Sunflower is one of the most important oilseed crop grown all over the world. It is a tall crop that can grow up to a height of 400cm. It is a good source of vegetable oil and is popular in India as cooking oil. India is one of the largest producers of oilseed crop in the world. Since Indians preferred food fried in oils, sunflower oil plays a vital role in many kitchens. It has a high smoking point which makes it suitable for deep frying. In India, sunflower oil is preferred over other cooking oils owing to its various healthy properties.
Why Sunflower Farming?
Sunflower is considered as a commercial crop in India. Growing sunflower for oilseed is the best business opportunity. An agriculture entrepreneur owning a piece of land can start sunflower farming on its own.
- Sunflower farming is a profitable business venture of oilseed production
- It takes a short time span of around 90 to 120 days.
- Sunflower is a resilient plant and can manage to grow in varied climatic and soil condition.
- Pest and diseases control can be easily managed.
- The economics of sunflower plants is better than other oilseed crops
Soil and Climatic Conditions Required for Sunflower Farming
This commercial crop needs a cool climate during germination and seedling growth. It requires warm weather from the seedling stage to the flowering stage and sunny weather during flowering to maturity stage. High humidity and cloudy weather may give rise to poor seed set.
Sunflower is a photo-insensitive crop, meaning they can be grown in every season. The growth cycle takes 80-90days in Kharif season, 100 to 125 days in rabbi season and 95 to 115 days in the autumn season.
Sunflower adapts moderate to well-drowned soil types. Although sunflower plants can be grown on any type of soil, the yield differs if not cultivated with the ideal soil. The best soil contains a pH of around 6.8 to 8. You need to avoid planting sunflower plants in wet soil and flood-prone areas.
There are varieties of seeds available in the market, but you need to choose the one which gives you more yield in terms of seeds and oil; because ultimately the business is dependent on the amount of yield.
Sunflower plants have a tap-root system and hence can absorb nutrients and water from the soil up to 2 m depth. This is the reason why the plants perform better even in hot temperatures.
How to Plant Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are planted using a dibbling and furrow method. While dibbling you need 5 to 7kg seeds per hectare while the furrow method utilizes uses 10kg of sunflower seeds. When seedling appears, excess seedlings should be thinned after two weeks. Sunflower seeds should be sown 60cm apart, providing at least 20 cm space for plants to grow at a depth of 4 to 5 cm for better standing.
In areas with abundant sunlight, seeds should be treated with captan at 3g/kg and in mildew prone areas, captan at 6g/kg is necessary. A plant population between 40-75000/hectare is considered best by the farmers.
Seed treatment should be carried out to obtain a better yield. Fungicides such as captan, thiram, bavis etc. are widely popular. The treated seeds should be sown at a depth of 4 to 5 cm.
Sunflower responds well to manures. Application of 10-12 tons of compost/hectare is necessary for dry climate and soil with infertile qualities.
Sunflower needs a well crushed and weed free land. A good moisture count is necessary while sowing as it is an important factor to increase germination percentage. About 2 to 3 plough is enough to bring your soil in tilth form suitable for germination. Good germination is important for you to earn commercially.
Irrigation in Sunflower Farming
Normally sunflower farming doesn’t need water irrigation in Kharif season but becomes extremely important if there is inefficient rain quantity. But other seasons require irrigation at every 40 days interval.
Take special care during the flowering stage as this crop is sensitive to water stress. Water needs to be supplied gently during the grain filling stage. However, special care must be taken during its germination stage.
Sunflower Plant Diseases
Like every other farming, even sunflower farming is prone to diseases. Sunflower beetle, red seed devil, cutworms, sunflower moth etc. are the most commonly found pests in sunflower farming.
Damage caused by birds is a serious problem in sunflower farming. Nearly 10% of the produce is spoiled by birds. Measures like tying a reflective ribbon on crops must be incorporated to scare the birds away. Sunflower farming must be done in blocks in a closed space, as farming done in isolated space with birds damaging nearly 90% of crops.
Alternaria, phoma back stema, downy mildew, sunflower rust are the most commonly found diseases. You need to study the symptoms and prevent them before you think of cultivating the crops.
Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
The reason why sunflower seeds are so popular is because of various health benefits they provide. Let’s see some of the benefits here.
- Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin C and help us to maintain cardiovascular health.
- Due to high dietary fibre content, sunflower seeds can help you in maintaining digestive health.
- Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium, a vital element to maintain our bone health.
- Vitamin E in sunflower seeds has anti-inflammatory and can also work as anti-oxidant in the body.
Like any other commercial farming crop, sunflower plants also need proper nourishment for it to yield successfully. But when done right, these sunflower plants can give you a huge commercial profit.