How to grow and reap from sunflower
Sunflowers grow faster than other cash crops and give higher yields.
They give end products like sunflower oil when processed in value addition.
Sunflower oil is one of the major edible vegetable oil used to cook.
The oil is also used as a major component in the manufacture of animal feeds such as sunflower cake, soaps, and cosmetics.
According to kalro.org sunflower grows well where maize and beans are grown.
Sunflower farming is not labour intensive thus easy to practice.
It thrives well in areas with sparse rainfall and soil should be slightly acidic.
The crop requires 450 mm of rainfall.
Sunflower varieties grown in Kenya according to kalro.org include H-008, H-893, H894, H-8938, H-8998, H-001, H-898, KENSUN 22, KENSUN 33, SUPER 400k, KENYA FEDHA, KENYA SHABA, and REKORD.
Before planting the soil is tilled into a fine tilth.
Sunflower is planted from seeds in which a farmer plants three to five seeds per hole.
It does well in deep fertile and well-drained soils with a PH of 6.0 to 7.5.
The distance between rows is 21/2 feet and the distance between the plant, holes are one foot.
It is recommended to plant after the onset of rains notes kalro.org
A farmer should practice farm practices like adding farmyard manure which is mixed properly with the soil to add soil fertility.
The farmer should practice weeding to keep off weeds manually or by using herbicides.
Pests and Diseases
Common pests that attack sunflower as highlighted by kalro.org include cutworms, semi loopers, and African bollworms that are controlled using the appropriate pesticides.
Birds also are known to attack sunflower eating seeds and causing big loses and can be controlled using bird scaring devices like scarecrows.
Diseases that invade sunflower according to kalro.org include sunflower rust, Downey mildew, charcoal rot, sclerotinia wilt and are controlled by practicing crop rotation, using certified seeds, burning infected plants, and applying appropriate fungicides.
Sunflower mature within three to four months depending on the variety.
Harvesting is done when the heads turn yellow or brown at the back, by hand through cutting the head, spiking it upside down on the stalk or thresh and sun-drying which prevents rotting and birds damage.
A farmer is advised by kalro.org experts to not wait until the leaves dry up to reduce bird damage.
The seeds must be properly dried and cleaned thoroughly before value-adding by milling which removes the husks and as a thick paste put in an oil extractor which does final extraction by crushing the seeds letting the oil seeps through taps.
Sunflower oil fetches more in the market as it is considered cleaner and healthier according to media reports.
Sunflower oil is rich in Vitamin E and low in saturated fat, unlike other cooking oils.
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