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 2014


The ASA wishes all industry members a Happy Christmas and Good Seasons in 2015

GRDC Funds Newcastle Crush Tour for Growers and Advisers

The Australian Sunflower Association (ASA) invites growers and advisors from all growing regions to register their interest in attending a tour of Cargill's Newcastle Crush processing plant to be held on Wednesday 27 May 2015.

The tour will focus on the crushing and refining process at Cargill's plant where the majority of the Australian monounsaturated crop is processed.  Those attending will see the end products, hear from industry experts on how these products are sold and packaged, and again a better understanding of the nutrition aspects of the crops.  The tour will showcase current and emerging market opportunities for Australian sunflower.

With support from GRDC, the ASA will cover travel and accomodation costs for growers and advisors to attend.  The tour itself is free.  Numbers are limited to 16 and the ASA is keen to see visitors from all growing regiosn.  Pack your jerseys; for those who are keen, the crush tour will be followed by an optional estra - attending the State of Origin in Sydney.

Get in quick to register your interest, visit the Better Sunflowers homepage

Contact Liz Alexander, Better Sunflower Coordinator on 0429 471 511 or

Date Claimer: Better Sunflower Workshops 2015

In conjunction with the Newcastle tour, the ASA will be running a Better Sunflower one=day certified agronomic workshop on Tuesday 26 May 2015.                                

The Better Sunflower one-day certified agronomic workshops include a mix of theory, practical demonstrations and hands-on activities.  All participants attending the workshop receive The Big Yellow Sunflower Pack (March 2015), a comprehensive folder containing the latest research on sunflower production in Australia. The course sessions cover plant growth and development, agronomy and irrigation management, weeds, disease and insect management, sunflower harvest and storage and rotational benefits.

Course cost is $135 per person including all course materials and meals.  Register online at the Shop

With strong interest expressed from growers and advisers in southern NSW and Victoria, the ASA plans to run Better Sunflower Updates in these regions toward the second half of 2015.  We'll keep you posted.

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

"Fields of Gold as far as the eye can see"

The eastern Darling Downs is awash with yellow right now for growers who were able to take advantage of the early planting opportunity and strong prices on offer for sunflower this year.  ASA is currently compiling their early plant crop production estimates, but understands that there may be more hectares planted to spring sunflowers than any other crop in that area in 2014.
WIN News Toowoomba (4 December 2014) featured interviews with Felton grower John Piper (pictured) and ASA Committee member, senior agronomist and professional tour guide Paul McIntosh.  Mr Piper said despite his 100ha crop doing it tough in the earlier hot conditions, he was pleasantly surprised with the quality after receiving 40mls of rain in three falls when the story went to air.  

Mr McIntosh added that since the show went to air that sunflowers have recovered well with the additional rain received right at the right time.  “They are looking outstanding; in comparison, sorghum in the same areas are doing it really tough,” he said.

WIN News also reported that the “stunning show” is attracting tourists to the region; Southern Queensland Country Tourism says there has been huge interest in wanting to see Darling Downs sunflowers, and tourism bosses in Singapore are working on incorporating them into a new regional tour. 

Felton grower John Piper says growing sunflowers saves him buying his wife flowers (Source WIN News Twba 4/12/2014)
We understand that sunflowers are making the local growers smile in more ways than one; bikini-clad beauties were spotted roadside Allora doing sunflower photo shoots last week!

New Sunflower Grain Quality Standards Released

Growers are advised to check the new AOF grain quality standards for 2014-15 now available at or the Grain Trade Australia website.  Standards are reviewed annually by the AOF and ASA advocates on behalf of the sunflower industry, together with other AOF members, to ensure any planned amendments from the annual review are achievable and realistic, and do not unfairly disadvantage growers.

Chair of the ASA Kevin Charlesworth said the particular changes to note this season included:

  • The addition of a definition for sticky exudate that arises on sunflowers due to insect attack which states; “This sticky exudate is acceptable if the grain is able to flow freely. If the grain does not flow freely, the affected grains are classified as Damaged”.
  • For both Polyunsaturated CSO3 and Monounsaturated CSO4, a Masterlist has been included of approved varieties, and that list referenced in the standards charts; for example, Ausigold 62 for mono and birdseed.
  • There are no longer zero tolerances on specifications (except grain insects) under international rules; accordingly some "Nil Tolerances" were altered to reflect this by giving a very small tolerance. For example, nil Soil has been removed as it is now included with a tolerance of 0.06% by weight under “Sand, Soil”.
  • Clarification that impurities are all non-seed and sunflower seed material falling through the 2.0mm round hole screen, and tested with a 80 gram sample.

On behalf of the ASA, Mr Charlesworth was able to secure some significant improvements to planned changes in some areas.  He said “There was a move to have any stick in a whole load listed as a reason for rejection. The definition of a stick was to be any material over 10 mm long or 5 mm in diameter.”  After strong lobbying this was changed to the current definition which describes a stick as being equal to or greater than 60mm long or 1.5cm in diameter, and allows one per sample taken.

Mr Charlesworth said that not all of those involved in the process of reviewing the standards fully understand the product they are dealing with.  To have representation by the ASA on this Committee provides good value to value to sunflower growers and the wider industry.

Contact Kevin Charlesworth, ASA Chairman on 0419 734 586 or

CQ Sunflowers and TSV - No Longer a Risky Business

GRDC research has shown that Tobacco streak virus (TSV) no longer poses a serious threat to the sunflower industry in central Queensland (CQ) when tolerant hybrids are used and potential disease sources around crops are minimised.

TSV can cause disease outbreaks in some sunflower hybrids in central Queensland (CQ) but there are hybrids available with good resistance, making sunflowers a good option again in CQ. While conditions in the last few years have also seen a steady decline in TSV outbreaks due to a natural reduction in the abundance of the virus source (parthenium weed), growers in areas with a history of disease are still cautioned to select hybrids with TSV tolerance. TSV has not been found in sunflowers outside of Central Queensland and as such is not a risk in other regions.

Currently available hybrids’ tolerance to TSV: For the 2014/15 summer season, there are five commercially available hybrids. For all but one of these hybrids, the tolerance to TSV infection has been tested in four trials in three seasons from 2008-2010 and is summarised in the table below. A GRDC funded trial is planned for early 2015 to test TSV tolerance of existing and newly-released hybrids. There are a further six, previously untested hybrids to be included in the next trial.

Table 1. Sunflower hybrids available in 2014 and their TSV tolerance.
Hybrid End Use TSV Tolerance
Ausigold 62 (Nuseed) Monounsaturated Good
Ausigold 4 (Nuseed) Polyunsaturated Good
Hyeolic 41 (Pac Seeds) Monounsaturated Moderately Susceptible
Sunbird 7 (Pac Seeds) Confectionary / Bird Seed Moderately Susceptible
Ausistripe 14 (Nuseed) Bird Seed Untested

Contact Murray Sharman, Senior Plant Pathologist, QDAFF, 07 3255 4339 or

Grower Case Study: Angus Whyte, “Wyndham Station”, via Wentworth NSW
Owners: Angus, Kelly & Mitchell Whyte
Farming Partners: Jason & Charlotte Harmer
Location: Wyndham Station via Wentworth, NSW
Farm size: Total of two enterprises cover 31,500ha
Average annual rainfall: 260mm
Growing season rainfall: 40mm (at 10/12/14)
Soil types:  3900ha of alluvial soil cropped over three lake beds
Enterprises: Primarily sheep and cattle grazing
Crops grown: Sunflower, safflower, wheat, oats.

With 1350ha of Ausigold 62 at budding stage, Angus Whyte might be one of the largest sunflower growers in Australia right now.  Sunflowers are considered by some to be an opportunity crop; but this is particularly so in the case of Wyndham Station, located on the Darling Anabranch River in Western NSW. Opportunity cropping is undertaken on two large flood plain lakes on Wyndham Station and the neighbouring property owned by Angus’s parents.  The lakes were last cropped in 2001; water from the Darling River did 

Grower Angus Whyte (Source Twitter Post 8/12/2014)
not flood the lakes until 2010, with further flows in 2012. Initially cereals were planted on the boundary of both lakes, and the recent dry spell provided the opportunity to plant the flood country when it dried down enough to allow machinery movement in September 2014.

Sunflower Emergence 2 weeks post planting (Source Twitter Post 15/10/2014)
Angus explained that planting provides a number of challenges for lake bed farmers. Because the lakes are only farmed occasionally, the soil surface is cloddy and needed to be cultivated using a 12m cultivator and prickle chain to create a reasonably even seed bed.  They then aimed to have the planter following the cultivator by no later than 6 to 8 hours to preserve moisture. Germination was best where this was achieved.
Because cropping is not the family’s primary enterprise, Angus does not own farming plant.  His family have partnered with share farmers Jason and Charlotte Halmer to grow the crop.  They made the decision to hire an 8m Monosem precision planter and a three point linkage tractor.  Planting started the last week of September and was completed by the second week of October.  Sunflower was planted on 1m rows, aiming for 30,000 plants per ha establishment.

Since planting, the crop has received around 40mm of in crop rain (at 12/12/14), and experienced no observable disease or insect pressure to date.  The pre-plant cultivation controlled minor weeds and Angus says the sunflowers established well and out-competed any emerging in-crop weeds.  
“The sunflower look fantastic right now and we are hoping for some storms, and to avoid heat wave conditions around Christmas” he said. 

Having not grown sunflower on the property since the 1990s, the ASA asked Angus as a new grower, why he chose to grow the crop, and where he sourced his information from?

Angus explained that one of their neighbours had grown sunflower last year on another lake bed that grew really well.  “Despite being a long way south, Wyndham Station experiences really hot summers and with the lakes drying in early September, we only had an early window to plant a summer crop; we have seen that sunflower is a robust plant which can put up with heat and moisture stress – critical when we have no access to irrigation” he said.

“Another factor is the high numbers of kangaroos and emus that can really damage crops, especially when they are young. Sunflowers aren’t that palatable so we ended up with a nice even crop.  Even the edges are seemingly untouched by the wildlife,” he said.

Angus also noted that since 2009 they have observed that their regional rainfall patterns have changed and they are now more commonly receiving their dominant rainfall over summer which favours summer crops.

Local agronomists did not have sunflower knowledge or experience to help Wyndham Station but the Whytes and Harmers feel well supported; Angus said that Nuseed have provided technical advice, as well a copy of the Big Yellow Sunflower Pack which he has used a lot.  He has also had valuable support from a network of fellow lake farmers, including his neighbours and growers from east of Wilcannia, who attended the Better Sunflowers workshops in Dubbo and Griffith in 2012.

Harvest is expected to commence in mid to late February. The Harmers own harvesters and will modify the fronts themselves, or hire fronts.  600 tonnes have been contracted to Adams Australia, Gunnedah for oil, and a smaller quantity to Melbourne for birdseed.  Wyndham Station doesn’t have fixed silo storage so the operation plans to use silo bags.
As a new grower, Angus is watching the market with interest; he has budgeted for a yield of 1.2 tonne/ha and expects costs to be no more than $160/ha. With current prices, sunflowers have delivered Wyndham Station a golden opportunity.

Sunflowers photographed 10 December 2014 (Source Twitter Post 10/12/2014)

View the progress of Angus’s sunflower crop via some great photos on his twitter feed @guswhyte and checking the Whyte family’s website  

Focus on Oilseed Production in Northern Australia

Representing AOF, Better Sunflower Coordinator Liz Alexander recently travelled to Darwin to present at the 1st annual Northern Australia Food Futures Conference on the 4th and 5th November 2014.  Titled “Markets for Oilseeds in North”, Liz’s presentation examined the role of oilseeds, including sunflower, in northern irrigated cropping systems; neighbouring Asian markets; and the scale of production for establishing viable processing infrastructure.

More than 300 people attended the Conference including the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, Australian Minister for Agriculture, State and Territory Agriculture Ministers from Queensland, NT and Western Australia.  Liz said that she particularly enjoyed meeting many of the growers, agronomists and researchers that travelled from the Ord, Katherine, Burdekin and Lakeland Downs, as well as individuals who are leading projects to develop new areas in the Flinders Gilbert region of Queensland.

According to Ms Alexander, there were some clear areas of need identified for the North to reach its full potential. “It was widely recognised that improvements to State and Terrritory policy and legislative frameworks will secure tenure in WA and NT and facilitate investment in land and water development.  The upgrading of Darwin’s port facilities to food quality standard was also discussed,” she said.

To support sunflower growers in northern Australia a folder titled Tropical Production hyperlink has been added to the website library.  The ASA particularly thanks Penny Goldsmith from Ordco WA for her help in identifying and sharing all sunflower related research undertaken in the Ord to date.  Liz’s presentation “Markets for Oilseeds in North” is also available to view in the Tropical Production folder.

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

Multi-million dollar, state of the art, oilseed biodiesel refinery sits idle at the Darwin Port in 2014-never used. (Source E. Alexander)

Help at hand: Sending a sample for diagnosis

The ASA and University of Southern Queensland have developed a new Disease Enquiry Form which provides guidance for agronomists and growers when collecting and sending suspected disease samples for diagnosis.  The form is available on the Better Sunflower website or by contacting plant pathologist Sue Thompson.

Contact Sue Thompson, Research Fellow (Plant Pathology), University of Southern Queensland, 0477 718 593 or (Valid until Feb 2015)

Report from Moree workshop and Narrabri plant tour

Held in August, the Moree Better Sunflower workshop once again proved popular with 19 attending from across southern Queensland and northern NSW. The Moree workshop was the 9th Better Sunflower workshop to be offered to growers and advisers.  Previous workshops have been held in Goondiwindi, Gunnedah, Dalby, Emerald (2010), Dubbo, Moama, Griffith (2012), and Toowoomba, Emerald (2013).  

•     After each workshop, those attending fill in evaluation forms which are used by the presenters to target their material and continually improve the course. Results from Moree demonstrate the clear benefits that growers and advisers across of all levels of experience continue to report from their attendance at the Better Sunflower workshops.

Everyone (100%) attending ranked the overall usefulness of the workshop as good or excellent (68% nominated excellent)
•    Everyone ranked the overall usefulness of the Big Yellow Sunflower Pack folder as good or excellent (84% selected excellent)
•    71% of participants rate the information presented at the workshop as providing high to very high benefits/improvements to the productivity and quality of sunflower production in their business.  No participants responded that they would not change their current practices after attending.

Agronomists Tony Lockrey & Hugh Urquhart discuss sunflower rotational implications: Moree workshop August 2014. (Source E. Alexander)