Farhad Ghavami Chief Science Officer, Eurofins BioDiagnostics

Advancing breeding programs for sunflowers has been challenging because the genome is very large (slightly larger than the human genome) with little historical genotyping information available. Since 2010, Eurofins BioDiagnostics has worked together with the National Sunflower Association (NSA) and the USDA to create a high-density marker panel applicable for modern breeding programs. To this end, the vast majority of USDA sunflower lines were genotyped and an Illumina 10K sunflower bead array was developed. Based on this genotyping platform sunflower breeders were able to advance their breeding programs using marker assisted selection, QTL mapping and association mapping projects.

Unfortunately, the number of markers and the cost of the genotyping using the arrays were prohibitive and many breeders were unable to use the technology in their day to day breeding selections. More recently, the power of sequencing has made genotyping much more affordable. Now genotyping by sequencing with medium size panels of 500 to 1000 SNPs has been used extensively by breeders in other crops like corn and soybean for genomic selection and acceleration of breeding programs.

To fill this gap in sunflower, Eurofins BioDiagnostics partnered with Applied Biosciences (Thermo Fisher) to develop AgriSeqTM, a genotyping by sequencing (GBS) panel for sunflower which can help sunflower breeders with their QTL mapping, marker assisted backcrossing and genomic selection projects. With access to a large database with genotypes of public materials, we were able to select the most informative markers that cover the whole sunflower genome to provide breeders with the advanced technology and the most informative SNP panels. Hopefully, this will help accelerate sunflower breeding programs and reverse the decline of sunflower production acreage in the United States.

This panel is available to any public or private breeder in any size program anywhere in the world. This SNP panel is a diverse panel which means the information will work on most sunflower varieties.