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NSA 2019 Research Priorities

Monday, October 22, 2018
filed under: Research and Development

       Research plays a vital role in ensuring that American agriculture remains competitive and capable of addressing growing food needs across the globe. Since its inception, the National Sunflower Association has committed itself to providing funds to researchers to stimulate new or continue with on-going sunflower research that may result in lower production costs, increased quality, and higher yields. 
       According to Karl Esping, NSA president and Lindsborg, Kan., producer, “Research is paramount to the sunflower industry and 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 best way to find new hybrids which we hope will yield better, be more disease resistant and more drought-tolerant,” adds Esping. 
       NSA 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. “If sunflower is going to remain competitive going forward, we must continue making investments in research and look for ways to do that in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”
       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 established, 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,” notes Robert Weigelt of FMC Corporation and current 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: early season sunflower plant screening for stand, seeding depth, soil temperature/moisture, seedling vigor, seed biology, insects/diseases and other.  Also, skips and doubles and the effect they have on yield loss.
  3. Methods, techniques or equipment for applying fungicides for the control of diseases and to enhance yield.  Issues of timing and tank mixing fungicides with insecticides/herbicides are of interest. There is a strong preference for using labeled fungicides and the efficacy of adjuvants.  
  4. Improve genetic progress in sunflower to enhance competitiveness with other crops and the stability of yield and quality, using SNPs or other genomic tools. 
  5. Variable rate for seeding and fertility management for sunflower, including new multi-hybrid technology. 
  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 the 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 (scouting, trapping, thresholds, insecticide testing especially new modes of action, cultural, biological) 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 suspected insecticide resistance in any insect pests of sunflower.
  3. Screen hybrid and breeding material for insect resistance. 
  4. Study the direct and secondary benefits of pollinators, including honey bees and native bees, in sunflower production. 
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. Including desiccants and/or higher glyphosate rates.
  2. Weed species shifts due to resistance/tolerance to common modes of action need to be considered for burndown uses, as well as existing post systems like Clearfield® and Express®Sun.  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 postemerge Group #1 grass products.  Group #1 strategies might include preplant, pre- (and/or) early post application of other non-group #1 MOAs 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 stem canker is the top disease priority for the National Sunflower Association.  Proposals aimed at improving (or leading to the improvement of) disease management tools are strongly encouraged. Additionally, collaboration with other commodity groups (such as soybean) is encouraged.  Recommendations include, but are not limited to:
    • Epidemiology, biology and etiology of pathogen(s);
    • Fungicides or biological control;
    • Genetics of the pathogen and/or host leading to host resistance;
    • Better understanding of the economic impact of the disease.
  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 factors. 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, ranging 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. 
       If you would like to hear more about what is happening in sunflower research, consider attending the 2019 NSA Sunflower Research Forum. The annual Forum is a popular and well-attended event whose purpose is to report on research, to promote discussion —?and to stimulate creative thinking. 
       The 2019 NSA Sunflower Research Forum will take place at the Fargo Holiday Inn, Fargo, N.D.  It is scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning, January 9, and conclude at noon on Thursday, the 10th. Click here to get more details.
       If you can’t make it to the 2019 Forum, you can learn more about NSA-funded research projects by clicking here. There is an online searchable database encompassing more than 30 years of sunflower research papers. 
* John Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Assn.                    
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