Helianthus annuus L.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Cultivated primarily for the seeds which yield the world's second most
important source of edible oil. Sunflower oil is used for cooking, margarine,
salad dressings, lubrication, soaps, and illumination. A semi-drying oil, it
is used with linseed and other drying oils in paints and varnishes.
Decorticated press-cake is used as a high protein food for livestock. Kernels
eaten by humans raw, roasted and salted, or made into flour. Poultry and cage
birds are fond of raw kernels. Flowers yield a yellow dye. Plants used for
fodder, silage and green-manure crop. Hulls provide filler in livestock feeds
Medicinally, seeds are diuretic, expectorant, and used for colds, coughs,
throat, and lung ailments. According to Hartwell (19671971), the flowers and
seeds are used in folk remedies for cancer in Venezuela, often incorporated in
white wine. Reported to be anodyne, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, bactericidal,
deobstruent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, insecticidal, malaria
preventative, sunflower is a folk remedy for aftosa, blindness, bronchiectasis,
bronchitis, carbuncles, catarrh, cold, colic, cough, diarrhea, dysentery,
dysuria, epistaxis, eyes, fever, flu, fractures, inflammations, laryngitis,
lungs, malaria, menorrhagia, pleuritis, rheumatism, scorpion stings, snakebite,
splenitis, urogenital ailments, whitlow, and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 560 calories, 4.8 g H2O, 24.0 g
protein, 47.3 g fat, 19.4 g total carbohydrate, 3.8 g fiber, 4.0 g ash, 120 mg
Ca, 837 mg P, 7.1 mg Fe, 30 mg Na, 920 mg K, 30 mg b-carotene equivalent,
1.96 mg thiamine, 0.23 mg riboflavin, 5.4 mg niacin, and 0 mg ascorbic acid.
Seeds contain 2535% of oil, but cultivars have been bred in Russia with up to
50% oil. Oil contains 4472% linoleic acid, and 1320% protein of high
biological value and digestibility. Stems and husks are rich in potash. The
forage (ZMB) contains 8.8% protein, 2.9% fat, 77.2% total carbohydrate, 30.3g
fiber, and 11.1 g ash. Another analysis shows young shoots contain: 13.0%
protein, 1.9% fat, 70.3% total carbohydrate, 20.4 g fiber, 14.8 g ash, 1,670 mg
Ca, and 370 mg P/100 g. The flowers contain 12.7% protein, 13.7% fat, 64.3%
total carbohydrate, 32.9 g fiber, 9.3 g ash, 630 mg Ca, and 80 mg P/100 g.
Sunflower oil has a high concentration of linoleic acid, intermediate level of
oleic acid, and very low levels of linolenic acid. The saturated acids,
palmitic and stearic, rarely exceed 12%, and the minor acids, lauric,
arachidic, behenic, lignoceric, eicosenoic, etc. rarely add up to as much as
2%. Tocopherol, or vitamin E, is an important vitamin and natural antioxidant.
Sunflower oil is somewhat unique in that the alpha form predominates, with 608,
17, and 11 mg/kg of alpha, beta, and gamma, compared with 116, 34, and 737
respectively for soybean/oil (Dorrell, 1981).
Variable, erect, often unbranched, fast-growing, annual herb; stems 0.73.5 m
tall, hirsute; leaves alternate, ovate, long-petroled, lamina with 3 main
veins, 1030 cm long, 520 cm wide, apex acute or acuminate, lower leaves
opposite and cordate; flowering head terminal on main stem, 1040 cm in
diameter, rotating to face the sun, sometimes drooping, heads on lateral
branches smaller; outer ray flowers neuter with yellow ligulate corolla, disc
florets numerous, spirally arranged, perfect; ovary inferior with single basal
ovule; achenes obovoid, compressed, slightly 4-angled, variable in size and
coleo, seldom less than 1 cm long, usually from 11.5 cm long, full-colored or
striped. Taproot strong, penetrating to depth of 3 m and with large lateral
spread of surface roots. Fl. late summer and fall; fr. fall.
Reported from the North American (and secondarily, the Eurosiberian) Center of
Diversity, sunflower, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate disease, drought,
frost, fungi, high pH, laterite, limestone, low pH, mycobacteria, photoperiod,
poor soil, rust, salt, sand, smog, virus, weeds, and waterlogging (Duke, 1978).
Botanically, the sunflower is treated as the following subspecies: ssp.
lenticularis in the wild sunflower; ssp. annuus is the weedy wild
sunflower; and ssp. macrocarpus is cultivated for edible seeds.
Cultivars are divided into several types: Giant types: 1.84.2 m tall,
late maturing, heads 3050 cm diam., seeds large, white or gray, or with black
stripes; oil content rather low; ex. 'Mammoth Russian'. Semi-dwarf
types: 1.31.8 m tall, early maturing, heads 1723 cm diam., seeds
smaller, black, gray or striped; oil content higher; ex. 'Pole Star' and
'Jupiter'. Dwarf types: 0.61.4 m tall, early maturing, heads 1416 cm
diam., seeds small, oil content highest; ex., 'Advance' and 'Sunset'. Gene
centers are in the Americas, with genuine resources for resistance in southern
United States and Mexico. Two types of male sterility are known. Although
sunchoke is the name given to the hybrid with the jerusalem artichoke, much of
what is sold as sunchoke in the United States is, in fact, straight Jerusalem
artichoke. (2n = 34)
Native to western North America, sunflower is the only important crop to have
evolved within the present confines of the United States. Early introduced to
Europe and Russia, the species has now spread to countries both tropical and
Sunflowers are grown from the Equator to 55° N Lat. In the tropics, they
grow better at medium to high elevations, but tolerate the drier lowlands.
They thrive wherever good crops of corn are grown, Young plants withstand mild
freezing. Plants are intolerant of shade. As sunflowers have highly efficient
root systems, they can be grown in areas which are too dry for many crops.
Plants are quite drought-resistant except during flowering. In South Africa,
reasonable yields have been obtained with 25 cm of rainfall by dwarf cultivars.
Giant types require more moist conditions. Crop may be grown on a wide range
of soils, including poor soils, provided they are deep and well-drained.
Plants are intolerant of acid or waterlogged soils. Ranging from Boreal Moist
through Tropical Thorn to Wet Forest Life Zones, sunflower tolerates annual
precipitation of 240 dm (mean of 195 cases 11.4), annual temperature of
628°C (mean of 194 cases = 19.6), and pH of 4.58.7 (mean of 121 cases =
6.6) (Duke 1978, 1979)
Seed, harvested at 12% moisture content and stored, will retain viability for
several years. Sunflower production may be adapted to mechanized or
unmechanized societies. Propagation is always by seed. Plant with corn or
beet planter, 2.57.5 cm deep, spaced 0.2 m apart in 0.60.9 m rows; seed rate
of 5.6 kg/ha, giving about 62,500 plants per ha. May be planted earlier in
spring than corn since plants are more tolerant to frost. Early weed control
is an important factor in yield, so cultivate lightly in early stages of crop.
Sunflowers respond well to a balanced fertilizer based on soil test, usually a
1-2-3 NPK ratio is best, with a need for boron and other trace elements on
lighter soils. Foliar fertilizers of liquid NPK on plants increases yield 62%
with one application and 97% with two applications. Sunflowers should not
occur in rotation more than once in every 4 years, and should not be in
rotations with potatoes.
Crop matures about 4 months from sowing; some Russian cvs mature in 70 days.
Harvest when involucral bracts turn yellow and seeds become loose, but before
shedding begins. Harvesting methods are similar to those of corn: heads are
gathered, dried, and threshed. For fodder or silage, crop is harvested at the
flowering stage. Seed oil is either cold- or hot-pressed. Cold-pressed oil is
usually pale yellow, with a mild taste and pleasant odor, much esteemed as a
salad and cooking oil, especially for butter substitutes. Hot-pressed oil is
reddish yellow and is used for technical purposes and as a burning oil. With
modern methods, hot-pressed oil may be refined for edible purposes.
Average yields range from 9001,575 kg/ha of seed; however, yields of over
3,375 kg/ha have been reported. Heads may contain 1,0004,000 florets, with
the potential of as many seeds. Yields from dried seeds are 40% oil, 35%
protein meal, and 2025% hulls. In 1979, the world low production yield was
308 kg/ha in Algeria, the international production yield was 1,266 kg/ha, and
the world high production yield was 2,420 kg/ha in Austria (FAO, 1980a). With
DM yields ranging from 4 to 9 MT/ha (in three months) and seed yields ranging
from 300 to more than 3,000 kg/ha, a straw factor of 3 seems appropriate.
According to USDA Secretary's Annual Report (1980), with an average yield of ca
1,500 kg/ha (North Dakota), a hectare would yield nearly 225 gallons of oil,
75% of which could be extracted on the farm. Twelve to 15 gallons are required
to raise a hectare; hence the fuel from one hectare could produce 811 hectares
of crop. In the US, the highest average commercial yields occurred in North
Dakota and Minnesota, which averaged 1,170 and 1,267 kg/ha respectively,
compared with 1,019 kg/ha for Texas. Pryde and Doty (1981) suggest average oil
yields of 589 kg/ha from 1,469 kg/ha seed. Telek and Martin (1981) suggest oil
yields of 450 kg/ha. Experimentally, at Davis, California, April plantings
yielded 2,5923,181 kg/ha (45.548.5% oil), May, 2,6763,161 kg/ha (45.548.4%
oil), June plantings 9562,643 kg/ha (40.843.7% oil), and July plantings
7022,447 kg/ha (40.242.6% oil). The lowest oil yield was 282 kg/ha, the
highest, 1,543 kg/ha (Beard & Ingebretsen, 1980). In India, rainfed
sunflower gave seed yields of 1,120 kg/ha in pure stands, 1,0501,070
intercropped with cowpea, and 1,0101,070 kg/ha intercropped with peanuts
(Chandrasekar and Morachan, 1979). Volunteer sunflowers themselves may
constitute a weed problem, as few as 3 per square meter reducing wheat yields
by 16%, 23 per square meter reducing yields by 35% (Agrichemical Age, April
1982). World production of sunflowerseed in 1970 was 9.6 million MT, grown on
8.2 million ha, yielding 1,170 kg/ha. Largest producers are USSR, Rumania,
Bulgaria, Argentina, Yugoslavia, Turkey, and South Africa. In the tropics,
Tanzania produces 10,00020,000 MT per year. Cultivars grown in Minnesota
contain higher percentages of the desirable linoleic acid than same cultivars
in other states. Major importers of sunflowerseed were Italy, West Germany,
and Japan. Oil prices in United States in 1970 were $331/ton. Production
costs in fully mechanized production in United States is about $100/ha with
fertilizer, $87 without; hand labor figured at $2/hr. By 1982, sunflower oil
was trading at $.59/kg compared to $.50.54 for coconut, $.53 for cornoil, $.48
for cottonseed, $.59 for linseed, and $.42 for soybean (CMR, June 7, 1982).
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from
3 to 15 MT/ha. North Dakota researchers are testing a small auger press,
operated on the farm, that can extract ca 7580% of the oil in sunflower seeds,
or ca 55 gallons (barely more than one 42-gallon barrel) from an average yield
of 1,400 lbs/acre. According to S&E Newsmakers #4 (September 1981), It
takes one acre's production to farm and produce 8 to 11 more acres, our usual
10:1 ratio. In North Carolina, Harwood (1981) concluded that sunflower seed
was most promising for on-farm production of vegetable oil fuels, soybeans,
peanuts, and cottonseed considered not well suited. Sunflowers yield ca 2.5
MT/ha, with ca 40% oil, indicating a potential of 250 gallons oil/ha if seed
were processed in mill. On farm processing would produce closer to 200 gallons
(ca 5 barrels) at a cost of more than $2.00 per gallon. Production costs are
less than one barrel per hectare. Harwood puts the energetic returns at
greater than 5:1 compared to 3:1 for peanuts, 2:1 for soybeans, and 1:1 for
cottonseed. Pratt et al. (VODF Seminar II, 1981) report an endurance test
involving engines fueled with various mixtures of sunflower oil (2550%) with
diesel oil (7550%). Two motors needed repair, ten were operating with no
apparent difficulties, of which two were said to be doing even better. Ohio
yields on poor soils (Wood County) were only 260 lb/acre (yielding 9.3 gallons
of screw press oil); and on good soils (Champaign County), 1.680 lb/acre
(yielding 69.1 gallons oil) cropped after wheat in a double cropping system
(Ohio Report JulyAugust 1981, p. 63). Sunflower oil should be dewaxed before
being used as a diesel substitute. In Australia, sunflower first commercially
planted in 1967, has great potential for expansion as a rainfed energy crop.
Little water is required for processing oilseeds (unlike ethanol), and the seed
coat can provide sufficient energy for heat and steam for oil extraction.
Australians figure a net energy gain of 2 liters for every 3 liters produced
(Quick, 1981). A hundred kg of dry seed will yield about 40 kg oil, 1525 kg
hulls, and 40 kg proteinaceous meal. Hulls have been pressed into fuel "logs".
Threshed heads are ground and fed to cattle elsewhere. The heads are rich in
pectin (Robinson, Ag. Ext. Service, Univ. of Minn.) Sheaffer et al. (1976,
Univ. Md. Ag. Exp. Station) report studies showing that sunflower yields 33.1
MT silage/ha compared to corn at 19.26 MT/ha. According to the phytomass files
(Duke 1981b), annual DM productivity ranges from 3 to 15 MT/ha. DM yields
averaged closer to 5 MT spaced at 43,000 plants/ha, 8 MT spaced at 172,000
plants/ha near Clarksville, Maryland. In these experiments, the sunflower
followed barley. Jake Page's discussion in Science 81 (JulyAugust 1981,
9293) is picturesque: "But I happen to like sunflowers... They can be grown
almost anywhere in the country and you can grow between 500 and 3,000 pounds of
sunflower seeds on an American acre in three months if you're clever. The soil
can be lousy, the rainfall terrible...if the average American corn farmer put
10 percent of his land into sunflowers, he could become self-sufficient in
fuel. It seems that using vegetable oil may be more efficient, in a net energy
sense, than growing plants for conversion into alcohol (another nice
alternative fuel) because the processing for alcohol is more elaborate,
expensive, and energy intensive."
In USDA's Agriculture Research (Dec. 1978), a new pest of sunflower is
reported. A scarab beetle (Phyllophaga lancolata) devastated more than
400 ha near Lehman, Texas. Eucosma womonana, is also a newly reported
sunflower pest in Texas (Ag. Res., Aug. 1980). Seed set low when selfed, as
most cultivars seed set low when selfed, as most cultivars are
self-incompatible. Florets on one head open over 56 days and may wait 2 weeks
for fertilization. Cross-pollination may be facilitated by 23 hives of
honeybees per ha, the hives spaced in rows 300400 m apart, as they need to be
distributed to give coverage to all blooms. Gophers dig up seeds; birds eat
tremendous amounts of seeds from the maturing crop. Insects can be destructive
to seeds not stored properly. The following fungi are known to cause diseases
in sunflowers: Albugo tragopogonis, Alternaria tenuis, Alternaria zinniae,
Armillaria mellea, Ascochyta helianthi, Botrytis cinerea, Cercospora bidentis,
Cercospora helianthi, Cercospora helianthicola, Cercospora pachypus, Corticium
rolfsii, Cystopus cubicus, Cystopus tragopogonis, Diaporthe arctii, Diplodina
helianthi, Entyloma polysporum, Erysiphe chicoracearum, Fusarium acuminatum,
Fusarium conglutinans, Fusarium culmorum, Fusarium equiseti, Fusarium
javanicum, Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium sambucinum, Fusarium scirpi, Fusarium
semitecum, Fusarium solani, Helminthosporium helianthi, Leptosphaeria
helianthi, Leveillula compositarum, Leveillula taurica, Macrophomina phaseoli,
Oidium helianthi, Ophiobolus helianthi, Phialea cynthoides, Phoma oleracea,
Phymatotrichum omnivorum, Plasmopara halstedii, Puccinia helianthi, Pythium
debaryanum, Pythium irregulare, Pythium splendens, Pythium ultimum, Rhabdospora
helianthicola, Rhizoctonia rocorum, Rhizoctonia solani, Rhizoctonia bataticola,
Rhizopus nodosus, Sclerotinia fuckeliana, Sclerotinia libertiana, Sclerotinia
minor, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Sclerotium rolfsii, Septoria helianthi,
Sphaerotheca fulginea, Sphaerotheca humuli, Uromyces junci, Verticillium
albo-atrum, Verticillium dahliae. Bacteria reported as infecting
sunflowers are the following: Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Bacterium melleum,
Erwinia aroides, Pseudomonas cichorii, Pseudomonas helianthi, and
Pseudomonas solanacearum. Virus diseases reported from sunflowers are:
Apple mosaic, Argentine sunflower, Aster yellows, Brazilian tobacco streak,
Cucumber mosaic, Tomato spotted wilt, Peach ringspot, Peach yellow-bud mosaic,
Pelargonium leaf-curl, Tobacco necrosis, Tobacco ringspot, and Yellows.
Sunflowers are parasitized by the following flowering plants: Cuscuta
pentagona, Cuscuta arvensis, Orobanche aegyptiaca, Orobanche cumana, Orobanche
muteli, Orobanche ramosa, Striga hermonthica, Striga asiatica, Striga lutea,
Striga senegalensis. Sunflowers are attacked by many nematodes: Anguina
balsamophila, Aphelenchoides ritzemabosi, Ditylenchus destructor, Ditylenchus
dipsaci, Helicotylenchus cavenessi, Helicotylenchus microcephalus,
Helicotylenchus microlobus, Helicotylenchus pesudorobustus, Heterodera
schachtii, Longidorus maximus, Meloidogyne arenaria, Meloidogyne hapla,
Meloidogyne incognita acrita, Meloidogyne javanica, Meloidogyne thamesi,
Paratylenchus minutus, Pratylenchus penetrans, Rotylenchulus reniformis,
Scutellonema clathricaudatum, Trichodorus christiei, and Xiphinema ifacolum.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Chandrasekar, V.P. and Morachan, V.B. 1979. Effect of advanced sowing of
intercrops and nitrogen levels on yield components of rainfed sunflower. Madras
Agr. J. 66(9):578581.
- Dorrell, D.G. 1981. Sunflower Helianthus annuus. p. 105114. In:
McClure, T.A. and Lipinsky, E.S. (eds.), CRC handbook of biosolar resources.
vol. 11. Resource materials. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, FL.
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 161. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
- Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- FAO. 1980a. 1979. Production yearbook. vol. 33. FAO, Rome.
- Hartwell, J.L. 19671971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 3034.
- Harwood, H.J. 1981. Vegetable oils as an on the farm diesel fuel substitute:
The North Carolina Situation. RTI Final Report FR-41U-1671-4. Research Triangle
Park, North Carolina.
- Quick, G.R. 1981. A summary of some current research in Australia on vegetable
oils as candidate fuels for diesel engines. (Abstr.) Seminar II, USDA, Peoria,
- Page, J. 1981. Sunflower power. Science 81 July/Aug: 9293.
- Pryde, E.H. and Doty, H.O., Jr. 1981. World fats and oils situation. p. 314.
In: Pryde, E.H., Princen, L.H., and Mukherjee, K.D. (eds.), New sources of fats
and oils. AOCS Monograph 9. American Oil Chemists' Society. Champaign, IL.
- Telek, L. and Martin, F.W. 1981. Okra seed: a potential source for oil and
protein in the humid lowland tropics. p. 3753. In: Pryde, E.H., Princen, L.H.,
and Mukherjee, K.D. (eds.), New sources of fats and oils. AOCS Monograph 9.
American Oil Chemists' Society. Champaign, IL.
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw