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).
March 2014

Liverpool Plains Field Day Shines Spotlight on Sunflower

The NSW Department of Primary Industries showcased their summer crop trials at their Liverpool Plains Field Station, Breeza on Tuesday 25th February. The afternoon, which attracted over 20 local growers and agronomists, included speakers on mungbeans, soybeans, sorghum and sunflowers. QDAFF plant pathologist, Sue Thompson, was on hand to discuss the current disease situation, after visiting several crops in the region.

Ms Thompson commented, “This season has seen many growers with the cleanest sunflower crops they have grown in a long time. Certainly while the dry conditions have reduced yield potentials, the upside has been a lack of disease pressure from the usual culprits like powdery mildew, Phomopsis Stem Canker and Alternaria which have become prevalent in wetter years”.

Guy McMullen and Loretta Serafin walked the attendees through this season’s sunflower trials which are being conducted under both dryland and irrigated conditions at the research station. The main focus of research this season has been on comparing interactions between varying plant populations and crop nutrition. In particular the trials are focused on nitrogen and sulfur management to target higher oil contents.

There is also some preliminary work on comparing precision planting to cone seeding, to investigate the effects which plant uniformity can have on final yield.

Local growers listening to Sue Thompson discuss sunflower diseases at the Breeza field day

Ms Serafin commented, “The current situation is that growers are using a variety of equipment to establish their sunflower crops, ranging from precision planters to air seeders and even combines. The machinery used for planting has the ability to influence plant uniformity at both establishment and throughout the crops life since sunflowers do not have the compensatory ability of sorghum to respond to plant stand variability through tillering. As an industry we have always thought unevenness in plant stands impacts on the evenness of maturity within crops, and their ability to effectively source water and other nutrients as well as compete with weeds. This research is a preliminary step in quantifying whether these impacts are real or perceived.”

The overall feedback from the day was very positive with many growers commenting on the high standard of the trial conduct and expressing their eagerness to see the results at the end of the season.

Contact Loretta Serafin, Leader Northern Dryland Cropping Systems, NSW DPI, 0427 311 819 or

Positive Sunflower Market Outlook

Oilseeds: Domestic Monounsaturated sunflowerseed prices continue to remain firm with grower contract prices above $700 per tonne for July – September 2014 for delivery into Narrabri. The market continue to see supported in both international high oleic sunflower oil prices and also domestic meal prices. This strength high oleic sunflower oil prices is due to reduced high oleic crop in both Europe Argentina, despite amply supplies of classic sunflower in the market. Given the small percentage of high oleic sunflower crops produced, high oleic oil and seed premiums are at very high levels. Oil World this week reported that Argentina will grow its smallest sunflowerseed crop in 30 years at 2.3 million tonnes. Due to the dry conditions in Northern NSW and QLD, domestic demand for sunflower meal is also strong.

Alexander Byrne, Merchant – Crush & Oilseeds, Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain Australia Cargill, 03 9250 0016 or

Grey Stripes: A shortage of planting seed early in the season meant that the industry were always going to be looking down the barrel of short supply this season. On the back of this, we have seen some traders and end users resort to importing product from other countries in a bid to fill short positions. From all reports the Indian product is an inferior product as it has small grain size, is light and has a dull appearance. The South American product however seems to be comparable to the Australian quality we are used to. We are hearing prices being offered anywhere from $1250 to $1350 delivered Brisbane for machine dressed product in 20-25kg bags. A number of paddocks have been harvested across Queensland and NSW in the past couple of weeks and quality looks surprisingly good considering the season we’ve had. Agrifoods Australia have no doubt that the Australian product should trade at a premium but just how much is yet to be determined…

Blacks: There is a reasonable plant across the sunflower growing regions this season and demand for black sunflowers at this stage is very good. Early crops are now being harvested and quality seems good, again, considering the season we’ve had, although the test weight of some lines have been marginal. There are quite a few companies out there competing for their slice of the market and as expected the growers with the first crops were bowled over with interest. As harvest progresses, we’d expect this interest to settle somewhat and prices to settle from the approximate $300/mt increase we have seen year on year. We’d expect the market to still trade at a significant premium on last year but just how much… who knows?

Andrew Webster, Senior Commodity Merchant, Agrifoods Australia 0488 619 816 or

Visit the Better Sunflower website to access the full register of buyers of Australian sunflowers.

GRDC Harvest and Storage Video Soon to be Available

Growers are urged to keep an eye out for upcoming videos produced by GRDC which will provide invaluable information on sunflower harvest and storage (drying and cooling). Filmed in the second half of February, film crews visited ASA Chair Kevin Charlesworth harvesting at his property “Mirradong”, and the Piper family’s sunflower storages at Felton East. Areas of interest covered identifying crop maturity, harvester set up, ensuring an accurate sample quality and fire safety.

Philip Burrill, Senior Development Agronomist, Postharvest Grains Protection Team, will also appear on camera discussing the results of recent storage quality trials with co-operators the Piper family. He covers types and suitability of storage, potential pests and controls and looks at drying and cooling aeration. Phil also outlines the differences between oilseed and cereal storage.

All videos are scheduled to appear in the upcoming GroundCover TV Episode 13 SUPPLEMENT. They will assist sunflower producers to weigh-up the storage strategies in regards to drying and cooling post-harvest, and help source good advice on the correct equipment to use and its operation - all critical for growers looking to build and maintain a reputation for suppling quality sunflower seed. The ASA gratefully acknowledges GRDC, Kevin, Phil and John for their support.

For more information on sunflower storage, contact Philip Burrill, Senior Development Agronomist (Postharvest Grain Protection), DAFFQ, 07 4660 3620 or

Sunflowers Bloom in Melbourne

A unique art experiment in north Melbourne has been hailed a “blooming success”. Artist Ben Morris transformed a disused industrial area into a field of yellow. Next? He aims to plant a field of dreams in every suburb…

Extension News: Australian Broadleaf Cropping Project 2013- 2016

Australian Oilseeds Federation, Pulse Australia and the GRDC have recently signed-off on a new 3-year industry development project to provide growers and advisors with the knowledge and confidence required for them to lift the proportion of broadleaf crops grown in Australian farming systems.

The essential role of broadleaf crops (and pastures) in broadacre farming systems is well documented and both growers and advisors acknowledge the significant benefits. Despite this, the adoption of broadleaf crops is below optimal levels for overall farm system profitability and sustainability.

Pulse Australia chairman, Peter Wilson, said that pulse and oilseed crops provide similar benefits to cropping rotations and could be promoted together for their important contribution to farming systems and farm profitability. “An industry wide approach to industry development has worked well for pulses and we now have an opportunity to collaborate with the oilseed industry to cross-promote all broadleaf crops,” he said. “Each broadleaf crop commodity is relatively small compared to the major cereals but collectively they represent a significant part of Australia’s grain production.”

Australian Oilseed Federation executive director, Nick Goddard also believes that synergies exist within the broadleaf crop industry. “The opportunity to work closely with researchers investigating the agronomy of specific crops and topics common to all broadleaf crops is exciting,” he said.

The 3-year ‘Australian Broadleaf Cropping Project’ will support the specialist team to provide targeted and highly relevant support services and materials to growers, advisors and agronomists. They will work closely with R&D providers (including GRDC funded projects) and state departments. The project will run to 31 August 2016.

Sunflower activities scheduled for the project include the delivery and updating of existing industry tools such as the Better Sunflower Workshops, the eNewsletter, and the website The project will also deliver new fact sheets, a ‘best practice booklet’, and continue to support the communication of research and development needs along the value chain.

The key contact for the sunflower component of the project is the Better Sunflower Coordinator, Liz Alexander, for the Australian Sunflower Association.

Contact Liz Alexander, ASA Better Sunflowers Coordinator 0429 471 511 or

Let Sunflower Give You a Break

Here’s a few disease and agronomy breaks provided by sunflower:

  • Sunflowers are resistant to Ascochyta Blight so are a good rotation with chickpeas.
  • Sunflowers are resistant to Fov. so are a good rotation with cotton.
  • Sunflower are resistant to Fusarium Stalk Rot of sorghum.
  • Sunflower are resistant to the Fusarium spp assoc with Crown Rot of cereals.
  • Sunflowers are resistant to the damaging nematodes Pratylenchus thornei and P. neglectus so will not build up nematode numbers in your soils.
  • Sunflower hybrids with good tolerance to TSV have been identified.
  • Sunflower’s strong tap root is useful for hard pan breakup.
  • Good options for grass control if you plant sunflower – Stomp, Dual, trifluralin, ‘pops and dims’
  • Good broadleaf weed control option - post plant pre-emergent granule Promertryne (Nufarm)

ASA Meets in Moree

Governance structures, progress towards Australian Sunflower Industry Strategic Plan goals and an update on the Australian Broadleaf Cropping Initiative were key items for discussion when the ASA met in Moree last month. Hosted by AMPS Moree, those attending travelled from Emerald to Sydney for the annual face-to-face meeting.

Kevin Charlesworth, Chair of ASA, said “The ASA is a member and sub-committee of the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF). Among other things, the ASA is currently investigating suitable insurance coverage of their volunteers, how corporate governance may support funding applications, and the organisation’s future growth.”

Progress towards the goals set out by all of industry in the Australian Sunflower Industry Strategic Plan has been substantial to date. The ASA noted particularly the response by the many industry partners since the publication of the Plan. These include the instigation of local storage options and quality testing being made available to Central Queensland growers by AWB, NuSeed’s commitments to the introduction of imi-tolerant sunflower hybrids through on-farm trials and DPI NSW and DAFF Qld’s trial work in the areas of nutrition, irrigation and pathology. The Committee also identified areas where increased effort was required. Particularly the ASA is keen to support growers and advisers with regionally specific, gross margin information which include sunflower in the crop sequencing to demonstrate both its agronomic and financial benefits more fully. The organisation will develop a project proposal for research partners to consider.

Gordon Cumming, National Manager & Senior Industry Development Manager (Northern Region), Pulse Australia, also updated the meeting on arrangements for the joint project with the AOF and ASA, described more fully in the previous article.

Former HSR Seeds manager Graeme Tooth, Quirindi, and former Dalby CRT agronomist Angus Blair announced their retirements at the meeting. ASA Chair Kevin Charlesworth thanked both men and particularly noted the contribution of Graeme Tooth “Toothy” who served as former Chair for two years until end 2011. “Not only was Graeme a great bloke, he actively promoted the industry in many forums and this has built significant momentum for the organisation. We wish him well for whatever the future holds.” The ASA sincerely thanked AMPS Moree for hosting the meeting and providing refreshments.

Contact Kevin Charlesworth, ASA Chair, 0419 734 586 or

Farewell and Good Luck Dr Tom Gulyak

USDA Pathologist Dr Tom Gulya retired in early February from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service following more than 35 years as plant pathologist with the Fargo, N.D.-based ARS Sunflower Research Unit. Industry members will remember Dr Gulya as a keynote speaker at the 2013 Australian Summer Grains Conference, and for his extensive tours with wife Katy catching up with growers, agronomists and industry members throughout Central Queensland, Southern Queensland and northern NSW last year.

At the 2013 Australian Summer Grains Conference L-R: Kevin Charlesworth, Liz Alexander, Dr Tom Gulya, Peter Mifsud, Sue Thompson

Dr Tom Gulya and Murray Sharman QDAFF visiting “Wandina”, Clermont, Central Qld

Dr Gulya is internationally renowned for his research into the various aspects of sunflower disease systems, particularly downy mildew, rust, Phomopsis stem canker, and Sclerotinia diseases. He is also the recipient of an unusual honour; our Australian sunflower plant pathologist Sue Thompson discovered three new fungal species that cause a severe stem canker — and named one of them Diaporthe gulyae as a tribute to Dr Gulya.

Dr Gulya has retained a strong interest in the Australian sunflower industry and keeps up to date with our sunflower news through his subscription to this newsletter. Tom, the ASA wishes you and Katy the very best for your retirement, thanks you for generosity in sharing your knowledge with our research community, and welcomes your return to Australia.

If you would like to learn more about Dr Gulya’s three and a half decades in sunflower research, the US National Sunflower Magazine has published a great interview; go to

Better Sunflower Workshops Held in Toowoomba and Emerald

The one-day workshops for growers, advisers and industry members continue to generate strong interest after two more well-attended workshops held in Toowoomba and November in 2013. 21