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Breeding the Core Crops – Sunflowers

Sunflower R&D for agronomic advancements and market advantages

Globally Nuseed is focused on four crops with excellent genetic potential for advancing agronomic performance and developing new end-use products — canola, carinata, sorghum, and profiled below, sunflowers.

Quick facts on Nuseed’s global sunflower portfolio:

  • Global leader in the high-value food ingredient segment
  • Top 5 position globally
  • Growth in proprietary categories and stacked traits
  • Unique offerings enable stronger market entry with a broad portfolio
  • Strong volume growth trajectory
  • European markets experiencing high growth

Nuseed’s sunflower breeding program has tripled in size over the past six years.

“The expertise of our breeding team at the Nuseed West Sacramento Innovation Center enables us to identify the genetics that can meet specific market needs, develop molecular markers for selection, and identify key input traits for specific production geographies,” says Jim Gerdes, Nuseed Global Sunflower Research & Development Supervisor.

The team has been able to rapidly create a genetic map for those traits to follow them through the breeding program quickly, allowing them to decrease the cycle time and increase the number of generations produced each year.

“One of our key strengths is the ability to use trait integration to add traits into the germplasm. We use recurrent parent percent selection and molecular markers to introduce traits or back cross traits into germplasm. We also use genomic markers to recall the genomic parent at a quicker pace,” says Leon Streit, Nuseed Global Research & Development Lead. “It is important that we have that ability, it’s what enables us to meet the needs of growers in different regions.”

Sunflowers are native to the U.S. so the diseases and insects that go along with the crop have co-evolved for thousands of years, so they have had to endure a tougher selection environment than sunflower germplasms grown in other parts of the world. The California sunflower breeding team uses their environment to select for disease and other pressures.

“The area around Sacramento is a garden spot for growing sunflowers,” Gerdes says. “Most of the U.S. sunflower seed production is in this area. We support the production in California with that of our sunflower breeders in Breckenridge, Minnesota, to use their skills for plant breeding and more manually intensive processes. Our Breckenridge program is in the heart of sunflower country so the regional work there ensures we have strong agronomics for local growers. We have similar regional breeding and testing programs in all our global regions.”

Nuseed’s R&D and breeding teams are also advancing confection sunflower output traits to meet specific consumer preferences, like larger shell and kernel size, for key markets in Europe, and the Middle East.