Open Access Open Badges Research article

Molecular differentiation of commercial varieties and feral populations of oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.)

Kathrin Pascher1*, Susanne Macalka2, Domenico Rau3, Günter Gollmann4, Helmut Reiner5, Josef Glössl2 and Georg Grabherr1

Author Affiliations

1 University of Vienna, Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Ecology, Rennweg 14, A-1030 Vienna, Austria

2 University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Department of Applied Genetics and Cell Biology, Muthgasse 18, A-1190 Vienna, Austria

3 Università degli Studi di Sassari, Dipartimento di Scienze Agronomiche e Genetica Vegetale Agraria, Via E De Nicola n 1, I-07100 Sassari, Italy

4 University of Vienna, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Department of Limnology, Althanstraße 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

5 Grünentorgasse 19/12, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:63  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-63

Published: 1 March 2010



For assessing the risk of escape of transgenes from cultivation, the persistence of feral populations of crop plants is an important aspect. Feral populations of oilseed rape, Brassica napus, are well known, but only scarce information is available on their population dynamics, particularly in Central Europe. To investigate genetic diversity, origin and persistence of feral oilseed rape in Austria, we compared variation at nine polymorphic microsatellite loci in eight feral populations with 19 commercial varieties.


Overall, commercial varieties and feral populations showed a similar pattern of genetic variation and a similar level of observed heterozygosity. The two groups, however, shared less than 50% of the alleles and no multilocus genotype. A significant among-group (commercial varieties versus feral populations) component of genetic variation was observed (AMOVA: FCT = 0.132). Pairwise comparisons between varieties and feral populations showed moderate to very high genetic differentiation (FST = 0.209 - 0.900). The software STRUCTURE also demonstrated a clear separation between commercial varieties and feral samples: out of 17 identified genetic clusters, only one comprised plants from both a commercial variety and feral sites.


The results suggest that feral oilseed rape is able to maintain persistent populations. The feral populations may have derived from older cultivars that were not included in our analyses or perhaps have already hybridised with related crops or wild relatives. Feral populations therefore have to be considered in ecological risk assessment and future coexistence measures as a potential hybridisation partner of transgenic oilseed rape.