They are sick :(. There has been a disease going around attacking all the sunflowers. I wonder if it is related to corn smut, and if they can perhaps find a gene to integrate, or turn one off/on to help the plant resist this disease. Funny how these things seem to come up after a semester studying GM productions, patenting, and plants.
"The effort to convince Congress that the money is critical comes at a time when the nation's sunflower crop is expected to rebound from a disastrous 2004 growing season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting 2.75 million acres of all types of sunflowers, a 47 percent increase from last year and the biggest crop in five years.The scientist, Jinguo Hu, is developing DNA markers for various sunflower genes. Crop breeders can use those markers to determine if hybrid varieties have certain genes that make them resist diseases or insects. "If we have DNA markers, we don't have to do field testing," Vick said. "We can just analyze the DNA to see if the gene is there or not."