Sunflower, though has gained importance relatively late compared to other oilseeds, it is now the third largest producing oilseed in the world after soyabean and rapeseed & mustard. Sunflower is scientifically known as Helianthus annuus, derived from the name of Greek sun God Helios. Sunflower was originally grown as an ornamental plant for its attractive flowers and photosensitive nature

Sunflower is native of North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia. It was only recently that the sunflower plant returned to North America to become a cultivated crop. But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped

Sunflower oil is light in taste and appearance and supplies more Vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. It is a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with low saturated fat levels.

The seed has up to 50% oil by weight, and, like soybean, the embryo is fairly nutritious for other dietary needs. Sunflower oil is extracted under pressure and with steam, and after oil is extracted from the embryo the remaining solids are formed into seedcake for livestock feed. This livestock feed is high in protein but good mostly for ruminants because it lacks sufficient quantities of the amino acid lysine. Embryos can be ground into oily flour, which is tasty when mixed with wheat flour. Experiments have shown that the hulls (pericarps) of sunflower can be pressed into logs for the fireplace and cooking stoves.

Climate and cultivation aspects

Sunflower, though basically a temperate crop, is adaptable to both cold and warm weather conditions. It requires a cool climate during germination and seedling growth, warm and non-cloudy weather during flowering to seed maturity. Optimum temperature is 20 o to 25 o C but can tolerate up to 30 o C. Sunflower cannot tolerate water logging even for a short period. An important factor that contributes for pollination and seed setting is bee activity; if it is not there to the required level, hand pollination is essential.

World scenario

Although Russia was the first to commercialize sunflower, it became the largest producer only in the recent years. Russian federation contributes for about 20 per cent of total worlds’ production followed by EU-25 producing about 18 per cent. However, Argentina is the single largest producing country followed by Ukraine and India.

 

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