Transgenic Research

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 805–816 | Cite as

Heterogeneity in the distribution of genetically modified and conventional oilseed rape within fields and seed lots

  • Graham S. Begg
  • Martin J. Elliott
  • Danny W. Cullen
  • Pietro P. M. Iannetta
  • Geoff R. Squire
Original Paper


The implementation of co-existence in the commercialisation of GM crops requires GM and non-GM products to be segregated in production and supply. However, maintaining segregation in oilseed rape will be made difficult by the highly persistent nature of this species. An understanding of its population dynamics is needed to predict persistence and develop potential strategies for control, while to ensure segregation is being achieved, the production of GM oilseed rape must be accompanied by the monitoring of GM levels in crop or seed populations. Heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of oilseed rape has the potential to affect both control and monitoring and, although a universal phenomenon in arable weeds and harvested seed lots, spatial heterogeneity in oilseed rape populations remains to be demonstrated and quantified. Here we investigate the distribution of crop and volunteer populations in a commercial field before and during the cultivation of the first conventional oilseed rape (winter) crop since the cultivation of a GM glufosinate-tolerant oilseed rape crop (spring) three years previously. GM presence was detected by ELISA for the PAT protein in each of three morphologically distinguishable phenotypes: autumn germinating crop-type plants (3% GM), autumn-germinating ‘regrowths’ (72% GM) and spring germinating ‘small-type’ plants (17% GM). Statistical models (Poisson log-normal and binomial logit-normal) were used to describe the spatial distribution of these populations at multiple spatial scales in the field and of GM presence in the harvested seed lot. Heterogeneity was a consistent feature in the distribution of GM and conventional oilseed rape. Large trends across the field (50 × 400 m) and seed lot (4 × 1.5 × 1.5 m) were observed in addition to small-scale heterogeneity, less than 20 m in the field and 20 cm in the seed lot. The heterogeneity was greater for the ‘regrowth’ and ‘small’ phenotypes, which were likely to be volunteers and included most of the GM plants detected, than for the largely non-GM ‘crop’ phenotype. The implications of the volunteer heterogeneity for field management and GM-sampling are discussed.


Spatial aggregation Brassica napus Volunteers Spatial decomposition Spatial scale Generalised linear mixed effects 



We wish to thank Gill Banks, Adele Parish, Joyce McKlusky, Geoff Robertson, and Mark Young for their expertise and help, the FSE consortium for the provision of seed rain and seedbank data, Tracy Valentine and Cathy Hawes for comments on the manuscript and to the anonymous referees who made valuable contributions to this paper. This work was funded by the UK Government Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham S. Begg
    • 1
  • Martin J. Elliott
    • 1
  • Danny W. Cullen
    • 1
  • Pietro P. M. Iannetta
    • 1
  • Geoff R. Squire
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Crop Research InstituteDundeeUK

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