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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Sunflower and Plant Biology Research » Research » Research Project #434406

Research Project: Genetic Enhancement of Sunflower Yield and Tolerance to Biotic Stress

Location: Sunflower and Plant Biology Research

Project Number: 3060-21000-043-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 12, 2018
End Date: Mar 11, 2023

Objective:
OBJECTIVE 1: Develop and release sunflower germplasm and inbred lines with enhanced yield potential, desirable oil traits, or resistance to crop pests (insects and pathogens), along with effective molecular markers. Subobjective 1A: Develop genetic markers for Phomopsis, rust, and downy mildew resistance. Subobjective 1B: Characterize genetic and pathogenic variation in Phomopsis populations in North Central sunflower growing regions. Subobjective 1C: Evaluate diverse interspecific germplasm for resistance to Phomopsis, rust, and downy mildew. Subobjective 1D: Develop pre-breeding and advanced germplasm with novel traits or combinations of agronomically important traits. OBJECTIVE 2: Identify and characterize traits associated with resistance to insect pests and improved sunflower-pollinator interactions, and evaluate their effectiveness in insect management systems. Subobjective 2A: Evaluate susceptibility of sunflowers to insect pests and develop genetic markers for host plant resistance traits. Subobjective 2B: Assess variation and develop genetic markers for traits associated with pollinator visitation.

Approach:
The economic impact of sunflower production in the United States is at least $1.5 billion per year. In the primary sunflower production areas, sunflower must compete with genetically-modified crops like corn and soybean that can be easier to produce or have more consistent yields. To maintain its position as a valuable rotational crop and ensure a consistent supply of heart-healthy oil, both maximum yield and consistency of yield must be improved. Losses from diseases and insect pests, along with related costs of management, are primary challenges for improving sunflower yields. Proposed research aims to improve resistance to diseases and insect pests and combine these traits with herbicide resistance, improved oil content and quality to create a more competitive crop. Specific objectives are to: (1) develop genetic markers for resistance to three major sunflower pathogens, (2) understand genetic and pathogenic variation for a disease that has recently increased in incidence and severity, (3) search for new sources of disease resistance from crop wild relatives of cultivated sunflower, (4) identify and characterize traits that will provide resistance to insect pests or improve sunflower-pollinator interactions (which positively contribute to yields), and (5) combine desired traits for pest resistance with other important agronomic traits to create superior germplasm. Success in these objectives will allow higher, more consistent yields and reduce costs of production, contributing to a stable supply of oil and non-oil sunflowers that supports profitable farming.