Worldwide, sunflower oilseed crops are valued at about $20 billion annually and sunflower species are grown commercially on 22 million hectares around the globe, currently the world’s largest plant family containing 24,000 species of plants – including many crops and medicinal plants, horticulture plants and noxious weeds. Sunflower is an ideal system for the proposed research because domestic crops are clearly limited by stresses, while wild relatives have adapted to a variety of extreme environments.
This project aimed to take the reference genome created by a previously funded project for the sunflower family further to investigate the molecular and physiological basis of drought, flooding, salt, and low-nutrient stress resistance in cultivated sunflower and reproductively compatible, stress-adapted wild species that are potential donors of beneficial resistance traits. The research achieved several objectives:
(1) identified and fully characterized the genetic basis of stress resistance traits in sunflower;
(2) created germplasm resources that enable breeders to put stress-resistant, high-yield cultivars in the field;
(3) developed models to predict crop yields of stress resistant cultivars under different conditions.
Lastly, the project developed strategies for reducing barriers to R&D caused by international treaties. In the face of changing climatic conditions, this research could help with using currently unsuitable land for growing stress-resistant crops and improving food security.