More than 65% of European surfaces of sunflower is infected with the parasitic plant broomrape (Orobanche cumana), a dangerous parasite of the sunflower crop. This represents approximately 11 million hectares. It is an obligatory and non-photosynthetic root parasitic plant that specifically infects the sunflower and is located in Europe and in Asia. The infected plants are smaller, the sunflower head diameter is reduced and in some regions, the losses in yield may reach up to 90%, dramatically affecting the profit for the farmers!
The parasite’s mutation and spreading in Europe have accelerated during the past five years, and recently new and more aggressive races of the parasite have appeared, allowing broomrape to rapidly spread to new areas. Several methods of broomrape control are available with more or less efficiency. Different crop management solutions can be used: soil solarization, biological control and the use of herbicides such as imidazolinone combined with herbicide-tolerant sunflower hybrids. However, breeding for resistance remains to be the most efficient and sustainable approach to control broomrape infestation.
Genetic resistance to Orobanche is a very complex subject, especially when it concerns the new Orobanche races F, G and others. In the past, resistance to the parasite could be reached with a simple dominant gene, however, since the appearance of virulent races, the fight has become more complex. The resistance to these aggressive strains is due to a combination of a strong genetic background with a dominant gene.
To help farmers in their ongoing fights against this pest, Euralis has recently developed the OR Master® App, which is a unique smartphone application to fight Orobanche cumana. This new application allows the farmers to estimate the risk of finding Orobanche (OR) on their fields and helps them find the best OR resistant hybrids to be protected against the parasite.
The risk estimation is based on the local agronomical context of the farm and the recommended solution is fully personalized. The farmer can choose among different strategies using genetically Orobanche resistant sunflower hybrids, herbicide tolerant sunflower varieties, or a combination of both technologies inside the same sunflower hybrids in order to get the maximum protection. In any case, the application will advise a customized strategy fitting with the OR pressure and with the farm needs. The app will contribute to defending a sustainable profitability of the sunflower crop for the European farmers.