The Better Sunflower e-Newsletter is provided with the support of the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF), Australian Sunflower Association (ASA) & the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC).
  December 2015
The ASA wishes all industry members a Happy Christmas and Good Seasons in 2016!

Date Claimer
:  7-9 March 2016 3rd Australian Summer Grains Conference: featuring international and national sunflower presenters: Updates on Facebook or Twitter.


ASA welcomes new Better Sunflower Coordinator Alicia Dunbar

New Better Sunflower Coordinator Alicia Dunbar (Photo courtesy Liz Alexander)
After nine years at the helm, Liz Alexander has decided to leave the role of Better Sunflowers Coordinator. In her time with the Australian Sunflower Association Liz has organised a myriad of extension events and coordinated the production of the Better Sunflowers production guide, website and multiple smaller publications. She also facilitated the development of the industry’s strategic plan. Most recently Liz was 'Highly Commended' for her work in the cotton industry at the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) Conference in Adelaide.

ASA Chair Kevin Charlesworth said that Liz has been the driving force behind the ASA, working hard behind the scenes and always exceeding what was expected of her as the Better Sunflowers Coordinator. Liz’s extensive networks and knowledge of the industry have proven invaluable in the preparation of information and extension programs that have vastly improved the quality of technical and practical information available to current and potential growers. Liz’s contribution to the industry and the ASA is enormously appreciated and will be sorely missed. On behalf of the ASA, Kevin wishes Liz every success and good health for the future.
Alicia Dunbar has been appointed to the part-time role of Better Sunflowers Coordinator from Monday 7 December. Industry members will already know Alicia from her work in coordinating this year’s Newcastle Better Sunflower workshop and Crush tour, and she has been undertaking Better Sunflower agronomist accreditation assessments since the start of 2015. Alicia is a former sunflower grower and has an excellent knowledge of production and industry issues. Meg Kummerow will continue in the part-time role of Better Sunflowers Field Officer. Meg’s contact details are 0427 606 983 or

The ASA also welcomes the appointment of ASA Committee member Paul McIntosh to the role of Industry Development Manager (Northern Region) with Pulse Australia and believes his knowledge and experience will be of great benefit to the Broadleaf Cropping Alliance.

Contact Better Sunflower Coordinator, Alicia Dunbar on 0419 649 988 or

Better Sunflower Field Officer Meg Kummerow (Photo courtesy Meg Kummerow)

Register now: 3rd Australian Summer Grains Conference, 7-9 March 2016
Registrations are now open for the 2016 Australia Summer Grains Conference, featuring international and national sunflower presenters. The 2016 conference, themed ‘Securing our Future’, will draw growers, agronomists, researchers, marketers, crushers and customers to the RACV Royal Pines Resort for the three day event, 7–9 March 2016.

The triennial conference highlights five major summer crops—sorghum, maize, sunflower, mungbean and soybean—informing delegates about the latest research and industry innovations during the power-packed event.

Sunflower presentations on the agenda will include:
  • Key note speaker Dr Rondanini (University of Buenos Aires, Food Science, Agricultural Plant Science) sunflower agronomy research
  • Vikki Osten, Osten Weeds Consulting and Chris Haire, Nuseed, and others will be talking about the imi-tolerant sunflower work that is being done and associated stewardship program
  • Loretta Serafin, Leader, Northern Dryland Cropping Systems NSW DPI and grower Roland Hornick will be speaking about sunflower agronomy with regards to irrigation, nutrition and the implications of leaf loss
  • NSW grower Joe Fleming will share his experience about sunflower’s fit in a profitable crop rotation
  • Sue Thompson, Research Fellow (Summer Crops Pathology) USQ will discuss latest knowledge of pathogens across all summer crops
Early bird rate closes 15th December. For further information on the conference or to register your attendance, please visit the conference website: You can also follow their updates on Facebook or Twitter.

NSW DPI sunflower trials update
NSW DPI and GRDC have embarked on their second season of trials in northern NSW under the minor crop agronomy project. Currently two research sites have been established at Gurley, east of Moree and Pine Ridge on the Liverpool Plains.

Each of the sites includes two trials:
  1. row configuration x hybrid x plant population
  2. leaf defoliation at varying crop growth stages.
Sunflowers at the Gurley are currently flowering and the defoliation treatments have been applied for the budding and start of flowering stages with the early grain fill treatments to be applied soon. The plants at the Pine Ridge are budding and the early bud development treatments only have been applied at this stage.

It is hoped a late plant sunflower site can be found around Moree as well. Field walks are planned for January at both of the existing sites to allow growers and agronomists to view the sites. A notice will be circulated once the date has been set.

Contact Loretta Serafin, Leader, Northern Dryland Cropping Systems, Tamworth, NSW Department of Primary Industries, 0427 311 819 or

Summer cropping in the southern region
The southern grains region of Victoria and South Australia comprised less than 5 per cent of the total sunflower production area in 2014/15. This represents an opportunity lost when it comes to making use of summer rainfall in the region. Recent research has underlined the ‘use it or lose it’ nature of soil moisture and rainfall in summer—with only a very limited amount of moisture actually being stored for use by winter crops. In some years summer rainfall can even contribute to waterlogging in winter crops.

With this in mind, a workshop was held at Lake Bolac, Victoria in early November to reintroduce summer crops like sunflower, sorghum and safflower to agronomists and discuss the value of these crops in boosting farm income and managing weeds, pests and diseases through the utilisation of summer rainfall.

Trent Potter of Yeruga Crop Research spoke to the 18 agronomists who attended the workshop about sunflower agronomy in the southern region. Discussions centred on the importance of establishing a market and the relative advantages of oilseed and birdseed production in light of the distances to crushing plants.

Trent highlighted the need for agronomists to be aware of the different insect pests that attack sunflowers compared to winter crops and the appropriate management strategies.

An excerpt of Trent’s presentation is available to download here via the Better Sunflowers e-Library. All growers and agronomists are reminded that they can access all sunflower information at the industry’s website

Contact Trent Potter, Yeruga Crop Research, Naracoorte SA 0427 608 306 or

Sunflowers’ role in northern farming systems: QDAF trials at Mungindi
Sunflowers have been planted at Mungindi as part of a $14 million investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and the CSIRO to assess future farming systems for the northern grains region.

This investment in Northern Farming Systems comprises one core trial site at Pampas west of Toowoomba, plus six regional sites at Emerald, Billa Billa, Mungindi, Narrabri, Spring Ridge and Trangie. These trials are assessing likely future farming systems that could replace our aging systems, which are facing continued challenges of fertility decline, herbicide resistance in weeds and increasing soil-borne disease.

The trials are measuring the impacts of increasing or reducing crop intensity, using a more diverse range of crops (including sunflowers), and managing soil nutrition using different fertiliser budgets, pulse crops and pastures. The systems are being assessed in term of water use efficiency (grain production per millimetre of rainfall), nutrient use efficiency, weeds, diseases, pest populations and soil health. This work is expected to continue for the next 5–10 years and provide valuable insights into key grain farming strategies for the future.

Contact Andrew Erbacher, Research Agronomist, DAF 0475 814 432 or

Sunflowers at the Mungindi trail site enjoying 32 degree C heat on 24 November. (Photo supplied by Andrew Erbacher.)
Do you know a great agronomist?
Zoe McInnes was a dedicated professional and accredited Better Sunflowers agronomist, sadly lost to her family and the industry in a farm accident in 2013. In her memory, a study trip bursary has been set up to recognise the contribution that experienced agronomists make to the success of rural businesses.

If you know an agronomist who is doing an outstanding job for the industry and their clients, please consider nominating them to be the Australian Summer Grains Conference 2016 Agronomist. The winner will receive the inaugural and prestigious Zoe McInnes Memorial Award Study Tour, worth $5000.                                                                         
Zoe McInnes. (Photo supplied by Maree Crawford.) Conference chair, Maree Crawford says Zoe was passionate about her work and dedicated to her clients. “She was committed to serving the industry and saw the value in pursuing personal and professional development during her career with Landmark,” says Ms Crawford.

To be eligible, nominees will need to be practicing in the industry as either a private or retail agronomist and have at least 5 years experience. Ms Crawford says they are looking for agronomists who are making active and valuable contributions to the summer grains industry through trial work and implementing new technologies, assisting in the professional development of other agronomists and growers through education programs and who are actively involved in their rural community.

Following an interview process the four finalists will be invited to attend the Summer Grains Conference in March 2016 where the winner will be announced at the conference dinner along with several other industry awards. The nomination process is underway and applications will be accepted up to 30 December this year. [link to nomination form ]

Contact ASGC Conference Secretariat, 07 3368 2422 or

Sunflower in focus at GRDC CQ Summer Broadleaf Roadshow

Held across Held across Kilcummin, Capella, Emerald, Gindie, Biloela and Theodore from 17 to 20 November, the GRDC Summer Broadleaf Roadshow drew more than 140 growers and agronomists. Alongside speakers from GRDC, USQ and the mungbean industry, sunflower was strongly supported on the program.
Generally, growers and advisers remained wary of the potential impact of Tobacco streak virus (TSV). Murray Sharman, Senior Plant Pathologist (Virology), DAFQ provided updates on the TSV trial work that continues to assess hybrid tolerance and management practices. His key message was that GRDC research has shown that TSV no longer poses a serious threat to the sunflower industry in Central Queensland when tolerant hybrids are used and potential disease sources around crops are minimised.

ASA Committee member and agronomist, Paul McIntosh, provided information on the critical aspects of sunflower preparation, planting and establishment. Research from the early 90s has shown that average yield loss from
poor seeding in CQ sunflower was greater than 40% so getting the basics right remains the best way to maximise yields. 
DAF Research Agronomists based in Emerald – Doug Sands & Darren Aisthorpe. (Photo courtesy Sue Thompson.
Those attending were also given a taste of what’s to come by Chris Haire, ASA Committee member and Program Manager, Summer Crops, Nuseed, who showcased the company’s breeding program for Australian sunflower and highlighted the upcoming imi-tolerant release. Fellow ASA Committee member Sue Thompson (USQ) also attended all workshops, providing technical support on disease-related issues for sunflower and other broadleaf crops.

Dave McCrae, International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences USQ gives Capella growers insight into the seasonal summer crop outlook (Photo courtesy Sue Thompson)
Clear priorities raised by those attending for future investment by GRDC included continuing TSV research on new and unreleased hybrids, and extension of the results through the DAFQ Grower Solutions project, a better understanding of deep application of P and K in sunflower and incorporating sunflower into farming systems work. Interest was also shown in receiving more information about managing irrigated sunflower.

ASA described the partnership with the Australian Mungbean Association to organise the events as very valuable, and thanked other collaborators from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Qld, Pulse Australia, USQ and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
Better Sunflower Coordinator Liz Alexander thanked Rod Collins and Hayley Eames DAF Qld who stepped in to facilitate meetings in her absence, and kept the ‘show on the road’. She also noted the financial support from NuSeed, and thanked Greg Sandral from Sandral Marketing/AWB who travelled from Mackay to support all the meetings.
Case Study: Roland Hornick, Springsure
Roland Hornick grows around 200 ha of Aussie Gold 62 mono-saturated sunflower and 40 ha of Austripe 14 birdseed near Springsure in Central Queensland.
Summer crops, including mungbean, corn, sorghum and sunflowers, dominate Roland’s operation along with chickpeas and some wheat grown in winter. The irrigated and dryland sunflowers are a key part of the rotation, and where he can Roland grows sunflowers prior to sowing corn. He finds sunflowers are an excellent option for the arid arable environment that provide a good return per hectare and help to control grass weeds.

Roland plants on a full profile of moisture and avoids planting too early in summer. He does not rely on in-crop rain and likes crops to mature under cool conditions. He has found that sunflowers can withstand wet weather at harvest without losing quality better than other summer crops.

Roland Hornick, Springsure, with a recent sunflower crop. (Photo supplied)
Soil type: dark vertisols on the Downs country and river alluvial clay loam, both main soil types having a pH 8.4.
Sowing time: spring plant birdseed mid-July to early August; summer oilseed crop plant mid-February to first week of March.
Plant density: 27 000 plants/ha established; slightly lower rate in spring plant and higher rate (30 000 plants/ha established) under irrigation.
Row spacing: 102 cm (40”); zero tillage and controlled traffic
Nutrition: pre-apply fertiliser, including 40–60 units N, 5 units S and 16 units P (as MAP and only in some years). Foliar trace elements (Zn and B) are applied in-crop.
Yields: generally expects 2–2.5 t/ha off dryland crops and 3+ t/ha from irrigated crops, although the last few years have been tough.
Irrigation: more attention is given to crop nutrition and fungicide applications, and a slightly higher plant density is established.
Markets: There are many marketing choices for Central Queensland growers and Roland chooses to market his grain through local agents and southern buyers, including AWB Cargill but mainly to feed markets.
Agronomist: Ben Marshall of Marshall Seed & Grain Services, Springsure.

Last season Roland and his agronomist Ben Marshall conducted a field trial to find out if treating for powdery mildew was cost-effective. Although the year did not have a cool wet finish that would have provided ideal conditions for the disease, their results showed that fungicide treatments returned the amount invested 2-fold in extra yield.

Using a ground rig rather than aerial application was essential to minimising costs and the trial showed that applying the fungicide early, when the ground rig could still operate in the paddock, was very effective in controlling the disease.

Roland’s self-propelled ground rig has a clearance of 1.4 to 1.5 m, which means the rig can be used to apply fungicide to the crop at the R1–R2 (early budding) stage, when it is around 1.2 m high, without causing any crop damage. The fungicide was applied using a spray pressure of 5 bar and Turbo Tee-jet twin fan or TTJ6011003VR nozzles.

The treatment with Propiconazole 250 g active ingredient, registered for use in sunflowers under permit number 14777 (insert link to ), proved effective at a rate of 300 ml of per hectare in solution with 89.7 L/ha of water totaling 90 L/ha. The trial highlighted the importance of coverage over timing.

           Untreated Leaves showing signs of disease
Treated (left) and Untreated leaves showing an absence of disease on the treated leaf. Treatment date was 9 April 2015 and both photos were taken 41 DAT (days after treatment) on 20 May 2015. (Source Roland Hornick.)

Pilot oilseeds plant proposed for CQ

The potential for an oilseed crushing plant near Emerald, Central Queensland is significant and the viability of the concept is again being tested.

A local company (who wish to remain anonymous at this stage) is investigating the idea and hope to have a pilot plant up and working in the region by March 2016. This initial plan is to test the viability and the suitability of equipment by processing 2400 t of grain in the first 6–12 months. Cotton seed and sunflower are both being considered as part of the pilot program although the company is not sure if the pilot plant will have one chain or two.

Once the viability and feasibility of the project is tested the company hopes to produce stockfeed from the meal for local and export markets as well as oil.

This project is ‘under wraps’ for now so watch this space.                               

The UQ Sunflower Competition for school students is on again!
Each year the ASA proudly sponsors the University of Queensland’s Sunflower Competition for school students. Designed to inspire current science students to become the next generation of plant and agricultural scientists, the UQ Sunflower Competition also aims to support teachers to deliver their science curriculum in a plant-based context.

Teachers and students can participate in a number of ways and be eligible to win cash prizes. Competition rules allow students to:
  1. Grow sunflowers only at their school as part of their curriculum (for students unable to come to the weigh-in day).
  2. Grow sunflowers at their school and enter the ‘Communicating Science’ component of the competition (for students unable to come to the weigh-in day).
  3. Grow sunflowers at their school and bring them along to the Gatton Campus for the official weigh-in day.
Registrations close on 12 February 2016 ready for the competition planting date of 23 February 2016 Weigh-In Day will be held Tuesday 17 May 2016. ASA encourages any of our industry members who have secondary school children to register at:

Contact the UQ Sunflower Competition Team on or 07 5460 1279.

AWB sunflower program 2015/16

The AWB Sunflower Program remains in place, reducing the grower’s risks associated with producing sunflowers. Adam Murphy at AWB says the Sunflower Production Program provides a seed cost rebate on contracted hectares as well as allowing growers to fix a price on a portion of their crop without the concern of a washout in the event of production failure.

The first portion of grain from the nominated number of hectares is committed to AWB at the contracted price. Any additional grain produced on the nominated area can be marketed however the grower chooses. The minimum portion of grain required under the contract is 1.0 mt/ha in all areas except crops grown in the Liverpool Plains area of NSW where the applicable production is 1.2 mt/ha for dryland. For all irrigated crops the applicable production is 2.0 mt/ha.

A seed rebate of $15/ha also applies on any approved varieties of mono-sunflower seed purchased. Details are available from AWB Sunflower Program [ ]

ASA reminds growers that they can search an up-to-date register of buyers of all known Australian sunflowers at or download the July 2015 Sunflower Marketing Guide for Growers compiled by the ASA & AOF at {Insert link}

Contact a local AWB representative or phone AWB Growers Services 1800 447 246

Sunflowers in the news

In this section we highlight some of the news stories that have caught our eye since the last newsletter. If you come across an article in your daily reading that highlights sunflowers then please email the link to

Could this be the most beautiful sunflower image ever seen?
Photographer Graham Harris has created this beautiful piece of art showing the petals and centre of a sunflower close-up and blurred (Graham Harris, Australian Photographic Society).

Sunflowers in sugarcane rotation, Mackay
Sugarcane grower Simon Mattsson is also a Nuffield scholar investigating the impact of sunflowers on soil health.

Get off to an early start with sunflowers
Australian Sunflower Association member and agronomist Paul McIntosh reminded growers of the benefits of sowing sunflowers early in spring.

A heartwarming love story from Eau Claire in Wisconsin
In one of the most beautiful acts of love, a husband has planted thousands of sunflowers in a tribute to his wife.

Growers urged to grow more sunflowers
Unprecedented demand for sunflower oil is behind a push for more growers to add sunflower to their summer cropping program.

Sunflowers boost tourism on the Downs
A fabulous photograph of Allora's spectacular sunflowers has gained national exposure on social media, drawing tourists to the region's Sunflower Route.

Summer Glory - sunflowers in downtown Toowoomba
Trevor Bourne, KB Ornamental, supplied the sunflowers that are adding summer glory to downtown Toowoomba. (image courtesy of Maree Crawford)

Focus article: Summer sunflower planting guide
ASA Committee member and agronomist Paul McIntosh shares his tips on summer planting: The summer is marching on and many are contemplating just which is the most profitable crop to grow on their starting soil moisture levels. Sunflowers have this renowned big tap root that enables them to draw stored moisture from depth, a big advantage in the face of our northern region summers getting more extreme in temperature and rainfall stakes.

Depending on your risk adversity, this moisture assessment is going to be a personal decision, however coring will give you better information than a probe. For my mind you need at least 80 cm of good soil moisture to be assured of a respectable crop.

The next big consideration is nutrition, with nitrogen being the major element for this dryland crop. Plenty of research indicates that a 1.25 to 1.5 t/ha dryland crop will need about 60 to 85 kg/ha of available N in the root zone. An irrigated crop achieving 3.0 t/ha will need around 130 kg/ha of N. Phosphorous is the next big ticket item and whilst applying P at planting is a common enough deal, sunflowers also rely heavily on VAM. So with a profile soil test beside me for a dryland crop, I usually feel confident to make recommendations of 10 kg/ha of actual P in Queensland and northern NSW regions and research has suggests heavier rates of P the further south in NSW you travel.

Feel free to include some zinc micronutrient as a compounded fertiliser with the phosphorus. Sulfur deficiency is becoming more prevalent in many areas and in sunflowers there is an important interaction between nitrogen and sulfur. Seed weight, seed numbers per plant, quality and oil percentage will be the main features to suffer, if your N:S balance is wrong. From my experience, my critical soil levels for sulfur would be well above 5.0 mg/kg in the surface and well above 10 mg/kg lower in the soil profile.

The last critical element is potassium, which is running down in many of our older cropping soils. Soil test levels really do need local experience for interpretation. Potassium is fairly immobile in the soil so it is important to test K levels down the profile, not just in the surface layer. Your experienced local sunflower accredited advisor will be the best one to determine if this element is required. K is responsible for stalk strength and in many crops, and also assists with the plant’s ability to cope with drought conditions, so it warrants your consideration.

One final word about fertiliser application is that I strongly suggest that you pre-apply the nitrogen and potassium products. Sunflowers do not appreciate large or even medium quantities of these elements in close proximity at planting time.

The final item I find critical is planting ability. Row spacing comes into this equation and I believe the 1.0 m row decision certainly covers a lot of our region. There have been plenty of large scale trials done over the years to work out the best configuration and famers mostly return to the humble one metre wide row, as it invariably suits their planting machinery and I don’t think there are compelling reasons to change.

For more on weed control, plant populations, cultivar selection, disease and insect expectations, check the Better Sunflower website, talk to your local advisor or give me a call for any specific agronomic enquiries. Photo: to come

Contact Paul McIntosh, Industry Development Manager (Northern Region) Pulse Australia on 0429 566 198 or

Copyright © 2015 Australian Oilseeds Federation. This newsletter is available in plain text and HTML formats. This e-mail message does not support reply mail.
Disclaimer: This publication is distributed on the understanding that the author and contributors are not responsible for the results of any actions taken on the basis of the information contained in this publication, nor for any errors in omission from this publication.
© 2015 Australian Oilseeds Federation. All rights reserved.