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2024 NSA Research Funding

Saturday, March 23, 2024
filed under: Research and Development

By John Sandbakken*
        Since its beginning, the National Sunflower Association has been committed to providing funds to public scientists to stimulate new, or continue with on-going, 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.
        Research is mainly funded with checkoff funds from Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, and 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 $434,109 in research projects for 2024. Outlined below is the group of projects that were funded.
Determining Fungicide Effectiveness to Manage Phomopsis Stem Canker
        Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, Sam Markell and Karthika Mohan North Dakota State University, Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff, Megan McCaghey, University of Minnesota, and Peter Kovacs, South Dakota State University
         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: $30,000
Quantification of Yield Loss from Rhizopus Head Rot in Sunflower
        Principal Investigators: Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff, Sam Markell, Febina Mathew and Karthika Mohan, North Dakota State University
        Project Objectives:  Rhizopus remains a prevalent disease in 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: $15,000
Fungicide Resistance in Phomopsis
        Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, Sam Markell and Karthika Mohan, North Dakota State University, and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
        Project Objectives: Monitoring for potential fungicide resistance in the pathogens causing Phomopsis stem canker is critical to inform sunflower farmers about what options are currently available to them and what needs to be developed to manage the disease. The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of QoI-resistant strains in the Diaporthe/Phomopsis fungi population.
        Funded Amount: $19,916
Determination of Rust (Puccinia helianthi) Virulence in the Northern Great Plains
        Principal Investigators: Sam Markell and Febina Mathew, North Dakota State University, Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS, and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
        Project Objectives: The objectives of this study are to determine the pathogen virulence (determine races) that occurs throughout the Northern and Central High Plains, and that knowledge will inform breeders (and pathologists and geneticists) and seed companies as they develop and/or market successful hybrids. In addition, a new ‘differential set’, which adequately represents the known rust resistance genes, will be developed, and can be used into the future. Lastly, a plant pathology graduate student will be educated as a sunflower pathologist.
        Funded Amount: $24,974
Characterizing Toxins Produced By Phomopsis in Sunflower
        Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, Sam Markell and Karthika Mohan, North Dakota State University, and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff
         Project Objectives: Conventional breeding for resistance to disease-causing organisms has been successful, but may suffer from lack of genetic variability in cultivated sunflower varieties.  Because phytotoxins play a role in disease development, these compounds can be used to accelerate screening genotypes for resistance to the causal fungi and complement the conventional breeding methods.  In pathosystems where toxins have been used for screening germplasm (such as bacteria and fungi), the strategy is based on the scientific evidence that the resistance of the host to toxins may be strongly correlated with the host resistance to the pathogens.  Thus, information on the toxins produced by Phomopsis and its role in disease development is critical, since these compounds can be used as selective agents to screen varieties for improved disease resistance.
        Funded Amount: $32,401
Evaluating Red Sunflower Seed Weevils for Pyrethroid Susceptibility
        Principal Investigators: Adam Varenhorst, Patrick Wagner, Philip Rozeboom and Bradley McManus, South Dakota State University, and 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 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.  In addition, researchers will evaluate the efficacy of currently labeled and also 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 provided $15,000 of checkoff dollars to match $30,000 provided by the NSA Confection Promotion Committee toward this project.
        Funded Amount: $67,314
Assessment of Early Planting and Early Maturing Hybrids as Tools in Management of the Red Sunflower Seed Weevil in North and South Dakota
        Principal Investigators: Jarrad Prasifka, USDA-ARS, Mike Ostlie and Kristin Simons, North Dakota State University, and Sam Ireland, Adam Varenhorst and Patrick Wagner, South Dakota State University
         Project Objectives: This project will assess effects of early planting and early maturing hybrids to provide more current, local data that support grower decision-making on planting times and seed weevil management.  Damage by red sunflower seed weevils yield, and quality (% oil) in oilseed sunflower will be measured to determine if farmers could plant much earlier than is common in South Dakota and North Dakota without sustaining significant yield and or quality losses.  The results could allow producers to choose to plant (and harvest) earlier or use earlier-maturing hybrids to avoid yield losses from red seed weevil or other time-sensitive causes (e.g., lodging, birds).  The South Dakota Oilseeds Council provided $15,000 of checkoff dollars to toward this project.
        Funded Amount: $40,560     
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: $10,000
Late-Fall and Early Spring Applications of Group 15 (Long Chain Fatty Acid Inhibitors) and Group 14 (PPO Inhibitors) for Control of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds
        Principal Investigators: Jeanne Falk Jones, Kansas State University, and Ron Meyer, Colorado State University
        Project Objectives: Weed control continues to be a topic of challenge when discussing sunflower production in the High Plains.  This research can help farmers understand how to ‘start clean’ and ‘stay clean’ throughout the season. The research will illustrate how late-fall/early winter and early spring applications of tank mixes of Group 15 and Group 14 herbicides can provide early season control of kochia and Palmer amaranth.  This will result in weed-free conditions for sunflower to be planted into no-till fields.  The information will be communicated to farmers and agronomy professionals to aid in season-long weed control in sunflower.
        Funded Amount: $30,000
Importance of Hazing Duration for Repelling Blackbirds from Sunflower Fields
        Principal Investigators: Timothy J. Greives, North Dakota State University, and Page E. Klug, USDA-APHIS
        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: $35,570
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 the benefit of seed companies and producers.
        Funded Amount: $128,374
And a Final Word
        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 sunflowers 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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