Sunflower Cultivation Information Guide

Sunflower Cultivation Guide:

Introduction of Sunflower Cultivation:- Sunflower is one of oil seed crops grown throughout the world for various purposes. Sunflower is a major source of vegetable oil in most of the countries due to its nutrient values. Sunflower is originated in North America and later spread to the most of the countries in the world. Usually, sunflower seeds contain about 46-52% edible oil. The sunflower oil is considered premium compared to other vegetable oil as it has high level of linoleic acid. Not only oil extracted from seeds, almost every part of sunflower plant has commercial value in the market. Apart from preparing edible oils from sunflower seeds, it is also being used as nutritious meal for birds, animals (sunflower oil cake is rich in protein and used as cattle and poultry feed) and preparation of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and some other industrial products like paints, resins and plastics. These plants can also be grown for ornamental purposes. Sunflower oil is very healthy and known for its light and odourless characters. Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin ‘E’ and is derived from sunflower seed carrying nearly 45-50% oil content. Dwarf type of sunflowers can be grown in pots and containers. Some people grow these in backyards / indoors for ornamental purpose.

When it comes to its botanical description, sunflower is part of Asteraceae family and it is an annual, erect, broadleaf plant with a strong taproot and herbaceous plant of which leaves are rough on both surfaces. The sunflower plant can reach up to 4 to 6 feet tall and thee flower heads are up to 5 inches across and have yellow, pleated rays and a red-brown central disk. Generally, a single head produces 400-2000 seeds. Sunflower seeds are pointed at base and round at end. Seeds colour varies from black to white. (Some seeds may be found in brown/striped colour as well).

Why the sunflower crop has most commercial and economic importance? Because of its short duration of maturity, high quality of oil, it can be adapted to into different cropping pattern, high hull energy, drought tolerance and this crop can be grown throughout the year due to its photo-insensitive property. Farmers can consider  sowing this as not only main crop but inter-crop in other crops. Sunflower can be grown as inter-crop with crops like peanut, Castor, Soybean, Green or Black gram and Pulses.

Scientific Name or Botanical Name of Sunflower:- Helianthus annuus.

Genus of Sunflower:- Helianthus L.

Family Name of Sunflower:- Asteraceae ⁄ Compositae.

Sunflower Names in Other Parts of World:- Sunflower (English), Zonnebloem (Dutch), Sonnenblume (German), Наран цэцэг (Mongolian), Słonecznik (Polish), neòinean-grèine (Scottish), gabbaldayaha (Somali), Suncokret (Bosnian), lule dielli (Albanian), Harilik (Estonian), ηλίανθος (Greek), Lus na gréine (Irish), 해바라기 (Korean), ġirasol (Maltese), सूर्यमुखी फूल /  Suryamukhi (Nepalai), Girassol (Portuguese), Suncokret (Serbian), Girasol (Spanish), Слънчоглед (Bulgarian), 向日葵 (Chinese), Girasole (Italian), ทานตะวัน (Thai), Hướng dương (Vietnamese), Arevadzaghig (Armenian), Himawari (Japanese), Saulgrieze (Latvian), Floarea soarelui (Romanian), Suriyakantha (Sinhalese), ឈូក រតន៍ (Cambodian), Surajmukhi (Urdu), Slunečnice roční (Czech), Tournesol (French), Solros (Swedish), Ayçiçeği (Turkish), Solsikke (Danish), Mzesumziris (Georgian), Bunga Matahari (Malay), Hiorngjidkuii (Taiwanese), عباد الشمس(Arabic).

Top 10 Production Countries of Sunflower:- The following are the top ten countries of sunflower production in the world.

  1. Ukraine
  2. Russia
  3. Argentina
  4. China
  5. Romania
  6. Turkey
  7. Hungary
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Tanzania
  10. France.

Sunflower Names in India:- Surya mukhi (Hindi, Marathi), Suraj mukhi (Bengali, Punjabi), Numitlei (Manipuri), Surya kanthi (Malayalam, Tamil), Podduthirugudu puvvu ginzalu (Telugu), Beliphool (Assamese), Surjamukhi (Oriya), SuryaKaanti (Kannada), Suryakaantii (Konkani).

Health Benefits of Sunflower:- The following are some of the health benefits of Sunflower.

Health Benefits of Sunflower.
Health Benefits of Sunflower.
  • Sunflower seeds are may lower cholesterol.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for digestion.
  • Sunflower seeds are may prevent cancer.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for bone health.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for nerve health.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for mental health.
  • Sunflower seeds are good source of antioxidants.
  • Sunflower seeds are stress busters.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for blood pressure control.
  • Sunflower seeds may prevent osteoporosis.
  • Sunflower seeds may prevent arthritis.
  • Sunflower seeds may prevent asthma.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for digestive system.
  • Sunflower seeds have anti-aging properties.
  • Sunflower seeds are good for hair and skin health.

Cultivars (Varieties) of Sunflower:- Well, there and thousands of commercial and improved varieties grown across the world. However, Commercial growers should select best yield varieties which results in good oil percentage, maturity, seed size, lodging, disease resistance and bird resistance.

Some of the varieties of sunflower grown in the world are Giganteus, Lemon Queen, Mammoth Grey Stripe, Autumn Beauty, Italian White, Soraya, Taiyo, Kong Hybrid, Mammoth Russian, Sunzilla, Titan, Big Smile, Elf, Junior, Little Becka, Bashful, Chocolate Cherry, Firecracker, Hopi Black Dye, Royal Hybrid, Snack Seed, and Super Snack Mix. However, every country has their own different improved/hybrid/high yielding cultivars suitable to their agro-climatic conditions. It is a good idea of selecting proper hybrid commercial cultivars suitable to your local area. This can be found with your local agriculture/horticulture department. Different cultivars are available for both irrigated and rain-fed conditions.

Climate Requirement for Sunflower Cultivation:- Sunflower crop thrives well in climates ranging from arid under irrigation to temperate under rainfed conditions. However, this crop is susceptible to frost. The optimum temperatures for good growth are between 20°C and 25°C.

Soil Requirement for Sunflower Cultivation:- Generally, sunflower crop requires a well pulverized and weed free land with adequate moisture supply. Sunflower  crop can be grown in wide range of soils. However, sandy loamy to clay soils that are rich in organic matter with soils pH value of 6.0-8.0 are best for its cultivation. Sunflower crop has a low salt tolerance. Make sure that the soil has very good drainage for better production of sunflower. Soils with good water-holding capacity especially clay soils will be preferred under dry-land conditions for sunflower cultivation. Go for soil test to find out the nutrient and micro-nutrient deficiencies in commercial farming of sunflower.

Propagation in Sunflower Cultivation:- Sunflower crop is propagated through seeds.

Treatment of Seeds in Sunflower Cultivation:- Sunflower seeds should be treated to prevent from any soil/seed borne diseases.

  • Soaking of sunflower seeds in 2% ZnSO4 for 10 to 12 hours and shade drying is recommended for rainfed-crop sowing.
  • Treat the seeds with Carbendazim or Thiram at 2 g/kg of seed. Treat the seeds 1 day (24 hours) prior to sowing in the field.

Season for Sunflower Sowing:- Well, sunflower crop can be grown throughout the year as long as there is enough irrigation facility.

Land Preparation in Sunflower Cultivation:- Well, most of the crops require weed, hardpans, stones free fields and water logged conditions for best growth and yield. Ridges, field waterways, terraces or contours and water harvesting basins should be constructed for growing sunflower seeds. When selecting land for commercial farming of sunflower, avoid the fields that were planted to sunflower the previous year. Deep plough the land with local tractor for better Pulverization and bring the soil to fine tilth stage. Commercial growers of sunflower should consider  for going soil test to determine the soil fertility in terms of nutrients and micro-nutrients.

Seed Rate, Sowing and Planting in Sunflower Cultivation:- Seed rate depends on the cultivar, sowing pattern, rainfed and irrigated conditions. On an average a seed rate of 7-10 kg per hectare is more than enough to ensure good crop stand. When it comes sowing the seeds, sunflower should be sown 60 cm apart in lines with a plant to plant distance of 20 cm. These seeds should be sown at 3 to 4 cm depth for better stand. Corn planter may be used to sow the seeds in the furrows. Seeds start germinating after 10 days and extra seedlings should be uprooted to provide a space of 20 cm between plants in rows for healthy crop.

Sunflower Seeds.
Sunflower Seeds.

Irrigation in Sunflower Cultivation:- Though this crop can sustain from drought conditions, Proper and Uniform distribution may help in proper seed development and oil percentage. Sunflower is a crop of medium irrigation requirement. Rainy season crops do not need any water. However, in case of uneven distribution of rainfall, the crop should be given single irrigation to avoid any loss. For winter and summer crops, provide the irrigation just before sowing in the filed for proper germination and better stand. These crops require 3 to 4 irrigations after 35, 75, and 110 days of sowing which will cover up to grain filling stage. At least single irrigation must be provided to avoid water stress especially between flowering and grain filling stage.

Manures and Fertilizers in Sunflower Cultivation:- For getting quality of seeds and yield, one should follow the manure and fertilizer application as recommended by department of agriculture. Well decomposed farm yard manure (FMY) like cow dung or any garden compost of 15-20 tonnes should be applied evenly on the field before the last ploughing and incorporate in the soil by working a country plough. Other micro-nutrient deficiencies should be filled as per soil test results.

Well, fertilizer application depends on the type of crop (rain-fed or irrigated). The following in-organic fertilizers (N: P: K) should be applied in sunflower cultivation.

Type Fertilizers (N:P:K)    kg/ha.
N P2O5 K2O
Hybrid Irrigated 65 95 65
Rainfed 45 55 45
Varieties Irrigated 65 35 35
Rainfed 45 55 45

Weed Control in Sunflower Cultivation:- Weed control plays major role in any farming. If the weeds are out of control, one can expect low yield and quality of the crop. One weeding at 2 weeks after planting is usually enough to control weeds in sunflower cultivation. However, the sunflower crop should be kept weed free for the first month after emergence of the crop for healthy plant growth and yield.   

Crop Rotation in Sunflower Cultivation:- The following crop rotation can be carried out as part of commercial cultivation of sunflower.

  • Maize-sunflower.
  • Paddy-sunflower.
  • Maize -potato-sunflower.
  • Pulses-sunflower.
  • Sunflower-safflower.
  • Maize-sunflower.

Pests and Diseases in Sunflower Cultivation:- The following are pests and diseases found in sunflower crop. Pest and disease control in any crop results in quality of produce and yield.

  • Pests: Capitulum borer (Head borer), Leaf hopper and Caterpillar are the common insect pests found in sunflower cultivation.
    • Symptoms and Control Measures: Contact your local horticulture department for symptoms and control of these pests.
  • Diseases: Alternaria leaf blight, downy mildew, phoma blight, powdery mildew, septoria leaf spot, verticillium wilt are the common diseases found in sunflower cultivation.
    • Symptoms and Control Measures: Contact your local horticulture department for symptoms and control of these diseases.

Note: Your local horticulture department / Agriculture department is a good source for finding suitable solutions for controlling pests and diseases in sunflower cultivation.

Harvest in Sunflower Cultivation:- The crop is ready for harvest when the back of the head turns from green colour to lemon yellow colour and the bottom leaves starts drying and withering. Other way, the sunflower crop is ready for harvest when moisture in seed is 20 per cent. Timely harvest is very important to avoid any losses in sunflower cultivation.

Post-Harvest Management in Sunflower Cultivation:- The following steps are involved in post-harvest management of sunflower seeds.

  • Cut the flower heads only (as part of harvest).
  • Thresh and clean.
  • Dry the heads in the sun for 3 to 4 days.
  • Spread the heads in thin layer and give turning once in 3 to 4
  • Thresh using a mechanical thresher, or beat with a stick and separate the grains.
  • Winnow and clean the seeds.
  • Dry the seeds again in the sun for another 2 to 3 day.
  • Grade and store the seeds in gunny bags.

Yield in Sunflower Cultivation:- Yield of any crop depends on many factors like cultivar / variety grown, agro-climatic conditions, soil type, planting method and other agriculture management or cultural practices. On an average, one can obtain about 15 to 20 quintals per hectare.

Marketing of Sunflower:- Commercial growers of sunflower seeds should have a proper business plan for marketing their produce well before growing the crop.  Contact any oil seed companies or industries for bulk sale. Farmers can dispose their produce at farm gate or through trade/commission agents.

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