SUMMARY Sowing winter oil-seed rape cv. Victor late in autumn (late September or October) in seven seasons from 1970 to 1977 gave enormously variable seed yields, from 120 to 450 g/m 2 . All crops made little growth before winter, and yield was related to the size of the crop at flowering, a function of the length of time for radiation interception and growth between the 'beginning of spring', when mean temperatures rose consistently above 5 °C, and full flower in late May. A late spring in 1970 gave the poorest growth and lowest yield, whereas in 1977 an early spring coincided with late flowering to give exceptional growth, and yields higher than from any early sowing. Crops sown in early autumn (before mid-September) produced more consistent seed yields, 280-360 g/m 2 , except in the dry year of 1976. All grew well in autumn, over-wintered with a large leaf area, and once temperatures rose in spring, rapidly reached peak area and full flower in early May. They were all large at flowering, and yield was apparently limited more by post-flowering events. With all sowings numbers of pods and seeds were largely determined during a 3-week phase in late May and early June, extending from full flower until most pod hulls had finished growing. Late sowings produced 3000-6000 pods/m 2 , and the number of seeds retained per pod varied widely, from 7 on a poorly grown crop to 22 on a well grown crop, thus expressing the yield potential determined by crop size at flowering. Early sowings, however, produced apparently excessive numbers of pods (6000-12 000/m 2) and few seeds per pod (6-10), so that yield varied little, regardless of crop size. Early in the phase, when the number of seeds was determined, the mass of yellow flowers at the top of the crop reflected or absorbed up to 60 % of incoming radiation, and then the large number of pods increasingly shaded each other and competed for assimilate, resulting in heavy seed losses. A high-yielding crop type may therefore need to incor-porate the restricted pod production and good seed retention of some well-grown late-sown crops with the reliability and desirable agronomic features of early-sown crops. Final seed weight varied more between seasons (3-7-5-3 nag) than between sowings. Seed growth mainly took place after the number of seeds had been determined, the duration depending on temperature, but rate of growth apparently more on assimilate supply, a function of environmental factors and the number of competing seeds.
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