2020 NSA Funded Research
The National Sunflower Association selected and funded the following research projects for the 2020 year. Funding was also in part possible due to the North Dakota Oilseeds Council, South Dakota Oilseeds Council, Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee, Kansas Sunflower Commission, Minnesota Sunflower Council and the North Dakota State Board of Agricultural Research and Education.
2020 NSA-Funded Research Projects

Enhancing Rust Resistance in Confection Sunflower
Principal Investigators: Lili Qi and Guojia Ma, 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: $124,050
Effect of Sunflower Growth Stage on Phomopsis Stem Canker Development
Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University, Sam Markell, North Dakota State University and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff.  
Project Objectives: The primary objective of this study is to determine the relationship of time of infection to development of Phomopsis stem canker on sunflower. The results of this study will help improve our understanding of the etiology of Phomopsis stem canker, help develop strategies to manage the disease and provide recommendations to sunflower producers in the region to manage Phomopsis stem canker.
Funded Amount: $34,345
Effectiveness of Fungicides to Manage Phomopsis Stem Canker of Sunflower
Principal Investigators: Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University, Sam Markell, North Dakota State University and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff.  
Project Objectives: The research objectives are to (1) determine the sensitivity of P. helianthi and P. gulyae to candidate fungicides in vitro and under greenhouse conditions; and (2) test effective fungicides (based on results of Objective 1) using a susceptible hybrid and a partially resistant hybrid under field conditions in 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: $34,345
Investigating the Impact of Diseases and Associated Factors on Yield
Principal Investigators: Sam Markell, North Dakota State University, Hans Kandel, North Dakota State University, Febina Mathew, South Dakota State University, and Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska, Scottsbluff.  
Project Objectives:  Yield loss to sunflower diseases cause economic stress to sunflower growers across the United States.  However, the amount of yield loss caused by many diseases (locally and nationally) is not well understood. Additional factors considered by growers who are trying to protect yield, such as the effect of hail on disease development and yield impacts from ‘plant health’ fungicide applications, are also not well understood.  This research will give us a better understanding of the yield impacts of diseases and disease-related factors and will lead to better disease management recommendations. This should translate into increased economic returns to sunflower growers.          
Funded Amount: $21,865
Sunflower Nectar Volume: Impact on Pollinator Choice and Genetic Determination 
Principal Investigators: Jarrad Prasifka USDA ARS and Brent Hulke USDA ARS
Project Objectives: This project will phenotype nectar production for an inbred population, HA 434 × HA 456, segregating for nectar volume and other floral traits. This phenotypic data will be used to map gene(s) controlling nectar volume in cultivated sunflower. It will also include field observations to model how nectar access, nectar volume, and other traits influence bee visitation to sunflowers. This work will measure the value of pollinators to sunflowers, understand how bees choose to visit (or not visit) specific sunflower genotypes, and provide tools that permit simplified breeding for pollinators
Funded Amount: $26,500
Evaluate the Distribution of Red Sunflower Seed Weevil Populations that are Resistant to Pyrethroid Class Insecticides
Principal Investigators: Adam Varenhorst, South Dakota State University, Patrick Wagner South Dakota State University, Philip Rozeboom, South Dakota State University, Janet Knodel, North Dakota State University and Patrick Beauzay, North Dakota State University.
Project Objectives: In South Dakota, the red sunflower seed weevil is a major insect pest of sunflowers 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 evaluate numerous insecticides through efficacy trials and glass vial assays, to determine if there are pyrethroid resistant red sunflower seed weevils in North Dakota and South Dakota. It will also provide more accurate management recommendations to farmers. The South Dakota Oilseeds Council provided $10,000 of check-off dollars towards this project.
Funded Amount: $38,000
Using Insect Biology and Cultural Practices for Management of Red Sunflower Seed Weevil
Principal Investigators: Jarrad Prasifka USDA ARS, Beth Ferguson, USDA/ORISE, Fargo,  Deirdre Prischmann-Voldseth, North Dakota State University.  
Project Objectives: This project will provide data on red sunflower seed weevil overwintering and emergence that allows accurate prediction of weevil emergence (i.e., a degree-day model). This work will provide information on how a combination of tools and strategies can provide the most effective (and cost-effective) management of this pest.  Developing a degree-day model (and subsequent demonstration of efficacy for planting time effects or host plant resistance) means individual growers will have more and better options to limit seed weevil damage.
Funded Amount: $13,500
Influence of Rainfall on the Timing and Efficacy of PRE/POST Soil Residual Herbicides for Control of Herbicide-Resistant Kochia and Palmer Amaranth
Principal Investigators: Nevin Lawrence, Cody Creech, UNL Extension and Vipan Kumar, K-State.   
Project Objectives: The primary goal of this study is to compare the longevity of PRE- applied herbicides options in sunflower and determine the optimal timing of Zidua for extending weed control. Based upon study results, growers will be better equipped to predict the longevity of PRE- applied herbicides and determine how soon after planting Zidua should be applied with the goal of achieving near 100% weed control early in the season. As certain PRE- herbicide options are more effected by poor soil moisture at application, sunflower growers will be able to better determine which herbicide options are best given their environment and the cost of herbicides. The Kansas Sunflower Commission provided $5,000 of check-off dollars towards this project.
Funded Amount: $26,000
Evaluation of Sunflower Tolerance to Fall Applied Herbicides
Principal Investigators: Brian Jenks and Caleb Dalley, NDSU
Project Objectives: This project will determine if fall-applied 2,4-D and dicamba will injure spring planted crops.  If no injury occurs, and after further testing, the data would be shared with chemical companies to consider a label change.  If safe to use, these herbicides would provide another legal option for growers to control specific weeds in the fall when they are easier to control.  
Funded Amount: $5,000
Sunflower Tolerance to Fall and Spring Applied PPO Inhibitors
Principal Investigator: Brian Jenks, North Dakota State University
Project Objectives: This study should demonstrate whether minor or significant injury occurs from applying two or three PPO herbicides sequentially.  The study should lead to a confirmation that 1) there is minimal crop injury or 2) labels should restrict sequential PPO herbicides in sunflower. The study will compare Valor and Spartan alone, Valor followed by Spartan, Valor followed by Authority MTZ, Valor followed by Spartan + Sharpen, and Spartan + Sharpen.  If there is minimal crop injury, the sequential use of these products will certainly provide better weed control.  
Funded Amount: $2,000
Early Maturing Sunflower for Double Crop Use in the Central Plains
Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke USDA ARS
Project Objectives: Double cropping has become a popular concept in the Central Plains to avoid loss of productivity and soil degradation that is characteristic of the traditional winter wheat-fallow rotations. Under no-till management, there is often enough residual soil moisture to allow for production of a second crop in the same season. This project will increase the availability and diversity of parental lines with early maturity and adaptation to various climates providing commercial breeding companies and seed producers with an excellent starting point to come to market with hybrids suitable for double crop scenarios. The research will provide both seeds and data that can help to expand sunflower double crop acreage in the Central Plains and beyond, and provide more resources to continue breeding work. The Kansas Sunflower Commission provided $2,500 of check-off dollars towards this project.
Funded Amount: $21,028
Identification and Mapping of Genetic Factors Affecting the Stability of Oleic Acid in Inbred Lines and Hybrids
Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke and Qing Ming Gao, USDA ARS
Project Objectives: Fatty acid composition has been the key to oilseed sunflower marketing success. This project will deliver suitable markers for sunflower breeders to predict oleic acid level in NuSun and HO hybrids, and provide valuable information for selecting breeding lines with stable oleic acid content. This knowledge will benefit breeders, by improving predictability of hybrid product performance, and producers, by reducing the uncertainty of oleic composition in newly developed high oleic hybrids. 
Funded Amount: $26,260
Assessing the Importance of Plant Spacing Heterogeneity (skips, doubles, gaps) on Yield, and Heritability of Seedling Emergence in Field Conditions
Principal Investigator: Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS, Ron Meyer Colorado State University and Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M University
Project Objectives: Plant spacing has become a topic of interest in the sunflower industry, especially the effects of skips, doubles, and gaps that often occur because of errors in calibrating planting machinery, inherent flaws in machinery, issues of speed, and seedling insect/disease issues. This project will objectively pick apart the effects of stand heterogeneity and stand gaps on yield. It will also help determine the degree of genetic variation in days to emergence and early plant vigor in the field.
Funded Amount: $38,164
Efficacy of an Avian Repellent Applied via a Spraying Drone for Repelling Blackbirds from Sunflower Fields
Principal Investigators: Page E. Klug, USDA APHIS and Mallory White 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 sunflowers being consumed by blackbirds, and thus allow for effective spraying of MA under field conditions.  
Funded Amount: $33,700
Genetic Variation of Sunflower Seed Macronutrients for Feed and Food Applications
Principal Investigators: Brent Hulke, USDA ARS and Michael Grusak, USDA ARS
Project Objectives: NSA requested proposals in identifying new uses for sunflower seeds and/or byproducts to gain new markets. The value of sunflower meal is reduced because of the high non-dietary fiber content of the hull materials. This has limited usefulness of meal to ruminant animal feed and other niche uses. Differences in sugars and other carbohydrates may affect flavor and nutritional profiles of confectionery sunflower seeds as well. This project will focus on investigating the variation of amino acids and carbohydrates. The expectation is that sunflower meal and confectionery seed quality can be improved by identifying heritable variation in amino acid and carbohydrate composition, which could be bred into sunflower hybrids for additional value-added uses beyond current markets. 
Funded Amount: $24,400
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.  
return to top of page

   More about Sunflower ►