Submitted to: Helia
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 13, 2000
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Wild sunflowers are native to the US and ancestors of the cultivated sunflower crop. Having the ancestors of the cultivated crop assessable within the boundaries of the US allows the collection, evaluation, and utilization of the wild species for the improvement of cultivated sunflower. Since there are 50 species of wild sunflower with considerable genetic variability, the task of finding desirable characteristics in this diversity is difficult. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), European Cooperative Research Network on Agriculture (ESCORENA) on sunflower has established a working group for the evaluation of wild sunflower species. This group consists of 20 participants from 12 countries. The group serves as the international structure and coordination of research on the wild species. It has been active in characterizing and evaluating the wild species. Participants of the group share the common goal of increasing the genetic diversity of the cultivated sunflower using the wild species. It is through organizations such as the FAO that the US sunflower industry benefits from the numerous countries that participate in the working group sharing information. The group has made significant progress in expanding our knowledge of the wild species, but the task is far from complete. It is through international cooperation that we will be able to make a more rapid improvement in the sunflower crop.
Technical Abstract: One goal of sunflower researchers globally is to increase the genetic diversity of cultivated sunflower using the wild ancestors to make it a widely adapted crop. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), European Cooperative Research Network of Agriculture (ESCORENA) sunflower network has established a working group for the evaluation of wild sunflower species consisting of 20 participants from 12 countries. This group serves as the international structure for research on the wild sunflower species. Participants of the working group all share a common goal to use the wild species for the improvement of cultivated sunflower crop. This group has reported their accomplishments in published reports and have accumulated information into databases. Some of the recent accomplishments include morphological characterization of wild species populations in the genebanks of the participants, and effective treatments to overcome strong dormancy and increase germination in seeds of wild species. The group has been very successful in interspecific hybridization of the wild species and the cultivated crop, the first step in moving the genes into usable germplasm. Several promising cytoplasmic male sterile cytoplasms have been discovered from the wild species and their respective restoration genes. Several new sources of genes for resistance to the prevalent pests, especially the diseases have been discovered. Encouraging results have been made in the area of molecular systematics regarding the phylogenetic relationship of the Helianthus species using RAPD fragments. The group has made significant progress in expanding our knowledge about the wild sunflower species, but the task is far from complete.