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Sunflower germplasm enhancement for improved productivity under drought

Shorter, R. Dr; Ph: (07) 3214 2239; Fax: (07) 3214 2411;

Research organisation: CSIRO Tropical Agriculture, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia Qld 4067

Sponsors: GRDC, Grains Research and Development Corporation


1. To initiate development of sunflower germplasm with improved productivity under drought for Australian conditions;

2. To assess target production environments and the potential value of key traits;

3. To identify useful genetic variation and superior parents;

4. To begin identifying and implementing crossing and selection strategies including, where appropriate, use of molecular markers for key traits and for determining linkage with other important traits.

Methodology: Sunflower is an important opportunity crop in northern farming systems but requires enhanced productivity and reliability of supply to remain a profitable and competitive component in these systems. Improved drought tolerance has been identified by industry as a high priority for germplasm enhancement. The types and frequency of droughts in the target production environments will be assessed using simulation models to assist in the identification of potential key traits and in the design of selection strategies. Germplasm will be screened to identify putative traits such as delayed leaf senescence post-anthesis, transpiration efficiency and canopy morphology as well as yield performance under stress. Markers linked with improved performance under drought will be sought by association with hybrid performance data and in populations of designed crosses. These populations, together with information from other laboratories, will also be used to assess linkages with other important agronomic and quality traits. A crossing and selection program will be initiated to recombine desired traits into a limited number of inbred lines for use by the seed industry.


Germplasm with putatively higher transpiration efficiency identified in preliminary manner. Research under way to confirm association between TE and carbon isotope discrimination. Preliminary research underway on identification of correlated molecular markers. Enhancement to sunflower growth model in APSIM under development.

Period: starting date 1997-07; completion date 2001-06

Status: ongoing

Keywords: Sunflowers; Helianthus annuus; drought resistance; genetic variation; genetic markers; breeding programs

Publications: None as yet


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