Introduction: – Sunflower is one of the most important oil seed crop grown in temperate countries. It is a major source of vegetable oil in the world. In India it has gained popularity due to the national priority of vegetable oil production. India is one of the largest producers of oilseed crop in the world. Oil seeds occupy an important position in the Indian agriculture economy. Sunflower oil is considered as premium when compared to other vegetable oils. Sunflower is the oil of preference among the consumers the world over due to its health appeal and in India too, sunflower oil is the largest selling oil in the branded oil segment.
Suitable soil and climate for Sunflower farming: – The crop requires a cool climate during germination and seedling growth. Seedlings tolerate frosts moderately well until they reach the four to six leaf stage of development. It requires warm weather from the seedling stage up to flowering stage and warm and sunny days during flowering to maturity. High humidity accompanied with cloudy weather and rainfall at the time of flowering results in poor seed set.
The amount of linoleum acid decreases with high temperatures at maturity. Sunflower is a photo-insensitive crop; therefore, it can be grown successfully in any season viz. Kharif, Rabi and spring throughout India. It takes about 80-90 days in Kharif, 105-130 days in Rabi and 100-110 days in spring season. Sunflower, unlike most other crops, is not affected with the season and day length. With the exception of freezing temperatures, the sowing of sunflower can be done in any month of the year.
Sunflower can be grown on a wide range of soils and tolerates a moderate ph range and some salinity. It thrives best on deep loam soils with good drainage and irrigation facilities. The optimum range of soil ph for this crop is 6.5 to 8.5. It performs better than groundnut in heavy black cotton soils of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Agronomy of Sunflower farming: – Sunflower is shown by Dibbling method which requires 5-6 kg seed per hectare, while furrow sowing needs 8-10 kg per hectare. The excess seedling is thinned 10-15 days after seedling emergence. Seeds should be treated with cap tan or ceresin @ 3 g/kg seed under dry land conditions. In downy mildew prone areas, seed treatment with apron 35 SD @ 6 g/kg seed is necessary.
Climatic conditions with relative humidity of 50 to 85 percent could render seeds to lose viability within 40-60 days. The optimum population varies from 40-7400 plants/hectare depending on variety and availability of moisture. Under dry land conditions, 40-50,000 plants/hectare, while under irrigated conditions, 50-60,000 plants/ha is the optimum plant density. A plant density of 55,556 plants/ha (60 cm X 30 cm) in tall cultivars and 74,000 plants/ha (45 cm X 30 cm) in dwarf cultivars/hybrids has been found to be optimum.
Cultivation of Sunflower: – Sunflowers require a well pulverized and weed free land with adequate moisture supply. Te first ploughing should be done by the mould-board plough and subsequently two to three ploughing could be done by local plough followed by planking. There should be sufficient moisture at the time of sowing for proper germination. Under irrigated conditions where sunflowers seeds have thick hulls and imbibe water at a slow rate. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure sufficient moisture for proper germination at the time of sowing.
Crop rotation in sunflower farming: – Sunflower is grown in rotation with several crops. Some of the important crop rotations are Maize-sunflower, Paddy-sunflower, Maize-potato, Sunflower, Arhar (ageti)- sunflower, sunflower-safflower, Maize-toria-sunflower, Maize-toria-sugarcane-ratoon-sunflower.
Sowing of sunflower: The seed before sowing must before sowing must be treated with cap tan or Ceresan at the rate of 3g per kg of seed. Bold and certified seeds should be used. A seed rate of 8-10 kg per hectare is sufficient to ensure good crop stand, Sunflower should be shown 60cm apart in lines with a plant to plant spacing of 20 cm. The seed should be shown at 3-4cm depth for better stand. Sowing can be done by corn planter in the furrows. After 10-12 days of germination, extra seedlings should be uprooted to provide a space of 20 cm between plants in rows.
Manures and Fertilizers in Sunflower farming: – Sunflower is an exhaustive crop and responds well to application of manures and fertilizers. Application of 10-12 tones of FYM or compost/ha is necessary especially in dry lands and poorly fertile soils.
Bird damage management in sunflower farming: – In sunflower farming, bird damage is a serious problem in sunflower cultivation. Sunflower crop in damaged by birds during the period from seed filling to harvesting. The rose reigned Para keets (Pesittacula Kramer) are major bird pests of sunflower causing 10 – 40 percent damage and in isolated area it may cause damage more than 90 percent. Parrots invade the crop in flocks and inflict heavy damage and known to waste much more than what they eat. Sunflower cultivation should be done in large continuous blocks as parrots create serious problems in isolated areas. Bird scaring like tying of bright reflector ribbons above the crop should be used particularly in the morning and evening hours.
Irrigation/Water management in sunflower farming: – In sunflower farming, normally no irrigation is needed for kharif crop. However, one irrigation may be given in case of uneven distribution of rainfall. Rabi crop may be irrigation thrics after 40, 75 and 110 days of sowing. Sunflower crop is highly sensitive to water stress between flowering and grain filling stages. Therefore, one irrigation may be provided in case of moisture deficiency during this stage. Irrigation requirement of crop during summer is relatively higher. Irrigation at grain filling stage should be light and given on calm and windless evening to avoild lodging. Among the various stages, bud initiation, flowering period and seed development stages are critical stages in terms of irrigation.
Weed control in Sunflower farming: – In sunflower farming, Inter cultural operations are essential to minimize the competition of sunflower plant with the weeds. Weed free conditions up to 60 days after sowing results in better yield performance. When the plant attains a knee high stage earthling should be done along the rows. This provides safe-guard against lodging which is likely to occur at heading stage if winds of high velocity blow. Use of sir mate at the rate of 4 kg per hectare applied as pre emergence has been found effective in controlling weeds in sunflower crop. If sir mate is not available use Basal in at the rate of 1 kg a.i. per hectare dissolved in 800-1000 liters of water as pre planting spray.
Harvesting & Yield of Sunflower: – The sunflower crop is ready for harvest when moisture in seed is 20 per cent. Phenotypic ally the heads are ripe when back of the head turns yellowish-brown. All heads may not be ready for harvesting at one time. Harvesting may therefore, by done in two or three installments to avoid shattering. The harvested heads should be dried well in sun and then only threshes by beating the centre of the head with a small stick. The commercial crop may be threshed with available threshers by reducing their speed. Further, sun drying of the seed is desirable before storage or oil.
A good crop of sunflower raised property and nursed appropriately should yield over 20 quintals per hectare.
Post harvesting losses in Sunflower farming: – Post harvest losses occur at different stages viz. harvesting, threshing, winnowing, transportation, packaging, storage and processing. To avoid post harvest losses, these preventive measures to be considered:
• Harvest timely to reduce losses.
• Adopt proper method of harvesting.
• Adopt modern mechanical methods to avoid the losses in threshing sand winnowing.
• Use improved techniques of processing.
• Adopt the grading to get better price.
• Use good packaging materials for storage and transportation.
• Use proper techniques in storage. ¾ moisture content of the seed should be less than 9.5 percent for storage.
• Adopt proper pest control measures during storage.
• Adopt timely and proper handling while loading and unloading.
• Avoid use of hooks during handling.
Storage of Sunflower: – After threshing the produce should be thoroughly dried before storing otherwise in storage it gets damaged by fungus and decomposes.
Marketing of Sunflower: – Marketing sunflower is very easy as it has high demand in the world easy to market in local oil mills or wholesale dealers or even to some established oil companies.
Need subsidy or bank loan info on Sunflower farming: –
Bottom Line: Sunflower farming is profitable.