Breeding and Development of Perennial Sunflower and Perennial Flax Varieties for Low-Input Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,700.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Donald Wyse
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: flax, sunflower


  • Crop Production: application rate management, continuous cropping, double cropping, multiple cropping
  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This project is part of an ongoing program designed to develop perennial crops for inclusion in agricultural systems that will allow farmers to diversify their operations, improve profits, improve environmental quality, and reduce inputs of labor and supplies. Perennials can decrease erosion, loss of soil nutrients, and need for inputs by generating living ground cover that can persist for several years. We propose to perennialize sunflower and flax through crosses with related species or direct improvement of related perennial species. These crops have valuable seed oils that make them profitable for farmers to grow. Perennial sunflower germplasm has been developed from populations derived from crosses between annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) and the tuber-bearing Jerusalem artichoke (H. tuberosus L.). These populations will be backcrossed with elite annual sunflower inbreds to improve yield, seed oil constitution, and agronomic characteristics while maintaining perennial habit. The inheritance of perennial habit in the annual X perennial sunflower populations will be determined by studying breeding materials in the field. Perennial flax germplasm has been derived from polycrosses of wild perennial flax species (Linum spp.) and will be improved by recurrent selection. Many of the Linum species have seed oil constitution similar to domestic flax, but breeding is required to produce uniform varieties that are desirable for producers to grow. Improved germplasm will be tested in multiple environments and evaluated for yield, perennial habit, and agronomic performance with participation from farmers. Resulting varieties will be released for use by farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project is part of an ongoing program to develop varieties of perennial sunflower and perennial flax that may be used in low-input agriculture. The value of perennial crops in sustainable agricultural systems is well recognized; however, the current perennial crop options are very limited. To increase the perennial crop options for farmers, we have initiated a perennial crop breeding and selection program. We have already determined that perennial habit can be transferred into an annual sunflower background via interspecific crosses with Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.), a tuber-bearing perennial relative. In 2006-2007, we intend to determine both the inheritance of perennial habit and association of perennial habit with other traits through a study of several breeding populations segregating for perennial habit, as well as begin early evaluation of breeding lines. Perennial flax (Linum sp.) will be developed through crosses between perennial flax landraces. We plan to begin a recurrent selection breeding program that will work with the life cycle of the flax while maximizing genetic gain per unit time. Early evaluation of populations will begin in 2006. Populations formed in the breeding program will be included in our variety development program.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.