Sunflower's Potential To Expand In East Griqualand
Farmer's Weekly|June 5 & 12, 2020
With its relatively mild summers, East Griqualand has never seen large-scale sunflower production. Thanks to recent advances in breeding, this could well change, says Corné van der Westhuizen, Pannar Seed’s marketing agronomist in North West. Lloyd Phillips reports on this development.
Lloyd Phillips

Maize, which is a monocotyledonous plant, has long been grown successfully in East Griqualand for grain and silage production. However, farmers in the area have been limited in their options for profitable dicotyledonous summer crops that they can grow in rotation with their maize.

This is primarily because East Griqualand, which straddles the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, has milder summers, with fewer heat units, than much of the rest of South Africa’s grain production areas.

However, due to developments in breeding, sunflower is showing promise for this particular purpose, according to Corné van der Westhuizen, Pannar Seed’s marketing agronomist in North West.

“In the north-west regions of South Africa, where sunflower is common, production is usually planned around a farm’s primary maize grain crops. For this reason, the yield and quality of sunflower harvests there are generally below full potential,” says Van der Westhuizen.

Sunflower production planning, he adds, should incorporate field selection, hybrid selection, fertilisation planning linked to a realistic yield target, and selection of an appropriate planting date and plant density.

FIELD SELECTION

The first aspect of field selection is to analyse the land’s production history. This should include the following:

The crops that were grown previously on the land;

The herbicides and other measures that were applied to manage weeds in these crops (with particular note taken of any atrazine-based products);

The weed species that were difficult to control using conventional actions;

Projecting the weed species that could be a threat in the coming summer season, and deciding how these should be managed.

“Farmers should recall which broadleaf herbicides were used in growing previous crops and whether any of these have residual effects that can negatively affect a following sunflower crop,” says Van der Westhuizen.

It should also be kept in mind that this crop is adversely affected by a soil pH of below 4,8 and by soil acid saturation of more than 10%. These can result in molybdenum deficiency and aluminium toxicity in the soil.

While liming can be used to counter soil acidity, it can also cause the residual molecules of recently used herbicides bound to the clay particles of the soil to be released, damaging the subsequent sunflower crop.

According to Van der Westhuizen, a sunflower plant requires substantial volumes of nutrients to achieve optimal yield, and its taproot system can source nutrients and moisture from deeper in the soil profile than the fibrous root system of the maize plant.

Nitrogen is the primary yield-limiting element in sunflower production. A low level of plant-available potassium in the soil can also be a problem. Only a small percentage of the total potassium uptake is removed from the land with the grain, yet more of this element is taken up from the soil than any other.

To make matters even more complex, an excess or deficiency of one element can have a positive or negative effect on another. An excess of nitrogen, for example, can negatively influence the uptake of potassium.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FARMER'S WEEKLYView All

The dog for the stockman and how to choose him

Sheep dogs have been invaluable to stock farmers for many decades and even centuries. However, the dog must be able to work. This article explored the characteristics that a farmer should consider when choosing a sheep dog.

3 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Steady, solid progress with free-range pigs

Start small and grow with the results. This is the principle followed by young pig farmer Jason Buys of Ocean View piggery in the Western Cape. Jeandré van der Walt visited him to learn more about his free-range pig operation and how he plans to grow his farming business.

5 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Brucellosis

This disease can cause devastating production losses. For this reason, it is a controlled disease, which means that it must be reported to government veterinary services. It is also a zoonosis.

2 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Feed Right For Your Type

For sustainable grassland management, farmers need to know whether they are farming on sweet- or sourveld, and should adapt their livestock management practices accordingly. Glenneis Kriel reports.

8 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Starting An Essential Oils Enterprise From Scratch

After attending a farmers’ day in 2018, Oniccah and Naledi Nkoe decided to start farming herbal plants to produce essential oils. They have since expanded plantings and launched their own essential oils business. They spoke to Salome Modiselle and Sandile Mahlangu, researchers at the Agricultural Research Council.

4 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Illegal Sand Mining Threatens Sugar Farmers

The sugar cane farms of 175 small-scale growers are hanging in the balance as illegal sand mining in the Middle-Komati River reaches catastrophic levels.

1 min read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Agriculture Alone Cannot Address The Youth Unemployment Crisis

Africa remains the youngest continent in the world, with almost 60% of its population under the age of 25.

3 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Bidders Beware: Uptick In ‘Illegal' Auctions

With the introduction of the COVID-19-related lockdown came the unprecedented migration of auctions to online platforms as a means of selling everything from cars to office furniture.

1 min read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Unsustainable Farming A Threat To Water Supply

South Africa’s estuarine and wetland ecosystems provide important ecological functions such as the purification of water. Yet 99% and 88% of these ecosystems respectively are threatened. Prof Francois Durand of the Department of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg writes that farmers, who are the main water users in the country, have a crucial role to play when it comes to reversing this degradation.

5 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
April 2, 2021

Soil sampling basics

A soil sample should represent a homogeneous area where there are no visible soil differences.

1 min read
Farmer's Weekly
March 26, 2021