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Sunflower : the SELEOPRO breeding forum provides an update on research

19 Feb 2024

The 35th Carrefour de la Sélection du Tournesol SELEOPRO, organised by Terres Inovia with the support of Sofiprotéol, was held on 6 February. It provided an opportunity to discuss sunflower research of interest to breeding and the industry.

What advances have been made in research to improve sunflower breeding? What are the future challenges for this crop in France? These were the topics of the Sunflower Breeding Forum, held on 6 February at the Inrae Auzeville site (31).

It was attended by 70 participants, including many representatives of sunflower breeders operating in France, as well as players from public research and the oilseed industry.

Martine Leflon, head of Terres Inovia's Genetics and Crop Protection department and chair of SELEOPRO's sunflower committee, was this year's moderator.



Spotlight on pest and disease management

Much of the discussion focused on research into disease and broomrape management:
- A presentation of the Optimildiou project  (Plant2Pro) and its follow-up, by Alexandra Legendre (Inrae, LIPME) on the development of molecular markers to identify different races of downy mildew, a major sunflower disease. This team plans to continue exploiting the sequencing of the genomes of this fungus to develop new markers.
- The presentation of two ongoing projects on the interaction between the parasitic plant Orobanche cumana and sunflowers. One of the presentations concerned the deciphering of the molecular dialogue of Orobanche cumana seed germination ( STIGO project - ANR) by Elena Dangla (Inrae / Innolea). The other was a study of the effect of multiservice intermediate crops (MSICs) in controlling the parasitic plant ( COTAGENE-PlantAlliance project) by Thibault Roudaire (Inrae).
Claire Ortega (Terres Univia) and Raphaëlle Girerd (Sofiprotéol) gave an overview of production, markets and strategic industrial positioning in the sunflower sector.


Work on the impact of climate change and sunflower adaptation

A number of presentations also focused on the challenges of climate change. The subject was introduced by Raphaëlle Girerd, who reported on a study into the impact of climate change on sunflower cultivation in France:

- An ongoing study into the potential impact of sunflower varieties on the attractiveness of pollinators under water stress conditions (Heliopollen - Seleopro project) by Olivier Catrice (Inrae, ASTR).
- Presentation by Nicolas Langlade of the European Hélex project, coordinated by Inrae. This project, which is just getting under way, brings together 18 economic and scientific partners with Horizon Europe funding. Its main aim is to use extremophilic species of wild Helianthus, the genus that includes sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes, to speed up the creation of sunflower varieties that are more resistant to the impacts of global warming, particularly drought and high temperatures.
Lastly, Marie-Claude Boniface and Nicolas Langlade (Inrae) gave a progress report on the material generated and future actions in the HeliaWild project, supported by SELEOPRO and aimed at developing and maintaining genetic resources useful for sunflower breeding.