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Recent Public Sunflower Research Appointments

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
filed under: Research and Development

Verticillium Research Initiative

Dr. Kholoud Alananbeh has been hired to work on Verticillium wilt in sunflower. Alananbeh, a native of Jordan, recently received her Ph.D. in plant pathology from North Dakota State University. Her Ph.D. work was on Verticillium in potatoes. Verticillium vegetative compatibility groups (VCG), a type of race, are being identified in her sunflower work. The aggressiveness of each VCG identified will be characterized. The third objective is to develop molecular marker techniques for genetic resistance evaluation.

The National Sunflower Association is funding Alananbeh’s postdoctoral fellowship. While Verticillium has not been a significant factor in the U.S., the NSA board agreed it is necessary to get ahead of any disease developments.

Sclerotinia Wild Species Project

Dr. Zhao Liu has been a member of the Sclerotinia research team since January 2008, serving as a postdoctoral research associate of the USDA-ARS?Sunflower Research Unit in Fargo, N.D.

Liu completed her master’s degree in crop genetics and breeding from Shandong Agricultural University, Taian, China. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China, with a major in biochemistry and molecular biology.

At the Fargo ARS unit, she is working on transferring Sclerotinia resistance genes from wild Helianthus species into the cultivated sunflower, working under the guidance of Drs. C. C. Jan, Gerald Seiler and Thomas Gulya. Her research progress has been outstanding, with activities in the greenhouse, field and in the laboratory using molecular markers and microscopy. Advanced generation lines derived from various wild perennial Helianthus species are in the field for the second-year evaluation. Liu’s position is funded by the National Sclerotinia Initiative.

Doubled Haploid Research Team

Dr. Xuelin Fu has been selected to work on development of a doubled haploid system for sunflower breeding. Fu will be employed by the Plant Sciences Depart-ment at North Dakota State University and will work with the Fargo USDA-ARS Sunflower Research Unit.

A native of China, Fu received her Ph.D. in plant genetics and breeding at South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou. Her dissertation work was with rice, where she studied the transfer of genes from wild relatives of rice to cultivated rice. Utilizing wild germplasm, she also developed substitution lines in rice that will aid in rice breeding. Fu has extensive research experience in plant tissue culture, especially with wheat, carrot, rice and aloe.

Fu was appointed associate professor of plant genetics and breeding at the College of Agronomy in South China Agricultural University in 2001. She taught genetics and plant breeding courses, and supervised graduate student research experiences.

Doubled haploid technology allows experimental lines to be developed much faster than through traditional breeding. It also accelerates the genetic mapping of important agronomic genes to specific locations on chromosomes.

Fu joins a doubled haploid development team comprised of Drs. C. C. Jan, Lili Qi and Brent Hulke of the USDA-ARS Sunflower Research Unit, and Dr. Richard Horsley of the NDSU Plant Sciences Department. Funding for the project was provided by a consortium of NSA member hybrid seed companies.

Confection Rust Research

Dr. Li Gong has joined the USDA-ARS Sunflower Research Unit, focusing on confection sunflower genetic resistance to rust. She will be working with Dr. Sam Markell, plant pathologist at NDSU, and Dr. Lili Qi, molecular geneticist at the Fargo-based ARS unit.

Gong received her Ph.D. from an Austrian university in molecular genetics and plant breeding, having worked on molecular breeding of oilseed pumpkin. She has completed postdoctoral work at the University of Florida in marker development and germplasm diversity of several ornamental plants.

Gong’s sunflower work is funded by a grant received from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Insect Resistance Work Continues

Dr. Anitha Chirumamilla is a postdoctoral scientist who is a key part of the insect resistance research team involving the USDA ARS Sunflower Research Unit, Kansas State University, South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University.

One of Chirumamilla’s responsibilities is determining the manner of the plant’s resistance so that it can be enhanced. Work is being done on the sunflower moth, banded moth, stem weevil and the red seed weevil. Testing for resistance requires field plots in areas where a particular insect population is consistent.

Chirumamilla received her undergraduate degree in her native India and her Ph.D. from NDSU. Her postdoc assignment is supported by the National Sunflower Association.

Sclerotinia Resistance Breeding

Dr. Zahirul Talukder is a postdoctoral scientist working with the USDA ARS Sunflower Research Unit on Sclerotinia resistance breeding. He is a native of Bangladesh and received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom in plant molecular biology.

Talukder’s position is combining field nursery work of laboratory analysis in identifying additional genetic markers for resistance to Sclerotinia. He is working under the guidance of Dr. Brent Hulke, the Unit’s sunflower research geneticist. His position is funded by the National Sclerotinia Initiative.
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