Grow and Protect: Environmentally Resilient Sunflowers


| LAST UPDATE 08/16/2022

By Eliza Gray
Growing Climate Resilient Sunflower
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Did you know that sunflowers turn their heads throughout the day to keep their faces towards the sun? And when the sun sets in the evenings, they turn to face each other? Aside from being a bright addition to a fieldside or pop of color on a table, there are many other forms of sunflowers that humans have domesticated and bred.

Climate Resilient Sunflower Breeding
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From seed snacks to the oil some cook with, sunflowers have been domesticated to create various outcomes. Those processes have enabled the plant to ward off diseases and increase health benefits throughout history. But, given the changes the species has encountered, specialists now plead for the flower's protection.

Sunflower Field Breeding Survival
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Loren Reiseberg, an Evolutionary Biologist at the University of British Columbia, described sunflowers as "One of the more environmentally resilient crops." However, according to USDA's Research Geneticist Brent Hulke, the flower's resiliency might suffer in the future. "Sunflowers are working harder to survive," Hulke admitted.

Breeding Climate Resilient Sunflower
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Before getting discouraged, there are steps humans can take to keep them blooming, including studying the genetic diversity in other species. With the warmer atmosphere, more sunflowers are catching and spreading diseases. But the Pecos sunflower or Helianthus paradoxus of New Mexico and Western Texas could turn things around.

Long Lasting Sunflower Genetics
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Support for the survival of the sunflower begins in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, at the Blue Hole Cienega. The 116-acre preserve has practiced under strict management to ensure the plant's growth throughout the past 8 years, but their work doesn't end there. And, they need our help. Per the USDA, there are currently 3 sunflowers on the federal endangered species list, including the Pecos. But, with the spread of information, change is possible. That's why the Blue Hole Cienega, USDA, and many Biologists are launching a call to action for humankind to be aware of and do their part in protecting the plants.

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Sunflower Genetics Breeding
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Whether minimizing water use via taking shorter showers or donating what one can to organizations that work tirelessly to protect endangered species is more attainable; humans can actually save the Earth's plants if the collective effort is given. It all begins with us. And, the sunflowers are depending on it.