Sunflower breeding: solving Australian problems

Growers, researchers and industry have recommended that public research funds will have the greatest effect for the Australian sunflower industry by focusing on problems specific to this country.

A recent national iss ues workshop on future directions identified the priorities as: finding new genes for disease resistance and successfully transferring them into breeding stocks; oil composition tailored to current and possibly future market requirements; effective screening procedures for drought resistance; and stability of oil and seed quality in storage.

The issues workshop was partially funded by growers through the GRDC and was organised following the closure of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries sunflower breeding program. Growers expressed concern that insufficient research investment is going into the industry particularly in crop improvement.

Workshop convenor Mark Cooper of the University of Queensland Department of Agriculture said participants agreed that in fact Australia has no need of a publicly-funded breeding program to produce inbred lines and hybrids in competition with private breeders.

Nor is there justification for funding a comprehensive breeding stock improvement program similar to that supported by the US Department of Agriculture which currently provides material to all four private breeding organisations in Australia.

The workshop drew up the following wish list for future research funding:

  • Sunflower rust management: new genes for resistance and ways to successfully transfer them to parental lines;
  • Alrel'l1aria blight resistance; sources of resistance and resistance screening;
  • Drought resistance and adaptation:
  • Oil composition and oil stability in storage.
  • Rutherglen bug resistance: Tolerance to stem rot (Sclerotinia minor) and tolerance to head rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum)
CropCurrent SituationNeeds
CanolaGood varieties most regions Agronomy matches variety development particularly where Canola check operates.Increase grower confidence, part, new growers Extension in southern area Chemical resistance, maturity Improved oil and protein content, fatty acid composition, Varieties suitable for NE Australia
SunflowersVarieties internationally comparable Agronomy generally well understoodImprove grower confidence Freight major issue Price and climate critical issues Irrigation varieties doe non cotton areasSoybeanIrrigation varieties adequateExtension to improve agronomy Dryland variety

Region North