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You Are Here Sunflower Magazine > Sunflower Briefs

Sunflower Magazine

Sunflower Briefs
November 2011

2012 Sunflower Research Forum Jan. 11-12

The 34th annual National Sunflower Association Research Forum will be held at the Ramada Plaza Suites & Convention Center in Fargo, N.D., on January 11 and 12. This meeting brings together public and private researchers, as well as growers and industry representatives interested in updates on research advances and challenges.

The combination of grower and industry checkoff dollars, the Sclerotinia Research Initiative, universities and a strong commitment from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have all placed sunflower research as a high priority. National Sunflower Association President Tom Young reports that there is now more funding going into U.S. sunflower research that any time in the past. Sharing research results is a critical part of this important endeavor.

Research reports at the NSA Forum can be either oral or poster presentations. To schedule a presentation and/or register for the meeting, go the NSA website at

Cargill Rebuilding, Expanding West Fargo Plant

Cargill recently announced a plan to spend $50 million to rebuild and expand its 30-year-old oilseed processing plant in West Fargo, N.D. Construction began this fall, with completion expected by the 2013 harvest.

“We are excited about this investment and the opportunity to continue to provide a competitive market for our sunflower, canola and flax customers for many years to come,” said Tyler Schultz, Cargill’s commercial manager. The North Dakota plant processes sunflower seeds and canola for use in food products, as well as flaxseed into linseed oil for industrial use and protein meal for animal feed.

SunOpta Announces Expansion in California

SunOpta, Inc. recently announced an expansion of its vertically integrated non-dairy beverage processing and packaging capabilities with the expansion of the company’s Modesto, Calif., operations. The expansion will increase capacity at the Modesto plant by about 40%, and the company’s overall aseptic non-dairy beverage and broth capacity by approximately 10%. The expansion is beginning in the fourth quarter of 2011, with full capacity expected to be on-line early in the third quarter of 2012.

According to the company, the expansion is required to meet growing demand for aseptic non-dairy beverages, broths and soups from existing customers, plus accommodate the production of new private label non-dairy beverages that are scheduled to be launched with a large club format retailer in early 2012.

Current production capabilities include the company's recently launched sunflower beverage, which is being sold under the SoLTM brand name (see story in the August/September issue of The Sunflower), plus natural and organic soymilks, rice beverages, almond beverages, hemp milk and broths. Once the expansion is completed, the company will have production capacity of between 250 and 300 million quarts of non-dairy beverages and broths, dependent upon product mix.

Sunflower Insurance Expansion Approved

Expansion of crop insurance for oil-type and nonoil sunflower was approved by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) for the Texas counties of Dawson, Lynn, and Starr for the 2012 crop year. Sunflower acres have grown dramatically in Texas in recent years, and expansion of crop insurance was warranted, notes the National Sunflower Association.

NSA will continue to work with RMA to add more Texas counties for the 2013 crop year and beyond. NSA is also interested in expanding crop insurance in Oklahoma, an on-the-rise area for sunflower production. Oklahoma does not have the acreage base to support added counties at this time; but if acres increase, NSA will ask RMA to add counties in the future.

Also, transitional yields (T-Yields) that are used for new growers will be updated in Texas and Oklahoma for the 2012 crop year.

USDA-ARS-Fort Collins Provides Matching Funds

The National Sunflower Association recently received word that the USDA-ARS regional office in Fort Collins, Colo., in partnership with the Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo, N.D., has allocated an additional $48,000 to match $25,000 from the NSA to complete the last step in mapping SNP markers.

Last February, the NSA Board of Directors approved $45,000 to further the project of transferring SSR markers to SNPs which provided mapping of about one-third of the identified SNPs. Once this phase is done, work will commence on the association mapping project being headed up by Brent Hulke, ARS research geneticist.

National Sunflower Association Board Chairman Don Schommer, in thanking USDA for this matching grant, said in today’s tight budgets at all levels, leveraging grower/industry dollars with federal funds makes a great deal of economic sense.

Confection Rust Project Makes Good Progress

The National Sunflower Association received the third grant to conduct aggressive studies to find genetic resistance in confection sunflower. The grant is from USDA’s Specialty Crop Block grant administered by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. The 2012 grant is for $76,160 and will underwrite the continued employment of Dr. Li Gong, a post-doctoral scientist who has been working on this project under the direction of USDA-ARS Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit molecular geneticist Dr. Lili Qi.

Most confection sunflower hybrids are susceptible to the majority of U.S. rust races. The researchers have identified resistant genes to the most virulent race and have developed molecular markers linked to the rust-resistant genes. Mapping of these new rust resistance genes linked to newly developed SNP markers are underway. The goal is to release lines to private seed companies with mapped resistant genes to speed up the process of getting rust resistance into hybrids that farmers will be planting.

Post-Doc Fang Wei Joins Sclerotinia Group

Fang Wei, a postdoctoral research associate, has joined the Sclerotinia research team of the USDA-ARS Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit, Fargo, N.D. Wei completed his Ph.D degree in crop genetics and breeding in 2010 from the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling, Shaanxi, China.

At the Fargo ARS unit, Dr. Wei will be working on transferring Sclerotinia resistance genes from wild Helianthus species into cultivated sunflower under the guidance of Drs. C. C. Jan, Gerald Seiler, Thomas Gulya and Xiwen Cai. Wei will team up with the other Sclerotinia postdoctoral research associate, Dr. Zhao Liu, who has been working on the project since 2008, to expand the number of crosses between wild perennial Helianthus species and cultivated sunflower utilizing both classical and molecular cytogenetic approaches with research activities in the greenhouse, field and in the laboratory. The development of alien chromosome addition lines carrying one extra chromosome from the wild species will also be emphasized. These lines will aid in the identification of trait genes associated with the specific alien chromosome, and allow for more targeted gene transfer.

Dr. Wei is employed by the North Dakota State University Plant Science Department, and his position is funded by the National Sclerotinia Initiative.

Additions to USDA Sunflower Breeding Program

Leanne Matthiesen is the new technician for the USDA sunflower breeding program headed by Dr. Brent Hulke of the USDA-ARS Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit, Fargo, N.D. Matthiesen recently moved from Bangor, Maine, after seven years with the ARS as technician for a potato pathologist. She previously worked at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul for 11 years, primarily in wheat breeding and genetics. She will be assisting the sunflower breeding program in day-to-day lab operations and analysis, conducting field activities, and seed distribution. She also will be involved in the inflow and outflow of breeding materials and data relating to the NSA SNP Consortium.

Matthiesen received her B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota in agriculture science with dual emphases on agronomy and animal nutrition.

Alison Stone has joined the Fargo ARS sunflower breeding program as a graduate assistant at NDSU, pursuing a master’s degree. She will be involved in genomic selection using a vast data set on Sclerotinia stalk rot tolerance, attempting to break the link between low yield and high Sclerotinia resistance.

Stone grew up in Lakeville, Minn., and has a B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota at Crookston. For the last five years, she had been an agronomist with CHS located at Eureka S.D. Her position is funded by the National Sclerotinia Initiative.

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