The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a plant that grows up to 3 meters (10 feet). Its large flower heads, which may be over 30 cm (1 foot) in diameter, are composed of many small individual flowers. The stem of the flower head is usually dark green and hairless. The leaves are stalked, and they may be over 30 centimeters (1 foot) long and 5 centimeters (2 inches) wide. The flower heads mature into large, brownish fruits.
Sunflowers grow best in full sun and light, loamy soil with moderate amounts of humus and a pH ranging from 6 to 7.5. They are not particular about the type of soil they grow in as long as it is fertile, well-drained, and not too high in lime. Sunflowers will grow on the poorest soils but will produce larger flowers if given good soil to start with. Sunflowers are available in cultivars that have single, semi-double, double, and fully double flowers. They come in a number of different sizes and habits, from short petite types less than 0.6 meters (2 feet) tall to giants more than 3.7 meters (12 feet) high with heads up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) in diameter.
Sunflowers need warm soil to sprout, but they do not tolerate hot weather after the flower heads have formed, and they should be harvested before the fall of frost if possible. In addition, sunflower seeds are subject to pre-harvest sprouting at high temperatures. The average yield from an area of sunflower cultivation is about 2 tonnes per acre, but the largest yields are obtained in areas with hot summers. Sunflowers are not difficult to grow. However, they are large plants with deep taproots that require deep soil with good drainage. They also need abundant water during their growing period and must be well fertilized. The soil should be well prepared before planting. In the spring, plants should be set out between March and May in full sun where they are to grow. A general-purpose fertilizer with a ratio of about 4:4:4 is added to the soil at a rate of about 150 pounds for each acre during preparation, and more may have to be applied as growth progresses.
The sunflower is an excellent source of edible vegetable oil, and each part of the plant is useful. The seeds are nutritious and yield around 25 percent protein on an analysis basis. They may be eaten raw or roasted, ground into a meal, pressed for oil or used in baking. The flowers also produce edible pollen that was traditionally gathered by Native Americans and later by others who believed it to have medicinal properties. The leaves are used as feed for animals, and the stems yield a strong fiber that is manufactured into ropes, brooms, mats, brushes, paper pulp, and cloth. The sunflower was an important food source to the Aztecs.
Production of Sunflowers is at 2 tonnes per acre, but the largest yields are obtained in areas with hot summers. Sunflowers need warm soil to sprout, but they do not tolerate hot weather after the flower heads have formed.
Global sunflower production
The sunflower is an annual plant in the family Asteraceae, with a large flower head that resembles a radiant sun. The plant has a rough, hairy stem and large leaves that are arranged in spirals. The flower heads contain hundreds of small, yellow florets that mature into seeds. Sunflowers are native to North America and were first cultivated by Native Americans. The plant was later introduced to Europe, where it became a popular ornamental plant. Sunflowers are now grown in many parts of the world for their seeds, which are used for oil, birdseed, and human consumption.
Sunflower production has increased steadily over the past few decades. In 2018, global production of sunflower seeds was estimated at 24 million metric tons. The majority of sunflower seeds are produced in Russia, Ukraine, and Argentina. These three countries account for more than 70% of the world's sunflower seed production.
The United States is the fourth largest producer of sunflower seeds, with an estimated production of 1.3 million metric tons in 2018. The majority of sunflower seeds produced in the United States are used for oil production. Sunflower oil is a popular vegetable oil that is used in cooking and baking. It is also used as a base for lubricants, cosmetics, and biofuels.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of protein and fiber. Sunflower seeds can be eaten as a snack, used in baking, or added to salads and other dishes.