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Screening Hybrids for Sclerotinia

Saturday, December 1, 2001
filed under: Research and Development

Screening Hybrids for Sclerotinia

Misting systems proving valuable for screening sunflower hybrids

Misting systems established last year at the North Dakota State University Research and Extension Center in Carrington, N.D., and at South Dakota State University at Brookings, S.D., are proving valuable in the research effort against Sclerotinia.

Established in part with N.D. and S.D. sunflower checkoff funding support, the misting systems, also referred to as disease nurseries, allow crop scientists to evaluate the susceptibility of sunflower hybrids to Sclerotinia in a field environment where disease inoculum and research conditions can be controlled for accurate analysis.

The Carrington misting system, in its first year of operation in 2000, is the first in the U.S. dedicated to evaluating Sclerotinia head rot susceptibility of experimental and commercial sunflower germplasm for Sclerotinia tolerance. Seed companies are charged a fee for commercial hybrid evaluation, which helps underwrite the cost of screening.

About 80 hybrids broken down into evaluation groups by maturity were evaluated in Carrington during the 2001 growing season, according to Bob Henson, agronomist and manager of the Sclerotinia screening project. Also evaluated were entries from USDA, including advanced breeding lines and some exotic material, in search of sources that would offer greater Sclerotinia tolerance.

“The drier conditions this year reinforced the importance of putting this misting system in place, so we don’t have to rely on the weather to get accurate, uniform screening of hybrids for head rot resistance,” says Henson.

The same hybrids and checks grown in Carrington are also grown and screened in Brookings. Uniform screening at both sites helps corroborate the research results. SDSU plant pathologist Marty Draper says the Sclerotinia screening nursery has been beneficial in evaluating the effectiveness of research methods used to conduct Sclerotinia screening. Lessons learned last year in the first year of screening with the misting system carried over to improved testing this year. “I feel we were closer than last year in obtaining useable data,” says Draper.

Results from this year’s testing will be made available to participating seed companies and research cooperators, and summarized as well at the National Sunflower Association’s Research Forum, Jan. 17-18 in Fargo, N.D.—Tracy Sayler

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