Article Archives
NSA 2021 Research Funding Overview

Thursday, March 25, 2021
filed under: Research and Development

By John Sandbakken*

        Since its beginning, the National Sunflower Association has committed itself to providing funds to public researchers to stimulate new or continue with ongoing sunflower research that leads to disease- and pest-tolerant hybrids, better cropping practices and ways to reduce production costs. 
        This commitment to research has provided many dividends.  It led to the development of NuSun® sunflower, and we likewise would not have Clearfield® or Express®Sun hybrids without it.
        Research is mainly funded with checkoff dollars from Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.  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 member-companies not included in the checkoff.
        The NSA Board of Directors met virtually in late February and approved just over $413,000 in research projects for 2021. Below are brief descriptions of the projects that were funded.
* John Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association.
Enhancing Rust Resistance in Confection Sunflower
        Principal Investigators: Lili Qi and Guojia Ma, USDA-ARS
        Project Objectives: Rust is a growing threat to sunflower production worldwide, leading to losses in yield and seed quality. This project will apply cutting edge genetic and genomic approaches to characterize the genetic basis for rust resistance in sunflower.  Project deliverables include new tools (i.e., diagnostic SNP markers) that will enable sunflower breeding programs across the U.S. to more easily develop superior cultivars that are resistant to rust.  These modern technologies and promising disease resistance materials will be transferred to stakeholders to accelerate confection sunflower breeding and incorporate into finished hybrids.
        Funded Amount: $130,004
Effect of Sunflower Growth Stage on Phomopsis Stem Canker Development
        Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University; Sam Markell, North Dakota State University;
and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
        Project Objectives: The primary objective of this study is to determine the relationship of time of infection to development of Phomopsis stem canker on sunflower.  The results of this study will help improve our understanding of the etiology of Phomopsis stem canker, help develop strategies to manage the disease, and provide recommendations to sunflower producers in the region to manage Phomopsis stem canker.
        Funded Amount: $32,795
Effectiveness of Fungicides to Manage Phomopsis Stem Canker of Sunflower
        Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University; Sam Markell, North Dakota State University;
and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
         Project Objectives: The research objectives are to (1) determine the sensitivity of P. helianthi and P. gulyae to candidate fungicides in vitro and under greenhouse conditions; and (2) test effective fungicides (based on results of Objective 1) using a susceptible hybrid and a partially resistant hybrid under field conditions in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  If this research is successful, the effective fungicides determined from this study will be used for developing and providing fungicide recommendations to sunflower producers for managing Phomopsis stem canker.
        Funded Amount: $32,795
Investigating the Impact of Diseases and Associated Factors on Yield
        Principal Investigators: Sam Markell, North Dakota State University; Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University;
and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
         Project Objectives:  Yield loss to sunflower diseases causes economic stress to sunflower growers across the United States.  However, the amount of yield loss caused by many diseases (locally and nationally) is not well understood.  Additional factors considered by growers who are trying to protect yield, such as the effect of hail on disease development and yield impacts from “plant health” fungicide applications, also are not well understood.  This research will give us a better understanding of the yield impacts of diseases and disease-related factors and will lead to better disease management recommendations.  This should translate into increased economic returns to sunflower growers.         
        Funded Amount: $18,000
Monitoring Plasmopara halstedii (Downy Mildew) Virulence in the Dakotas
         Principal Investigators: Sam Markell, North Dakota State University; Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University;
and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
         Project Objectives:  Downy mildew remains a yield limiting disease in sunflower production. This project will allow us to understand if the pathogen that causes downy mildew is overcoming the effective management tools that sunflower growers use to keep downy mildew managed (resistance genes and seed treatment Plenaris/Lumisena).  We further anticipate that the information will be useful for sunflower breeders as they develop the next generation of hybrids, and hope that they incorporate resistance genes that will be most useful for U.S. growers.
        Funded Amount: $12,000
Evaluating New Insecticides for Wireworm Control in Sunflower
         Principal Investigators: Janet Knodel and Patrick Beauzay, North Dakota State University
         Project Objectives: The outcomes of this project include improved knowledge on efficacy of new insecticides (mode of action) in management of wireworms in sunflower.  Results of this research have the potential to improve management of wireworms in areas where they are especially problematic, causing significant yield losses.  Key information, such as plant stand loss and root damage ratings, will be assessed for different insecticides tested for control of wireworms in sunflower.
        Funded Amount: $12,000
Evaluate the Distribution of Red Sunflower Seed Weevil Populations Resistant to Pyrethroid Class Insecticides
         Principal Investigators: Adam Varenhorst, Patrick Wagner and Philip Rozeboom, South Dakota State University; Janet Knodel and Patrick Beauzay, North Dakota State University
         Project Objectives: In South Dakota, the red sunflower seed weevil is a major insect pest of sunflower each year.  As a result, insecticides are used to prevent yield loss.  There is some thought that pyrethroid insecticides with the active ingredient lambda-cyhalothrin have seen reduced control compared to treatments that contained other active ingredients.  This project will allow researchers to evaluate numerous insecticides, through efficacy trials and glass vial assays, to determine if there are pyrethroid-resistant red sunflower seed weevils in North Dakota and South Dakota.  It will also provide more-accurate management recommendations to farmers.  The South Dakota Oilseeds Council provided $25,000 of checkoff dollars toward this project.
        Funded Amount: $38,000
Using Insect Biology and Cultural Practices for Management of Red Sunflower Seed Weevil
         Principal Investigators: Jarrad Prasifka USDA-ARS; Beth Ferguson, USDA/ORISE; Deirdre Prischmann-Voldseth, North Dakota State University
         Project Objectives: This project will provide data on red sunflower seed weevil overwintering and emergence that allows accurate prediction of weevil emergence (i.e., a degree-day model).  This work will provide information on how a combination of tools and strategies can provide the most effective (and cost-effective) management of this pest.  Developing a degree-day model (and subsequent demonstration of efficacy for planting time effects or host plant resistance) means individual growers will have more and better options to limit seed weevil damage.
        Funded Amount: $20,600
sunflower field being sprayed

Integrating Cover Crops and Residual Herbicides to Control Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds in High Plains Sunflower Production
         Principal Investigators: Vipan Kumar, Dan O’Brien and Jeanne Falk Jones, Kansas State University; and Nevin Lawrence and Cody Creech, University of Nebraska
         Project Objectives:  Due to lack of effective control of glyphosate-resistant (GR) kochia and Palmer amaranth populations, maintaining the overall profitability and sustainability of High Plains sunflower farms are at higher risk.  This project will provide research-based information on the optimum spring termination timing of fall-planted cover crop to maximize cover crop biomass accumulation and its impacts on overall suppression (emergence, growth, reproduction, and soil seedbank depletion) of GR kochia and Palmer amaranth populations, soil water budget, soil health benefits, reduction in POST herbicide applications, and crop yields. The intent is to develop sustainable and profitable weed management systems by improving growers’ knowledge and understanding of cover crop management in sunflower-based cropping systems.  An outcome of this project is also to enhance adoption of best management strategies for cover crop termination timing among sunflower producers. The Kansas Sunflower Commission provided $3,750 of checkoff dollars toward this project.
        Funded Amount: $32,000
Early Maturing Sunflower for Double-Crop Use in the Central Plains
         Principal Investigator: Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS
         Project Objectives: Double cropping has become a popular concept in the Central Plains to avoid loss of productivity and soil degradation that is characteristic of the traditional winter wheat-fallow rotations.  Under no-till management, there is often enough residual soil moisture to allow for production of a second crop in the same season. This project will increase the availability and diversity of parental lines with early maturity and adaptation to various climates, providing commercial breeding companies and seed producers with an excellent starting point to come to market with hybrids suitable for double-crop scenarios.  The research will provide both seeds and data that can help to expand sunflower double-crop acreage in the Central Plains and beyond, and provide more resources to continue breeding work.  The Kansas Sunflower Commission provided $3,750 of checkoff dollars toward this project.
        Funded Amount: $24,089
Identification and Mapping of Genetic Factors Affecting the Stability of Oleic Acid in Inbred Lines and Hybrids
         Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS, and Nolan Kane, University of Colorado-Boulder
         Project Objectives: Fatty acid composition has been the key to oilseed sunflower marketing success.  This project will deliver suitable markers for sunflower breeders to predict oleic acid level in NuSun® and high-oleic hybrids, and provide valuable information for selecting breeding lines with stable oleic acid content.  This knowledge will benefit breeders by improving predictability of hybrid product performance, and producers by reducing the uncertainty of oleic composition in newly developed high-oleic hybrids.
        Funded Amount: $22,589
Assessing the Importance of Plant Spacing Heterogeneity (Skips, Doubles, Gaps) on Yield and Heritability of Seedling Emergence in Field Conditions
         Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS; Ron Meyer Colorado State University; and Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M University
         Project Objectives: Plant spacing has become a topic of interest in the sunflower industry — especially the effects of skips, doubles and gaps that often occur because of errors in calibrating planting machinery, inherent flaws in machinery, issues of speed and seedling insect/disease issues. This project will objectively pick apart the effects of stand heterogeneity and stand gaps on yield.  It will also help determine the degree of genetic variation in days to emergence and early plant vigor in the field.
        Funded Amount: $27,391
2021 NSA Sunflower Production Survey
         Principal Investigators: Ryan Buetow, North Dakota State University; Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University; and Jarrad Prasifka, USDA-ARS
         Project Objectives: The survey is conducted biennially prior to harvest.  Volunteers from all levels of the sunflower industry visit sunflower fields to survey crop conditions.  Teams survey for yield and production practices, weeds, insects, diseases and bird damage. The survey will be conducted in the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Colorado. Manitoba, Canada will also be included.  Survey data help guide the NSA Research Committee in setting research priorities.
        Funded Amount: $11,000
        There is always risk involved in growing any crop.  As an industry, we need to constantly look for ways to increase profitability to sunflower producers by mitigating risk and making producing sunflower easier to keep producers interested in the crop. 
        Investing in research that provides innovation, opportunity and productivity will always be the cornerstone of the National Sunflower Association to achieve this goal. 
return to top of page

   More about Sunflower ►