Author Topic: Breeding a better Red Sunflower?  (Read 290 times)

Andrew Barney

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Breeding a better Red Sunflower?
« on: 2022-03-15, 03:13:48 PM »



So, I've had an interest in red sunflowers for awhile. Small multi-headed sunflowers grow all around here and are abundant. Awhile back I even tried growing a commercial red sunflower and tried saving seeds from it, but CMS made the attempt come to a quick halt as they are pollen-less and even if pollinated by another sunflower will not be true to type and will be pollen-less the next generation as well. I think a two pronged approach might be best. 1. try to obtain and grow a non-CMS red sunflower variety. 2. Use restorer lines to convert the commercial red sunflowers into something usable. 3. Try to find older red varieties in genebanks?

I also just found out red sunflowers originate from very near where I live. So that's way cool! I like native projects. I kinda want to "bring it back" so to speak. But, better.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Popular_Science_Monthly/Volume_80/April_1912/The_Red_Sunflower

https://www.jstor.org/stable/4604315 (available on libgen or sci-hub)

https://www.dailycamera.com/2012/07/15/boulder-history-wilmatte-cockerell-and-the-red-sunflower/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmatte_Porter_Cockerell

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.41.1044.33

https://academic.oup.com/jhered/article-abstract/6/12/545/867259?redirectedFrom=PDF

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-red-sunflower/ (can't access this one)

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Can't find any mention of "Helianthus cucumerifolius purpureus" or "Helianthus purpureus" or "Helianthus coronatus" in the USDA ARS GRIN database.

Found these lines that I think i would like to work with or sound interesting to me:

PI 650375, Helianthus annuus L., 'Purpureus'

Restorer lines:

PI 601545, Helianthus annuus L., '687' (colorado oilseed)

PI 607986, Helianthus annuus L., 'C9607CM' (confectionery) (resistance to sunflower midge)


PI 599757, Helianthus annuus L., RHA 270 (confectionery?)

PI 673345, Helianthus annuus L., SDHAR1-HO84 (restorer landrace / grex)

Seed weevil resistance lines:
(those with the highest reported resistance with *)
(seed weevil resistance may be tied to white seeds)

PI 170424
PI 170411 * (black/brown/grey/white/stripe)
PI 253417
PI 162453
PI 431545 * (brown)
PI 431542 * (brown/white striped)


Potentially resistant:
PI 199573
PI 219649 * (black/brown/striped lodging resistant)
PI 250085
PI 432516 * (brown/grey/white/stripe)

The original red sunflower seeds by Dr. Cockerell was originally given to Sutton & Sons seed company of Reading, England and The Burpee company. It stands to reason that these two companies might have the best red colored sunflowers today if they have continued to breed them into the modern era. If anyone has access to seeds from these two companies I would like to add them to my project. I could probably get the seeds from Burpee easily, not sure about the Sutton & Sons.

Baker Creek seems to carry a red sunflower (CMS free??), and i think I would like to work with that one as well, though it looks a bit brown and ugly-ish to me. Could probably use some work, but might be a CMS free strain, which would be nice.


« Last Edit: 2022-03-15, 03:55:31 PM by Andrew Barney »

Steph S

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Re: Breeding a better Red Sunflower?
« Reply #1 on: 2022-03-15, 05:46:13 PM »
Very cool that the original red sunflower is even local to you!  Those are interesting accessions too. 

The Red Sun is one that should be cms free.
Here's a video of somebody saving seeds from Red Sun grown in isolation.  Pollen good!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aWcQF-zkb0


Johann Kuntz

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Re: Breeding a better Red Sunflower?
« Reply #2 on: 2022-06-10, 03:40:05 PM »
Once you get your male fertile red material to work with, please consider the following notes:

*Red is neither fully dominant nor recessive.  If a sunflower inherits one copy of the red gene it will produce some red pigment on the ray petals, but if it inherits two copies of the red gene there will be a greater concentration of red pigment over a larger portion (possibly all) of the ray petals.
*Red pigment gene does not replace the yellow pigment gene, but rather is an addition to it.  The shade of yellow pairing with the red will affect the overall color blend.
*Paler yellow base allows red to show better, whereas normal yellow or orange-yellow petal bases will create darker more chocolatey color blends. 
*The standard yellow is dominant while the pale yellow and orange-yellow colors are recessive.
*Unless you selectively breed for a population that is homozygous for the red gene you will have inconsistent coloration in the offspring because heterozygous plants will only pass red to a portion of their offspring resulting in a mix of offspring without red, with part red and with full red.

I was able to get an accession from the USDA that has red, but it ended up having a poor color because the base yellow was not pale.  I open pollinated them next to a pale yellow form and am hoping that over a couple years I can have a nice breeding population to work with.  Being wild genetics they have smaller flowers that start blooming later in the season than I'd like so I'm hoping to move them towards larger flower size, larger seed size and cleaner red color before using them as a breeding base to cross over into perennial lines.

Andrew Barney

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Re: Breeding a better Red Sunflower?
« Reply #3 on: 2022-06-13, 08:47:41 AM »
Thanks for the tips and insight!

Too many projects to start the red sunflower project this year (and might be moving next summer), but it's good to plan. I was also thinking about using the largest pale sunflower variety i could find. Good to know my thinking was already on track. I would very much like to move the red into larger culinary sunflowers rather than the smaller wild types. Though, a small wild sunflower with pale yellow underneath would still be very nice to look at!