"Sunflower DNA Map Could Produce Plants for Fuel"

"SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A $10.5 million research project aimed at mapping the DNA sequence of sunflowers could one day yield a towering new variety for both food and fuel.

Researchers envision crossbreeding a standard sunflower with the Silverleaf species out of Texas to produce a hybrid with bright yellow flowers bursting with tasty seeds and thick stalks filled with complex sugars that can be turned into ethanol.

The wild, drought-resistant Silverleaf is known for its woody stalks, which can grow up 15 feet tall and 4 inches in diameter.

'Since it's the closest relative of the cultivated sunflower, it should be perhaps reasonably straightforward to move some of the traits,' said Loren Rieseberg, a University of British Columbia botany professor and leader of the DNA sequencing project.

The Genomics of Sunflower project is funded by Genome Canada through the Canadian government, Genome BC, the U.S. Energy and Agriculture departments and France's National Institute for Agricultural Research."

Dirk Lammers reports for the Associated Press January 22, 2010.

Source: AP, 01/22/2010