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The Mighty Sunflower!

Sunflower cultivation can be used to increase a farms profitability in multiple ways!

Climate resistant sunflowers demonstrate how plants can adapt to their environment through mechanisms like phototropism, root development, seed dispersal, drought resistance, allelopathy, and flexible growth. These adaptations enable them to survive and thrive in different ecosystems.

The sunflower plant appreciates warm dry climates, as found in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. It is suitable for cultivation in rainfed areas. As the planet gets hotter and drier, farmers will lean more heavily on crops like sunflowers to help hedge against the effects of human-caused climate change. These hardy plants don't need as much water as other crops, nor as many inputs like fertilizer. They can be consumed raw or roasted or as a cooking oil or sandwich spread ,and are a versatile food crop added to salads or , or used as an ingredient in baking. Furthermore, sunflowers require less water and fertilizer compared to other crops, making them an eco-friendly choice for farmers.

The sunflower has a very strong root system. A long root pivot allows it to fetch water and nutrients from up to 2 meters deep which is much deeper than other traditional crops. This feature gives the plant some tolerance to water stress. Sunflowers do well in deep and structured soils, accommodating themselves to lower water and nutrient contents. The sunflower is one of certain plants that are now known to aid in “phytoremediation,” a process that employs various types of plants to remove, transfer, stabilize, and/or destroy contaminants in the our soil, water and air. Sunflower is highly susceptible to frost at the bud and pollination stages of development. Temperatures of 30 degrees F or less can cause damage to the anthers and stigmas of the pollinating disk flowers so they are perfect for hot climates. Unopened buds are less susceptible to frost than opened flower heads.

There are many benefits to growing these beautiful blooms including their cut flowers and free edible seeds. They also attract pest-patrolling birds and bees to improve your harvest, and as stated even help detox contaminated soil. These flowers are not just pretty faces! Another benefit for farmers is Pollination: is the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma. The goal of every living organism, including plants, is to create offspring for the next generation. One of the ways that plants can produce offspring is by making seeds. Sunflowers are excellent attractors of pollinators, including bees. By planting sunflowers near corn fields, farmers can enhance pollination rates in their other crops like corn crops, leading to better kernel development and higher yields.

Sunflowers are also known to curb smog. Smog is predominantly a collection of particulate matter of size less than 2.5 microns. So, though sunflowers are effective against smog they are not effective against the entire swarm of air pollutants. An ideal sunflower growing temperature range is 70–78°F (21–26°C). If the plants are given enough water, they can endure much higher temperatures up to 100°F without heat stress. No upper limit has been identified for sunflower. They may also grow in cool but sunny climates, but they can't survive exposure to temperatures of 26 to 23°F (-3 to -5°C) for about 6 hours.

Sunflowers need full sun; see 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day – the more the better if you are trying to grow them to their maximum potential. Choose a well-drained location, and prepare your soil by digging an area of about 2-3 feet in circumference to a depth of about 2 feet. According to the report, U.S. sunflower production was valued at approximately 794.21 million U.S. dollars in 2022. An average sunflower yield per acre is around 68 – 75 bushels. The world record sunflower yield of 184.68 bushels per acre was harvested in 2016 in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic. The main factors affecting sunflower yield are: Climate and place of planting.

Depending on the amount and duration of rainfall during the rainy season, planting should be done in a fairly short window, that is to say, after sufficient rains have fallen and before the ground becomes waterlogged. In heavy clay soils, it is important to maintain good soil structure with aeration while maintaining the firmness required for root deployment. Thus, good tillage and fast seeding allow for optimal root development. This is the key to success and will allow the plant to withstand future droughts. Growing sunflowers, as with corn, requires optimum plant density per hectare and as regular distribution as possible in the rows.

The Tropical Agricultural Marketing and Consultancy Services (TRAGRIMACS) in July of 2023 launched a Ghana Sunflower Project for the cultivation of sunflower in large quantities in the country from 2024.Sunflowers are grown primarily for the production of oil. Oilseed varieties have small black seeds with very high oil content and are processed into sunflower oil and meal. It is also the seed found in bird food. Sunflower seed oil is used primarily in cooking and salad oils, margarine and shortening.

Sunflower seeds also make great chicken feed. The sunflower meal, obtained after the oil is extracted from the seed, has a high protein percentage (28% for meal from hulled seeds to 42% for dehulled seed meals) and is used primarily in food rations for livestock and poultry. Black oil sunflower seeds are an excellent choice. You can feed your chicken or squab ( pigeon breeds bred for meat) flock plain unseasoned and shelled sunflower seeds. Make sure not to give them too many at once since they're high in calories and fat; feed them small amounts throughout the day. Sunflower meal is one of the major protein sources in livestock feed, especially dairy cattle, chickens and even pigs and rabbits. It has a high protein, fiber and oil content. It has a protein content of between 29- 30% and a crude fiber content of 27-31% and lignin (9-12%) and lysine (3.5%). It has also been said that black oil sunflower seeds play a large role in egg production. If you have hens that aren't laying like they used to, try adding sunflower seeds to give them a productivity boost.


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