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Posted 02/15/2021 in Agricuture by Patience Chizema

A quick guideline on sunflower production

A quick guideline on sunflower production

The sunflower plant is valuable from an economic as well as from an ornamental point of view. The leaves are used as fodder, the flowers yield a yellow dye, and the seeds contain oil and are used for food. The sweet yellow oil obtained by compression of the seeds is considered equal to olive or almond oil for table use. Sunflower oil cake is used for stock and poultry feeding. The oil is also used in soap and paints and as a lubricant.


Sunflower adaptability

The plant has the ability to adapt to conditions and use less moisture during periods of stress. Stress conditions during flowering are less critical in sunflower compared to maize and pollination takes place even under extreme stress conditions, because sunflower has the ability to produce stamens and pollen simultaneously. Good yields can also be achieved with 300-400 mm rain during the growing season.

Soil requirements

Deep, well-drained loam soils with good physical characteristics are ideal. Acidic, sandy soils are unsuitable, as sunflowers are very sensitive to aluminium toxicity Eelworm-infected soils must be avoided as sunflowers are sensitive to this pest. Sunflower is a valuable rotation crop on soils infected with Striga. Striga seed germinates in the presence of sunflower, but die soon after germination because they cannot develop on the sunflower. Click here to read more about Striga.

Sunflower stands can produce the same yield over a wide range of plant densities. The plants adjust head diameter, seed number per plant, seed size, to lower or higher populations, so that yield is relatively constant over a wide range of plant populations. 30,000 to 45,000 plants/ha. Excessively high plant populations may result in small heads with poor kernel development.

Varietal choice

  • High yield potential, especially in terms of oil mass.
  • High oil content.
  • Good standability (well-developed roots and strong stalks). 
  • Disease resistance.
  • Degree of self-compatibility, that is the independence of insects for pollination.

Unlike the old open-pollinated varieties which are not self-compatible, most of the new high oil-content hybrids can maintain a high degree of self-compatibility. Good hybrids are capable of self-pollinating up to 70 - 80% in the absence of insect pollinators.


Sunflower has a very fine, well-branched root system which utilises plant nutrients very efficiently. This is the reason why sunflower is considered a good "catch crop", that is it can utilise nutrients which were applied to, but not utilised by, the previous crop in the rotation system.

Boronated compound fertilizers:

  • Cotton fert (0.25% Boron) 250-300 kg/ha,

 Boron is important as it affects the flowering head and may reduce seed set.

Molybdenum also important may be included in seed dressing.

  •  Sodium Molybdate at 100g/100 l


  •  Ammonium Nitrate at 150-200 kg/ha

Weed management

Begins in the seedbed by incorporating

  • Trifluralin at 1.3 lt/ha 
  • Lasso 48 EC at 3.5- 4 lt/ha Preemergence
  • Fusilade Forte at 1.5-2.0 lt/ha Post emergence

Sunflower diseases

The most serious diseases of sunflower are caused by fungi

 Major diseases:

  •  Rust
  •  Downy mildew
  •  Verticillium wilt
  •  Sclerotinia stalk and head rot
  •  Phoma black stem and leaf spot

Sunflower insect pests include:

  • sunflower midge, 
  • sunflower head-clipping weevil,
  •  sunflower beetle, 
  • sunflower maggot, 
  • wireworm, 
  • grasshopper, 
  • cutworms,


The best stage is when the backs of heads are slightly damp. Moisture content should be about 20% at harvest. Recommended drying temperature is 71- 80◦C.

By Patience Chizema

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