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2022 NSA Research Funding

Wednesday, March 30, 2022
filed under: Research and Development

researchers in field
By John Sandbakken*
        Since its inception, 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 resulted in the development of NuSun® sunflower, and we would not have Clearfield® or Express® ’flowers without it.
        This research is mainly funded with checkoff funds 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 members not included in the checkoff.
        The NSA Board of Directors met in late February and approved just over $471,400 in research projects for 2022. Below is the list of projects that were funded.
Enhancing Rust Resistance in Confection Sunflower
Principal Investigator: Lili Qi, 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 US 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
Host-Pathogen Interaction in Phomopsis helianthi Infection
Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University, Sam Markell, North Dakota State University, Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska-Scottsbluff, Sen Subramanian, South Dakota State University, and Brent Hulke USDA-ARS
Project Objectives: The objective of this study is to identify key differentially expressed genes during the interaction of sunflower with P. helianthi.  The results of this study will pinpoint genes responsible for the disease resistance response in sunflower.  This study will provide the best and most reliable resource yet for breeders to develop inbred lines and commercial hybrids with resistance to Phomopsis stem canker for farmers.

Funded Amount: $32,882
Determining Fungicide Effectiveness to Manage Phomopsis Stem Canker
Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University, Sam Markell, North Dakota State University, Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska-Scottsbluff, and Megan McCaghey, University of Minnesota
Project Objectives: The objectives of this study are to evaluate effectiveness of fungicides as well as fungicide application timing for management of Phomopsis stem canker under field conditions in Minnesota, 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: $37,882
Quantification of Yield Loss from Rhizopus Head Rot in Sunflower
Principal Investigators: Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska-Scottsbluff, Sam Markell, North Dakota State University, and Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University
Project Objectives:  Rhizopus remains a prevalent disease in the sunflower producing states of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.  This project will allow researchers to induce disease in research plots to levels that will properly evaluate management experimentally with fungicides.  It will also identify whether any presently available fungicides would effectively manage this disease to maintain sustainable production  

Funded Amount: $12,000
Evaluating Red Sunflower Seed Weevils for Pyrethroid Susceptibility
Principal Investigators: Adam Varenhorst, South Dakota State University, Patrick Wagner, South Dakota State University, Philip Rozeboom, South Dakota State University, and Janet Knodel, 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 collect RSSW adults from North and South Dakota and test them using a glass vial assay to determine their susceptibility to pyrethroid class insecticides including lambda-cyhalothrin, esfenvalerate and zeta-cypermethrin.  Researchers also will evaluate the efficacy of currently labeled and non-labeled foliar insecticides for RSSW and determine the flight capacity of adult RSSWs to determine the distribution of potential resistant populations.  The South Dakota Oilseeds Council also provided $25,000 for this project.

Funded Amount: $45,000
Integrating Cover Crops and Residual Herbicides to Control Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds in High Plains
Sunflower Production
Principal Investigators: Vipan Kumar, K-State, Dan O’Brien, K-State. Jeanne Falk Jones K-State, Nevin Lawrence, and Cody Creech, UNL Extension
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 is 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.  Another goal is to enhance adoption of best management strategies for cover crop termination timing among sunflower producers.

Funded Amount: $32,000
Evaluating Group 15 Herbicide Efficacy on Pigweed Species in Sunflower
Principal Investigators: Quincy Law, Kirk Howatt and Joseph Ikley, North Dakota State University

Project Objectives: The objectives of this experiment are to determine the efficacy/influence of Group 15 herbicides, with and without sulfentrazone, on pigweed control, sunflower injury, sunflower yield and pesticide residue.  This research will demonstrate the efficacy of five Group 15 herbicides on multiple pigweed species, including three herbicides not currently labeled for use in sunflower. Further, it will test the influence of tank-mixing each of these herbicides with sulfentrazone.  Should any of the three Group 15 herbicides not currently labeled for use in sunflower exhibit potential, we will have injury, yield and residue data to encourage labeling that/those product(s) in sunflower.

Funded Amount: $23,529
Spring Weed Burndown Options for Sunflower
Principal Investigator: Brian Jenks, North Dakota State University
Project Objectives: Evaluate crop tolerance and kochia control in sunflower with non-labeled burndown herbicides compared to current standards. This study will determine the effectiveness of non-labeled herbicides for preplant/preemergence kochia control.  If these herbicides are effective and can be labeled, they will provide farmers with another option to control glyphosate-resistant kochia prior to sunflower emergence. 

Funded Amount: $5,600
Efficacy of an Avian Repellent Applied Via a Spraying Drone for Repelling Blackbirds from Sunflower Fields
Principal Investigators: Timothy Greives, North Dakota State University. Page Klug, USDA-APHIS, and Jessica Duttenhefner, North Dakota State University

Project Objectives: The study will be conducted in commercial sunflower fields in North Dakota where flocks of blackbirds are actively foraging from August to October.  It will evaluate efficacy of an avian repellent Methyl Anthranilate (MA) to disperse blackbird flocks when applied directly to sunflower via a spraying drone.  Two UAS platforms will be used for this study: a precision agriculture spraying octocopter and a smaller quadcopter.  The project will evaluate the behavioral response of blackbird flocks toward the drone and potential spray patterns of the drone. This work will develop the protocol for approaching and targeting sunflower being consumed by blackbirds, and thus allow for effective spraying of MA under field conditions. 

Funded Amount: $33,319
Extending the USDA Sunflower Breeding Program
Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke USDA-ARS, and Richard Horsley, North Dakota State University

Project Objectives: Expand evaluation of sunflower testcross hybrids to central South Dakota and continue double-crop trials in Kansas.  Ensure continuity of the line development program for early (i.e., double-crop compatible) and mid-maturity (i.e., full season for the Dakotas) sunflower parental lines.  Bring genomics assisted methods to both the early and mid-maturity programs. This project will allow USDA breeders to achieve faster genetic improvement for sunflower with more and earlier information on genetic potential.  This, combined with additional data from field trials, should accelerate genetic progress, and the resulting lines and relevant data will be made available to benefit seed companies and producers.

Funded Amount: $119,186
        There is always risk in growing any crop.  As an industry, we need to constantly look for ways to increase profitability to sunflower producers by mitigating risk and make 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. 

* John Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association.
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