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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Sunflower and Plant Biology Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #381166

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

Location: Sunflower and Plant Biology Research

Title: USDA-ARS sunflower crop wild relatives genetic resources collection

item Seiler, Gerald
item MAREK, LAURA - Iowa State University

Submitted to: National Sunflower Research Forum Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/2/2021
Publication Date: 2/6/2021
Citation: Seiler, G.J., Marek, L.F. 2021. USDA-ARS sunflower crop wild relatives genetic resources collection. National Sunflower Research Forum Proceedings. p. 1368.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The mission of the USDA-National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) is to collect, document, preserve, evaluate, enhance and distribute plant genetic resources for improving the quality and production of economic crops important to U.S. and world agriculture. Preservation of cultivars, landraces, and wild relatives of important crop species provides the basic foundation for sustainable productive agriculture. Genetic resources are the biological basis of global food security. Genebanks are a rich source of genetic diversity that can be readily exploited for crop improvement. Sunflower is one of the few native U.S. crops, globally providing 12% of the edible oil. The genus Helianthus consists of 53 species and 19 subspecies, with 14 annual and 39 perennial species. The USDA-ARS-NPGS established a sunflower crop wild relatives (CWR) germplasm collection at the USDA-ARS Bushland, Texas station in 1976 and later transferred it to the NPGS, North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station at Ames, IA in 1985. Over 35 explorations in the past 40 years by the USDA and cooperating Institutions resulted in the assembling of a CWR collection that is the most complete in the world. Currently, the CWR collection contains 2,591 accessions of which 1,692 are annual (with 1,056 accessions of wild Helianthus annuus and 636 of the 13 other species) and 899 perennial accessions. The economic impact of the sunflower CWR has been estimated to be between 310 to 445 million USD annually, deriving its value from disease resistance, salt tolerance, and use of cytoplasms in the hybrid seed industry. There has been a significant use of the USDA-ARS sunflower collection with the distribution of more than 36,000 individual samples of CWR distributed to 923 domestic and 291 international requests in the past 10 years, triple the previous decade. Significant progress has been made in collecting, evaluating, and preserving the wild Helianthus species germplasm, increasing the available genetic diversity, but thus far only a small portion of the available genetic diversity has been utilized globally for sunflower improvement. This germplasm will be important in the future to combat emerging pests and environmental challenges, helping to maintain sunflower as a viable major global oilseed crop, preserving it for future generations, and serving as a genomic reservoir for plant breeders.