SUNRISE : SUNflower Resources to Improve yield Stability in a changing Environment


The world oilseed production will be faced to an increasing demand in the next thirty years catapulted by a combination of factors, including: i) an additional demand of edible oil, ii) the development of the biofuels industry and more specifically biodiesel around the world, and iii) the needs for green chemistry.

Sunflower represents a major renewable resource for food (oil), feed (meal), and green energy. France is a major sunflower producer. French breeders are ranked first in terms of sunflower seed production. World leading seed companies and SME involved in sunflower breeding are based in France and are creating a wide range of employments in France – from molecular breeders to farmers involved in seed production - , while ensuring a continuous genetic progress in integrating new technologies in their breeding programs.
During the past ten years, the impact of genetic advance on sunflower yield increase has been lower than expected, suggesting that current breeding resources and methods might not bring future solutions to the requested need in a context of climate changes. In order to face the challenges of delivering safe and high-quality food while maintaining yield and stability across different environments affected by climatic change, a paradigm shift is needed in sunflower breeding.
The near availability of the genome sequences of Helianthus annuus together with the breakthrough created by the new sequencing technologies, the development of phenotypic platforms and of bioinformatic tools allowing the integration of such high throughput data, are offering a favorable context to reinforce, through an optimization of the breeding process of hybrid cultivars, the competitiveness of French seed industry.
In an unprecedented effort (8 years project, 10 public and 7 private partners), SUNRISE offers unique opportunities to accelerate genetic gain and improve oil yield of sunflower hybrids grown under limited water supply through a better use of the outstanding genetic diversity of wild and domesticated Helianthus annuus genetic resources.

As the result of climate changes, more variability is expected in the timing and quantity of water availability for crop production from location to location. Sunflower is seen as a water stress tolerant crop, but wastes available water. On the long term period, due to the cost of investments all along the oil industry chain, the competitiveness of the sunflower chain is highly depending on the stability of oil yield across years and locations. SUNRISE will decipher the genes and genes networks involved in both the sunflower oil yield potential and its stability across years and locations, and then identify in the wide Helianthus annuus gene pool which alleles would be of interest for sunflower breeding.
Moreover, SUNRISE will devote a particular effort in the improvement of sunflower hybrid breeding process. SUNRISE will identify the loci and/or the heterosis mechanisms which are the most involved in homeostasis, depending on the parental alleles, and then build new gene pools exhibiting between themselves the better specific combining ability for homeostasis, i.e. yield stability.
All together, these two objectives will result in the definition of a new sunflower ideotype.
Full benefit of present possibilities requires (i) the better characterization of genetic diversity in order to optimize dense genotyping needed for genome wide association and linkage mapping, (ii) the development of appropriate detailed or high throughput phenotyping strategies, including molecular phenotyping, to characterize the sunflower response to the variation of the abiotic environment, (iii) the involvement of appropriate genetic design to decipher the genetic factors involved in this response, (iv) the integration of the knowledge into a crop model for in silico testing of the genotype environment interactions and for ideotypes design, (v) the development of innovative tools and methods to optimize the utilization of genetic resources and breed for new improved sunflower varieties for the concerned traits.
It relies on a large partnership between the key players of sunflower economy in France and in particular a strong private partnership unique to date in the history of sunflower research in France. This partnership will ensure that the new knowledge, resources and methods resulting from the project will be translated into products and varieties supporting the sunflower economy in France.

SUNRISE will ultimately enable efficient molecular based improvement to reduce the time from trait to commercialization. Indeed, SUNRISE will not only produce new resources, data and material, but will also follow their valorization by partners (usually competitors) that agree to synergize their efforts within the partnership of this project and give a feedback of their value in their programs. The project also integrates socio-economic analyses that will enable to evaluate the benefit of innovative genetic and ecophysiological results for the breeding sector and transfer of knowledge to agriculture.

Project coordinator:

Chemin de Borde Rouge
31326 Castanet Tolosan

Project partner:


CNRGV involvement:

Arnaud Bellec
William Marande
Sonia Vautrin
Production and analysis of new genomic resources

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