EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 15 May Seed uses both conventional pathology-assisted breeding and mark- er-assisted breeding to stay ahead of the ever-changing races of the broomrape parasite. We combine conventional herbicide tolerance technologies with genetic broomrape resistance and downy mildew tolerance which creates excellent safety for farmers who grow sunflowers in the above geographies to fully secure their sunflower crop against the broomrape parasite weeds and early-season downy mildew risk. We also established a special SmartOR platform for such combinations. Richard Legrand Nowadays it is not enough for seed companies to focus only on breeding for yield. Due to changes in the climatic conditions there is a shift of risk. We can list the increased aggressiveness of broom- rape territories exposed to drought or the gain of importance of black rust and Verticillium. Breeding companies should be looking proactively for innovative solutions and anticipate the future risk. For Limagrains breeding program yield oil content and fatty acids profile such as high oleic or linoleic are crucially important. Resistance to mildew and other diseasessuch as Phomopsis Sclerotinia Verticillium and Phoma but also to Orobancheand herbicides are key to have. Our main target is to propose genetic solutions to farmers that improve the profitability of the crops on their farms. That could be through high-yielding high oleic hybrids grown under contract which give rise to a premium in most of the cases. It could be through Orobanche resistant varieties which control the parasite in the field. However it could also be through excellent disease profile varieties. YIELD INCREASES ES With yield arguably being the most important feature for farmers yield increase becomes one of the main breeding targets for plant breed- ers. Comparison with other crops shows yield increase of sunflower over the period 2000 to 2013 has been relatively high and in fact better than other oil crops. BD Indeed yield gain is very important but its not the only factor keep- ing the crop competitive. Following our trial results yield gain is around 1.2 per cent per year. But we must look where the main production of sunflower is located. In Russia and Ukraine sunflower is still considered an extensive crop with low inputs but tolerant to heat and drought. It means yield gain achieved by breeding efforts is not really reflected at the farm level. We usually call it yield gap at farm level or farm gate. However sunflower still remains the main cash crop in those areas. We expect introduction of new technology such as Clearfield will significantly help a farmer improve control of weeds broomrape and decrease the farm yield gap. To help farmers increase their yields at the farm level we allocate our breeding efforts to introducing new traits in our breeding materials. Even though we primarily breed for yield we should never forget that sunflower is an oil crop and oil content in seed is also very important. What the oil industry prefers is high-yielding and high-oil hybrids with stability over the years in different geographical regions. Believe me it looks like an easy task but it is not easy to achieve. RL Sunflower is often cultivated in a more difficult environment than other oil crops. Due to this specificity farmers achieve the full potential of the genetics less frequently. It is the reason why flexibility of genetics is so key for this crop. REGIONAL DIFFERENCES ES With respect to yield increase are there differences among regions CJ Certain areas have a bigger yield increase than others such as Eastern Europe. In these areas hybrids are compared with open-polli- nated varieties of the recent past and this offers yield increases up to 20 per cent. In Western Europe the yield increase over the last 20 years has been relatively flat because breeding programs have been more focused on diseases herbicide tolerance and oil content gains. Certainly there are regional differences where yield increase is larger than in other areas this is not the case everywhere. HC In Turkey yields have not changed much over the past few years due to the heavy focus on defensive breeding to defeat the ever-changing races of diseases and pests. In addition sunflowers in Turkey are largely grown in a dry climate and rely on a steadily depleting water supply during the growing season. Thus disease and water supply generally limit the yield of sunflowers. ES Does each region require its own sunflower varieties CJ There are big differences between countries and also within a coun- try mainly related to maturities diseases abiotic adaptations et cetera. RL Sunflower shows lots of plasticity. Breeders are establishing idiotypes for larger geographical units which are homogenous for specific criteria. HC In Eastern Europe with a more continental climate and more humid summers disease resistance is very important. In dryer areas such as Turkey Orobanche and drought tolerance are the more-needed traits. BD It is not possible to develop hybrids for every village of course. Before you start your breeding program you need to target the adaptation area. Wider adaptations of the hybrids are very important but unfortunately you cannot develop one product that fits in every environment. Having good knowledge about biotic and abiotic factors affecting hybrids in par- ticular regions are preconditions to predict adaptation of the products. I can give you example. Products developed for Spain can be well adapted for Turkey or Eastern Russia. But it is never a copy paste option. You always have specificity of each region. At the end hybrid adaptation trials across regions will give you the right answers. PESTS AND DISEASES ES Sunflower is considered a paradise crop for phytopathologists. What are the most important pests and diseases affecting sunflower and what is considered top priority for breeders CJ The most important diseases affecting sunflower are broomrape and downy mildew. There are not many new diseases developing in sunflower however breeders focus on the development of resistances against new races or pathotypes of existing diseases. BD Breeding is usually a big battle between pathogen race development and new gene discovery and the subsequent introduction into hybrids to control particular races. Sometimes we rely on chemical solutions but in general the target is genetic control of the disease. Race changes can be so fast that we cant discover and integrate a new genetic resistance or tolerance accordingly. Then crop protection products may be a key solution. One example is broomrape where we see such intensive race changes in different geographical regions and thats exactly where our companys technology holds a key solution to control broomrape. Its a combination of genetics and herbicides. HC While no new diseases have been discovered over the past few years current diseases continually change and we need new resistance Sunflower nursery.