2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To expand testing of experimental sunflower germplasm beyond the Red River Valley into areas where sunflower is currently produced on a large scale. This project will concentrate on efforts such as insect resistance and drought resistance, which are currently difficult to study in our current field testing capacity.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
We plan to expand testing of germplasm for yield and other characteristics, such as insect resistance, disease resistance, and drought tolerance, by initiating work at additional field sites including but not limited to Carrington, ND, Prosper, ND, and Highmore, SD. The germplasms tested will contain genes for high yield, high oil, and special traits such as high oleic acid constitution, Sclerotinia resistance, downy mildew resistance, rust resistance, and resistance to various insect pests including the sunflower moth, the banded sunflower moth, the red sunflower seed weevil, the stem weevil, and the Dectes stem borer. Many of these special traits cannot be tested at our current work sites because the sites lack consistent infestation, a problem that would be overcome by additional testing sites. These sites are also more typical of the sunflower production region. The funding discussed in this agreement will support this research by providing assistance to defray increased travel costs, additional supply costs, and costs associated with a full-time Term technician and part-time student to help manage the additional sites and workload.
Sunflower is a crop that has seen cycles of expansion and retraction in acres over the years. It is adapted to a wide area of the United States from Texas to North Dakota. Germplasm improvement and breeding of sunflower at USDA was originally conducted only in the Fargo, ND, area. The purpose of this work was to provide the means to expand our field research so that we can provide meaningful results to sunflower producers/farmers throughout the sunflower growing region. This year, we have expanded yield trials of experimental, pre-release germplasm to ten locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This is a significant increase from the single yield trial environment that was used prior to 2009. The data from these trials is useful not only because it tests our experimental lines in environments that matter to our customers and stakeholders, but it also provides us with buffering from the increasingly destructive weather patterns we have observed due to climate change in this region of the country, which sometimes results in crop failure. In the near future, we hope to begin integrating this multi-year, multi-environment data into a new type of breeding system called genomic or genomewide selection, which relies on historic breeding data and genetic marker information to make predictions of line performance before going to the field with new breeding lines. These breeding studies will benefit commercial sunflower seed companies, and by extension the sunflower farmers/producers, by providing new sunflower lines with improved characteristics as a result of the field studies. It will also allow us to begin developing and deploying modern toolkits using genetic markers to improve the rate of improvement in both USDA and commercial germplasm.