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Published January 25, 2011, 01:39 PM

SNP offers traits for sunflowers

FARGO, N.D. — The sunflower industry is banking on something called “SNP” — single nucleotide polymorphism.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — The sunflower industry is banking on something called “SNP” — single nucleotide polymorphism.

A SNP initiative for sunflower will allow anti-disease and pest traits to be incorporated into commercial sunflower varieties in two to three years, rather than seven years, as in the past, says Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the Bismarck, N.D.-based National Sunflower Association.

Technology trend

Kleingartner says sunflower breeders are beginning to take advantage of technologies that companies like Monsanto have been doing for corn.

“The whole cost has gone down, and the technology is more available for a crop of our size,” Kleingartner who spoke at the close of the Jan. 12 to 13 Sunflower Research Day reporting conference in Fargo, N.D.

Initiative under way

About six months ago, the NSA launched a new SNP initiative.

“We put together an industry/government combined project, as opposed to one company doing this,” Kleingartner says.

The NSA put $100,000 into the project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put $100,000 into it, and individually, seed companies put in about $250,000, for a total of nearly a half-million.

One of the first things breeders are working on is white mold resistance.

The NSA research reporting session included several reports on the topic. Some of the research is done in Fargo, and some at BioDiagnostics Inc., with Quentin Schultz, River Falls, Wis.

The NSA owns the technology and considers it intellectual property, Kleingartner says.

“We aren’t going to patent the material, but we’re very likely going to make it available to all of the private seed companies. We haven’t worked out the cost, but there will be some cost for companies that didn’t participate in that first round of funding,” Kleingartner says.

The NSA reporting event featured reports on studies involving a number of new fungicides and genetic resistance for diseases — especially sclerotinia. The separate National Sclerotinia Initiative annual meeting is Jan. 21 in Minneapolis.

Kleingartner says that meeting deals with sclerotinia’s impact on a number of crops — sunflowers, edible beans, canola and others. Wet conditions in the past several years, as well as a reduction of wheat acres in the rotations, have made the disease impacts more serious.

Crop protection tests

Kleingartner says there are a lot of new crop protections being tested at research stations, including Langdon, N.D.

“We’re going to really expand that research this summer and get as much information as possible on things like rates, timing and water amounts, to make sure these products get used without too many mistakes,” he says.

n The NSA has been working on a repellent for bird pests, but that hasn’t progressed as quickly as hoped. The chemical manufacturer has to work on some residue issues, Kleingartner says.

n Insect resistance genetics are being released to the private seed companies, but it is more difficult and time-consuming to incorporate than it is to incorporate disease resistance.

n The NSA also is working at identifying potential threats to sunflower health that aren’t yet an important economic issue. An example: “charcoal rot” is a disease that exists for a variety of crops, including corn, soybeans and sunflowers.

“We’re concerned that as we intensify these rotations that charcoal rot may be an issue. We need a ‘fail-safe’ scenario,” he says.

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