2024 NSA Research Priorities
The National Sunflower Association (NSA) provides grants to public researchers to stimulate new or additional work that may result in lower production costs, increased quality, and higher yields. The NSA does not allow awarded grant funds to be used for any overhead or indirect cost by the recipient or their employer. Do not include these types of expenditures in any grant application.
Resolving Sclerotinia continues to be a high priority. Grant requests for this disease must be directed to the National Sclerotinia Initiative. Please go to their site for details or email mike.grusak@ars.usda.gov. There is a concentrated research effort in this disease from wild accessions to fungicide trials and everything in between. Researchers are urged to consider additional or new directions in Sclerotinia sunflower research.
The 2024 Research Priorities list below specifies ‘areas of interest' outlined by the NSA research committee. This is not an exclusive list and all production areas of research will be considered by the committee. Additions to this year's priorities have been italicized.
2024 NSA Research Priorities
(not listed in order of priority)
Production Issues
  1. Improved genetic progress in sunflower is the #1 production priority for the National Sunflower Association to enhance competitiveness with other crops and stability of yield and quality using genomic tools.
  2. We need more local/regional focused varietal screening, including extension and industry, public and private lines. Inadequate resourcing is always an issue.
  3. Blackbirds:  Innovative and new approaches to reduce damage, especially discovery of repellents and or changes to plant physical characteristics.
  4. Factors related to optimizing yield.  This could include early season sunflower plant screening for stand, seeding depth, seed to soil closure and contact, variable seeding rates, soil temperature/moisture, seed dormancy, seedling vigor, and stand establishment in low pH soils. 
  5. Development of new genetic screening and management strategies to address emerging soil issues such as tolerance to saline/sodic soils and possible effects of low pH soils.
  6. Adaptation of sunflowers as a stable and resilient cropping alternative in view of climate change and variability.
  7. Early, mid and later planting date studies are needed to mitigate insects, diseases and crop maturity effects from too early and or too late planting on a state and or regional basis.
  8. Investigate sunflower seed treatments multi-mode of action packages to address insects, diseases, and or nutrient utilization including biological materials.
  1. Red Sunflower Seed Weevil challenges are inhibiting South Dakota sunflower acreage. The issue is larger than just insecticide resistance and may also include RSSW biology, genetics, and seasonal population dispersion. An “All of the Above” approach is needed.
  2. Evaluation of IPM strategies (scouting, trapping, thresholds, insecticide testing especially new Mode of Actions, cultural, biological) for control of economically important insect pests of sunflowers including sunflower head moth, banded sunflower moth, red sunflower seed weevil, Lygus bug, Dectes stem borer, midge, wireworm, and others.
  3. Screen suspected insecticide resistance for economically important insect pests of sunflower.
  4. Screen hybrid and breeding material for insect resistance.
  5. Study the direct and secondary benefits of pollinators including honeybees and native bees in sunflower production.
  6. Determine the economic costs and benefits of using pesticide seed treatments and application innovations to control wireworms and cutworms.
  1. Innovative weed control strategies using existing and experimental chemistries to address palmer amaranth, horseweed (marestail), ragweed, waterhemp, barnyard grass and multiple MOA resistant kochia, pre/burn-down and/or post emerge, and/or fall timing and demonstration.
  2. Encourage research for new desiccant active ingredients.
  3. Weed species shifts, due to resistance/tolerance to common modes of action need to be considered for burn-down uses, as well as existing post systems like Clearfield® and Express®Sun.  The issue is especially severe with kochia resistance in the Dakotas.
  4. Encourage research for new spring burn-down herbicide alternatives.
  5. Define herbicide sunflower safe planting intervals, even during a drought. Preservation of and MOA resistance management for the post-emerge Group #1 grass products.  Group #1 additive strategies might include pre-plant, pre (and/or) early post application of non-group #1 MOA’s.  Foxtail, brome species and non-Group #1 wild oat options need to be better defined and demonstrated for sunflower producers.
  6. Use of weed seed free cover crops and or rotation crops for potential sunflower applications. 
  7. Group 15 efficacy demonstrations, including improving pigweed, kochia and grass species control and how layering modes of action used in sunflower can benefit rotation crops such as wheat and corn. Emphasis on timing (late fall versus spring) for layering residual modes of action to lessen over reliance on spring burn-down.
  1. Phomopsis stem canker is the #1 disease priority for the National Sunflower Association.  Proposals aimed at improving (or leading to the improvement) of disease management tools are strongly encouraged. Recommendations include, but are not limited to:
a.  Epidemiology, biology and etiology of pathogen (s)
b.  Fungicides or biological control
c.  Genetics of the pathogen and/or host leading to host resistance
d.  A better understanding of the economic impact of the disease
  1. Rust including identifying races and the control of rust via genetic resistance and fungicide application.
  2. There is continued interest in downy mildew with the development of new races and fungicide efficacy.  Proposals looking at genetic resistance along with seed treatments with multiple modes of action will be of interest.
  3. Rhizopus can be a concern after the head is damaged by insects, hail, or other damage. Determining if there are management or mitigating strategies to reduce the impact of the disease is important for growers.
  4. Address emerging, economically important diseases affecting sunflower production through diagnosis and development of management strategies.
  5. Sclerotinia proposals should be directed to the National Sclerotinia Initiative.
Product Utilization and Environmental Impacts
  1. Looking for novel compounds in seed that have intrinsic values, including nutrition alternatives.
  2. Quantification of sunflowers’ carbon footprint and environmental sustainability, including the renewable diesel industry and carbon sequestration impacts.
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