- Planet Possible
How to breed a climate resilient sunflower? Look to its ancient cousins.
Already capable of growing in harsh conditions, sunflowers have the potential to withstand even more.
The trend is clear, says Brent Hulke: The climate is changing in North Dakota and sunflowers are working harder to survive.
Hulke is a research geneticist specializing in sunflowers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) research facility in Fargo, North Dakota. He helps breed better versions of the domesticated plant, Helianthus annuus, whose seeds we snack on and whose oil we cook with. It’s here that breeders make sunflowers more resistant to diseases, increase their Vitamin E content, or change their fatty acid compositions to make them healthier.
It’s also where sunflowers might get help adapting to climate change.
“The precipitation trend is undeniable,” Hulke says. “Farmers don’t have to be climate change believers or deniers. They know it’s wetter