Comparing cultivated sunflower (Helianthus) to two wild species for traits putatively associated with drought resistance
Milton, Ethan Foster
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Drought is arguably the single greatest abiotic factor limiting plant productivity worldwide. Improving drought resistance of crops can counteract some of its detrimental effects. Identifying and incorporating variation from wild drought resistant congeners into crops is one avenue for improvement. We investigated two wild species of sunflower, Helianthus argophyllus (ARG) and H. niveus spp. tephrodes, (TEPH) hypothesized to be drought resistant and compared them to cultivated H. annuus (ANN) for drought resistance traits related to rooting, leaf and germination characteristics at various ontogenetic stages. Contrary to expectation, wild sunflowers did not outperform ANN for germination and rooting traits putatively associated with drought resistance, but TEPH exhibits leaf traits potentially useful in reducing heat load and water loss. Wild sunflowers do possess some traits that may potentially be useful for improving drought resistance in cultivated sunflower.