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Genetic resources of wild and cultivated  sunflowers

As a public research institute, INRA explores and preserves biodiversity and genetic resources of several crops. These resources are available to public and private collaborators according to national policies and international agreements. In order to maintain a wide genetic diversity for research and breeding, the Biological Resources Centre (BRC) for sunflower develops its collection since the 1960s and is now operating at INRA Occitanie-Toulouse.

tournesol. © INRA
Updated on 07/24/2018
Published on 05/22/2018

All INRA’s research activity on sunflower is carried out by the Occitanie-Toulouse Research Centre. In order to conserve plant diversity and use it in research programs, thousands of sunflower accessions are stored in Auzeville-Tolosane.

Integration of INRA’s BRCs in a large network

As early as the 2000s, INRA became involved in setting up BRCs with other research institutes, higher schools and universities and concerned ministries. INRA now manages or co-manages 28 CRBs, including 15 on plants, one on forests, three on animals (federated by the CRB-Anim in Jouy-en-Josas), five for micro-organisms (federated by the CIRM) and four on the environment, including the federative CRB BRC4Env located in Versailles. These centres assemble, validate, study, secure and distribute collections of living biological organisms (seeds, grafts, strains, etc.) and “replicable” parts of these organisms (DNA or plasmid banks, etc.). They also maintain databases associated with these collections. The storage and handling conditions are rigorous to insure quality and traceability. BRCs are essential for the international research.

Conservation of wild and cultivated sunflowers

Sunflower is an important crop, not only for economy (used as food and non-food) but also for its agronomic and environmental traits. It is mainly used for oil but also for proteins and is a major crop for French oilseeds manufacturers and farmers. Sunflower breeding programs are focusing on main traits such as yield, diseases resistance and adaptation to climate change. INRA’s research programs combine genetic, physiology and agronomy for better understanding sunflower responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Accessions held by the BRC on Sunflower have been collected or created by INRA since 1962. The collections are conserved as seeds in a cold room at constant temperature (+4°C) and relative humidity (30%); back-up replicates are stored at -20°C. Each sample is identified by a unique barcode which is associated to passport and phenotypic data.

Key figures

  • 28 BRCs are co-managed by INRA
  • The sunflower collection was started in 1962
  • Storage conditions of seeds: +4°C and 30% relative humidity (-20°C for back-up replicates)
  • Genetic resources for agriculture and research:
    • 2313 cultivated lines
    • 403 cultivated populations (open-pollinated varieties, landraces, breeding pools)
    • 537 related wild-type ecotypes from theHelianthusgenus
  • Genetic resources for research programs:2800 lines