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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 17 FROM OPEN-POLLINATED TO HYBRIDS ES Many crops have been turned from self-pollinated or open-polli- nated into hybrid crops and sunflower is no exception. HC Sunflower is a hybrid crop in its current form. Sunflower breeders utilise a cytoplasmic male sterility system to produce hybrids similar to corn sorghum cotton and onion crops. CJ Only in Russia and Ukrainetaking into account the large quantities thereare open-pollinated varieties for sunflower still very important however step by step all acreage is moving to hybrids. As most breeders know it is always easier to bring open-pollinated crops than self-pollinated crops to a hybrid production system. But even in self-pollinated crops such as barley it is possible. BD Sunflower even as an open-pollinated crop is different than corn for example. Corn is a monoecious plant where the sexes are partitioned into separate organspistillate ear the female flower and staminate tassel the male flower. In a practical sense it means you can physically remove the tassel and easily create a hybrid but you can also do the same based on male sterility. Sunflower is quite different. Both female and male parts are located in the same flower. Physical elimination is impossible except on a breeding scale. We waited a long time until one French scien- tistLeclercq in 1969discovered a proper male sterility system for sunflower which fits production scale. There are many benefits of hybrid breeding compared to variety breeding and probably the most important one is the heterosis effect. EXCITING TIMES ES Why is it breeders find it exciting to work with sunflower BD A really great era for sunflower breeding started in the mid-80s when it became a hybrid crop. Sunflowers genetic diversity is its big advantage. In the United States it was known as a crop plant for many years by the native Indian tribes there. The sunflower genus contains 49 different species. This gives breeders a great opportunity to utilise such divergence in different breeding programs especially for disease tolerance traits. There are plenty of examples in breeding where discovery of the genes in wild relatives solved major issues with certain diseases. These wild relatives are common today almost everywhere in the United States and adapted for different environments. It still remains a fantastic pool for different breeding targets for example drought tolerance photosynthesis efficiency insect tolerance fatty acid composition et cetera. We also have one well-known sunflower species in Europe with the domestic name Jerusalem artichoke often called topinambur. Many people use it in everyday life not knowing it is also part of the sunflower family. But scientific work is not the only great aspect of sunflowers lets not forget this crop has inspired many artists the best known being Van Gogh. SUNFLOWER IN THE UKRAINE ES We feature the Ukrainian seed sector in this issue. Sunflower oil production is greater than its consumption in Ukraine and is the only net exporter of sunflower oil. What else makes sunflower a good crop for that country CJ Its a traditional crop there very well adapted and has high yields due to amazing soil quality and good weather conditions during the sunflower vegetative period. A large part of Ukraine has a typical continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. BD In Ukraine its a low input and profitable crop usually called a cash crop due to yield stability especially in dryer areas. The country has a long tradition of growing sunflower and is part of Ukraines culture and folklore. But we must also be careful to bear in mind that oversizing a crop can also cause issues with technology. Crop rotations still need to be followed and mono-cropping is not recommended for sunflower. RL Ukraine is the second country in Europe for sunflower production after Russia with an excellent average yield. The country has a strategic position to export sunflower commodities thanks to its Black Sea facilities either to western or eastern countries with good competitiveness. INVESTMENT NEEDED ES Creating a new hybrid sunflower variety is a long process and from discovery to commercial stage it usually takes several years. The invest- ment needed to create a new sunflower variety varies per company. Whats involved in creating a new sunflower variety BD The process of creating a variety on average takes around 10 years. Marker-assisted selection can speed up the process but you still need to test products and go through the registration process. Today breeding is really all about team work. To develop a new variety you need to have genetic variability available traits and motivated experienced and well-ed- ucated breeding teams supported by many other functions such as pro- duction portfolio and marketing and sales. You must develop technology that can significantly increase breeding efficiency. Every function in this process has more or less equal impor- tance. Development of one product is costly and needs to be well planned in order to bring in a return on investment and create profit for the company. HC We are fortunate in Turkey that we can run two full nurseries a year in the field and three seasons in the greenhouses. We believe from idea con- ception to bringing a product to market including the registration process takes us at least eight years and over 500000 to develop one hybrid. This number does not include the heavy investment we have made in state-of- the-art greenhouses pathology and marker labs. CJ It takes about 1000000 per year over 10 years to yield a minimum number of new hybrids to maintain an interesting portfolio. RL Part of our continuous improvement efforts is to reduce the time to reach the market with an innovative product. Each step of the process can be challenging. It depends how efficient we can incorporate genome wise selection new phenotyping and high throughput genotyping technics. SUNFLOWER BREEDING INNOVATIONS ES Sunflower may be a great crop to work with but it still appears to be behind other crops such as corn wheat soybean rice and cotton in terms of importance and investment. CJ Companies look at the development of new technologies in other crops and based on their own possibilities and priorities try to adapt and imple- ment it in sunflower breeding. RL While zooming in on patentable innovation exclusively in the sunflower domain we see very little work. One of the unique topics is broomrape. BD Often sunflower becomes a pilot crop for some projects. If the task is complicated and needs more resources then international research consortiums are needed to support such projects. I can point to two such exampleshigh-quality genomic sequencing and the development of the efficient dihaploid system in sunflower. Such innovations will help breed- ing move forward in the predictive breeding era. It is not there today but I think it is not far away. Only the flower head of a young sunflower tracks the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky while the flower head of a mature sunflower typically faces east. PhotocourtesySyngenta