Have another look at sunflowers this season
by Cindy Benjamin
New markets are emerging in Australia for sunflower products in addition to the traditional oilseed market. Astute growers are achieving excellent returns from sunflower crops, which consistently make a positive contribution to profits across the rotation.
At least 17 businesses are active marketers of conventional and organic sunflower seed for crushing to produce monounsaturated oil, dehulling for confectionary (sunflower kernels) and whole seeds for bird and horse feed rations. Australian Sunflower Association chairman, Kevin Charlesworth strongly recommends that growers contact a few potential buyers and make arrangements with them prior to planting their crop.
“Our Association maintains a sunflower marketing guide with contact details for all the major businesses that trade in sunflower seed,” he said. “The requirements for each market vary and will influence the hybrid chosen for planting and other key production choices.”
“There is no doubt that growers can make good money from sunflower crops, particularly if they do some pre-planning to make sure they have a suitable market. Cumulative gross margins across several years show sunflower is a good fit rotational crop in both harsher and milder growing conditions.”
Mr Charlesworth said the spring (or early) plant sunflower is the earliest summer crop option available, ideally following a long fallow after cereals.
“This year, sunflower would be an excellent option for growers who had winter crops flooded out and now have a full profile of soil moisture available,” he said.
“A summer (late) plant enables double cropping where adequate starting soil moisture is available, as well as extending the ability to plant when other summer crop windows have closed.”
Monounsaturated oilseed sunflower hybrids are suited to both spring and summer planting in most regions while the birdseed sunflower hybrids are better suited to sowing in summer in NSW, Victoria and southern Queensland.
Sunflowers provide an effective disease break for several key pathogens present in Australian cropping systems. They are resistant to both species of root lesion nematodes and do not host the pathogens that cause crown rot in cereals, fusarium stalk rot in sorghum or ascochyta blight in chickpea.
Growing sunflowers can be a valuable part of an integrated weed management strategy for controlling summer grasses and feather top Rhodes grass. Herbicide groups A, C, D, J, K and L can be used in sunflower production, removing some of the reliance on glyphosate for total summer grass control. Sunflowers are very sensitive to sulfonylurea (SU) and picloram residual herbicides so avoid planting into a paddock where these herbicides have been used, until the recommended plant-back interval has been reached.
“The soil tilth and the disease and weed control benefits often translate into improved productivity and profitability for the following crop, adding to the value of including sunflower in the cropping rotation,” said Mr Charlesworth.
“There is solid demand for all sunflower products, from the healthy monosaturated oil to kernels for breads, muesli and confectionary and for specialised animal feeds,” he said. “Each market has specific requirements and it pays to fully understand those requirements before planting. The resources available on the industry’s Better Sunflowers website include the marketing guide, production guide and information about managing diseases and providing optimal crop nutrition.”
Download: 2016 Sunflower Marketing Guide
More Information: www.bettersunflowers.com.au or contact the Better Sunflower Coordinator, Alicia Dunbar on 0419 649 988 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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