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NSA’s 2018 Research Priorities

Friday, October 27, 2017
filed under: Research and Development

       Research is critically important in that it is the only way to find solutions to combat new strains of fungi, bacteria, weeds, insects and other pests that can destroy your sunflower crop. It is also the only way to find new hybrids which we hope will yield better, be more disease resistant, and more drought tolerant.
       According to Karl Esping, NSA president and Lindsborg, Kan., producer, “Research is paramount to the sunflower industry.”  Since its inception, the National Sunflower Association has committed itself to providing funds to researchers to stimulate new or continue with ongoing sunflower research that may result in lower production costs, increased quality and/or higher yields. 
       “This commitment to research resulted in the development of NuSun® sunflower, and we would not have Clearfield® or ExpressSun® ’flowers without it. Field trials for many of the crop protection and pest management tools used today, such as Plenaris™ and Lumisena™ seed treatments and Zidua® herbicide, were funded in part with NSA research dollars,” Esping adds.
       NSA-supported research is mainly funded with checkoff funds from Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and the Dakotas. To increase the pool of financial resources, the sunflower industry also pitches in. The NSA Confection and High Plains committees contribute a portion of their funds to research projects. These committee funds come from sunflower industry members not included in the checkoff. 
       “I have always considered funding research as the most important thing we can do with our checkoff and industry dollars,” says Clark Coleman, NSA vice president and Bismarck, N.D., producer.  “There is always risk in growing any crop.  As an industry, we need to constantly look for ways to mitigate risk and make producing sunflower easier to keep producers interested in the crop,” Coleman states.
       To help prioritize research areas, the NSA has a research committee made up of researchers, industry leaders and sunflower producers representing all major sunflower states. The committee met in early September to set research priorities for the upcoming year. After priorities were set, requests for pre-proposals were sent to researchers across the country.  Having pre-proposals helps NSA prioritize which proposals moved on to the full proposal phase.
       After full proposals are received, the committee will meet in early January to review the submitted proposals and score them based on scientific merit and cost.
      “This system seems to be the best method to evaluate and recommend the top research projects to fund in the most impartial way,” says Max Dietrich of Nachurs Alpine Solutions and chairman of the NSA Research Committee. “It allows NSA board members to make prudent funding decisions based on the composite score each proposal receives that takes into account scientific merit and cost.”
       The list below specifies “areas of interest” outlined by the NSA Research Committee. This is not an exclusive list, and the committee will consider all production areas of research.
Research Areas of Interest
(Not necessarily listed in order of priority)
Production Issues —
  1. Blackbirds:  Innovative and new approaches to reduce damage, especially discovery of repellents.
  2. Factors related to achieving an adequate plant stand.  This could include: planter calibration and other planter issues, early season sunflower plant screening for stand, seeding depth, soil temperature/ moisture, seedling vigor, seed biology, insects/diseases and other areas.  Also, skips and doubles and the effect they have on yield loss.
  3. Methods, techniques or equipment for applying fungicides for control of diseases and enhance yield.  Issues of timing and tank mixing with insecticides/herbicides are of interest.  There is a strong preference for using labeled fungicides and the efficacy of adjuvants.  Preference for the control of Phomopsis and Sclerotinia.
  4. Improve genetic progress in sunflower to enhance competitiveness with other crops and stability of yield and quality, using SNPs or other genomic tools.
  5. Variable rate for seeding and fertility management for sunflower.
  6. Determine the economic costs and benefits of using pesticide seed treatments to control major soil pests of sunflower (e.g., wireworms, downy mildew) and to establish their overall impact on profitability of sunflower production.
  7. Identification, quantification and/or development of management strategies to address emerging economically important production issues for sunflower.
Insects —
  1. Evaluation of IPM strategies (chemical, cultural, biological, trapping) for control of economically important insect pests of sunflower, including: sunflower head moth, banded sunflower moth, red sunflower seed weevil, Lygus bug, Dectes stem borer, wireworm and others.
  2. Screen hybrid and breeding material for insect resistance.
Weeds —
  1. Innovative weed control strategies using older and new chemistries to address palmer amaranth, horseweed (marestail), ragweed, waterhemp and glyphosate-resistant kochia, pre/burndown and/or post emerge.
  2. Weed species shifts, due to resistance/tolerance to common modes of action need to be considered for burn-down uses, as well as existing post systems like Clearfield® and ExpressSun®.  This priority could include burndown product safe planting interval definition for all effective herbicides, including older products like 2,4-D, as well as preservation and MOA resistance management for the post-emerge Group #1 grass products.  Group #1 strategies might include preplant, pre- (and/or) early post application of other non-group #1 MOA’s as well as tank mixing sub-groups (fops/dims) of labeled group #1 products.  Foxtail options need to be better defined for sunflower producers, though wild oat control may be the greater challenge in the grass species spectrum.
  3. Interest in innovative weed control techniques related to existing labels and to test experimental or new-to-market herbicides for potential sunflower application. 
Diseases —
  1. Phomopsis is of concern throughout the production region. Proposals aimed at improving disease management tools, including those dealing with epidemiology, biology, genetics and fungicides, are encouraged.
  2. Rust, including identifying races and the control of rust via genetic resistance and fungicide application.
  3. There is continued interest in downy mildew with the development of new races and fungicide efficacy.  Proposals looking at genetic resistance, along with seed treatments with multiple modes of action, will be of interest.
  4. Rhizopus can be a concern after the head is damaged by insects, hail or other damage.  Determining if there are management strategies to reduce the impact of the disease is important for growers.
  5. Resolving Sclerotinia continues to be a high priority.  Grant requests for this disease are directed to the National Sclerotinia Initiative. There is a concentrated research effort in this disease from wild accessions to fungicide trials and everything in between.  NSA is a leader in urging researchers to consider additional or new directions in Sclerotinia sunflower research to find a solution for this disease.
       Anyone wishing to hear more about what is happening in sunflower research should consider attending the annual NSA Sunflower Research Forum. The Forum is a popular and well-attended event and will be held this year at the Delta Hotels by Marriott (formerly Ramada Plaza Suites) in Fargo, N.D. The purpose of the Forum is to report on research, to promote discussion, and to stimulate creative thinking.
       The 2018 National Sunflower Association Sunflower Research Forum is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, January 10, and conclude at noon on Thursday the 11th. Click here to get more details.
       If you can’t make it to the Forum you can learn more about NSA-funded research projects by clicking here. There is an online searchable database of more than 30 years of sunflower research papers.                  
*John Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association.
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