicide resistant oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.). Transgenic Res 16, 557–569 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11248-007-9078-y

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  • Brassicanapus L.
  • Cross-fertilisation
  • Pollen flow
  • Herbicide resistance
  • Co-existence
  • Buffer zone