Selecting a sunflower hybrid
Every season there are always questions about which hybrid should be selected for
growing this year. Usually the first question is about which hybrids have the highest
However, selecting a hybrid is based on more than just yield. Hybrids should be
selected based on end use requirement, yielding ability (seed and oil), disease
tolerance, head inclination, height and good agronomic type. The decision should
not be hard as there is not a plethora of sunflower hybrids on the market; usually
between 7 and 9 hybrids, as shown in the table below, are available most seasons.
So, in all cases, the first question I ask is which market are you growing for?
The end use requirement is a critical consideration, whether it is monounsaturated,
polyunsaturated or confectionary/ birdseed narrows down the field to usually no
more than 2 or 3 hybrids. Following this seed availability is usually the next consideration,
as seed companies will not always have every hybrid available each season in all
areas. This can be influenced by the predicted crop area as well as seed production
and logistic challenges.
In all circumstances, select a high yielding hybrid that has the desired traits
for your market and growing conditions. Where possible, it is also it is advisable
to grow more than one hybrid to spread risk.
Sowing time also has an impact on hybrid selection as typically monounsaturated
sunflowers are sown in spring and polyunsaturated sunflowers in summer (late plant)
for northern NSW and southern Qld. There are also variations in hybrid maturity,
which requires less consideration on a spring plant, but on a late summer plant
can influence the speed of dry-down and time to harvest.
The growth rate of all hybrids is largely determined by temperature, photoperiod
and moisture. Individual hybrids differ as to which traits they are most influenced
by which explains the variations in growth stage timings.
In northern NSW, a medium–slow hybrid sown at Moree in early September and at Spring
Ridge in mid October takes about 80–85 days to flower. The same hybrids sown in
mid December to mid January take about 60 and 65 days, respectively.
The agronomic type of a hybrid should also be considered; taller plants can be more
difficult to harvest and head inclination can influence sunburn as hybrids with
pendulous heads tend to suffer less sunscald at flowering than erect hybrids. Recent
evaluation of hybrids has also started to focus more on susceptibility to several
diseases and viruses including Tobacco Streak Virus (TSV), phomopsis and sclerotinia.
Yield results are available in the NSW DPI Summer Crop Production Guide, available
These provide a useful set in independent data on hybrid performance over a range
of seasons in northern NSW.
However it is always important to point out that often the hybrids genetic yield
potential is not the limiting factor, it is our agronomic management and seasonal
conditions which usually make the biggest difference between a fantastic result
and a mediocre one.
Characteristics of sunflower
||Medium-slow (early plant)
Medium-quick (January plant)
||Medium (early plant)
Medium–quick (January plant)
||Medium–slow (early plant)
Medium (late plant)
Suitable for dehulling
||Medium – quick