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NSA Establishes 2020 Research Priorities

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
filed under: Research and Development

       Farmers are being asked to produce more food with little or no increase in the amounts of arable land, water or other resources available.  Each day, there are more mouths in the world to feed with the same challenges before us.  
       How do we feed more with less? There is only one way to do this, and that is by having a strong focus on research.
       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 higher yields. 
       According to Karl Esping, current NSA board chairman 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 that we hope will yield better, be more disease resistant, and more drought tolerant.”
       NSA research is mainly funded with checkoff dollars from Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and the two 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 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 set, requests for pre-proposals were sent to researchers across the country. Having pre-proposals helps NSA prioritize which proposals move 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 Bob Weigelt of FMC Corporation 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” for 2020 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 and/or changes to plant physical characteristics. 
  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 control of diseases and enhancement of yield. Issues of timing and tank mixing fungicides with insecticides/herbicides are of interest.  There is a strong preference for research on using labeled fungicides and the efficacy of adjuvants.  
  4. Improve genetic progress in sunflower to enhance competitiveness with other crops and bolster 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 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 both older and new chemistries to address Palmer amaranth, horseweed (marestail), ragweed, waterhemp and glyphosate-resistant kochia, pre/burn-down and/or post emerge. Including, any future newly registered desiccant active ingredients. 
  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 post-emerge Group #1 grass products.  Group #1 additive strategies might include preplant, pre- (and/or) early post application of non-group #1 MOA’s.            
  3. Foxtail, brome species and non-Group #1 wild oat options need to be better defined and demonstrated for sunflower producers.
  4.   Interest in innovative weed control techniques related to existing labels and to test experimental or new-to-market herbicides and use of weed seed-free cover crops for potential sunflower application.  More research may need a fall applied timing data and demonstration focus, versus current spring season only weed control, to reduce spring-emerging populations. Fall herbicide timings, both residual products and burndown chemistry, might enhance control compared to standard spring/summer only strategies.
Diseases —
  1. Phomopsis stem canker is the #1 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 soybeans) is encouraged.  Recommendations include, but are not limited to:
    1. Epidemiology, biology and etiology of pathogen(s).
    2. Fungicides or biological control
    3. Genetics of the pathogen and/or host leading to host resistance.
    4. A 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 stresses. Determining whether there are management strategies to reduce the impact of this disease is important for growers.
  5. Address emerging, economically important diseases affecting sunflower production through diagnosis and development of management strategies.
  6. 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. 
Product Utilization —
  1. Looking for novel compounds in seed that have intrinsic values. 
       To learn more about what is happening in sunflower research, consider attending the annual NSA Sunflower Research Forum.  Purpose of the Forum is to report on research, to promote discussion, and to stimulate creative thinking. 
       The 2020 NSA Sunflower Research Forum is scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning, January 8, and conclude at noon on Thursday the 9th. The event takes place at the Fargo Holiday Inn, Fargo, N.D. For more details, click here
       If you can’t make it to the Forum you can always learn more about NSA-funded research projects on our website; click here. You'll find 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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