‘Plant sunflower between November and December to optimise yields’ Most sunflower is grown in the small-scale sector where it was once a useful cash crop, days that have now returned with far higher volumes expected. 

Sharon Shayanewako

AGRITEX has called on farmers producing sunflower under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme to do their planting between November and December to optimise yields.

This follows the decision by the Government to include the crop in the Pfumvudza basket in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) objective of producing crops that will allow the country to substitute imports by using locally produced products.

Oilseeds specialist in the department of Agritex Mr Kennedy Mabehla said the right timing in sunflower production was essential.

“To boost sunflower hectarage, it is important for farmers to understand the crop requirements to maximise the sunflower yield potential. The optimum planting time for sunflower is between the beginning of November and end of December. This is ideally the time when we receive rains, which are best for plant germination and establishment of a good plant population. The temperatures during this period will also be moderate to support plant growth and ultimately ensure good initiation. A warm, cool climate is optimal for sunflower production.

“Farmers should remember not to plant early in the summer season (around October and very early in November as the crop may be affected by excessive heat leading to poor germination. Even if the seeds were to germinate during this period, the high temperature and inconsistent rainfall normally experienced early in the season may cause plants to wither and die,” explained Mr Mabehla.

Sunflower, which is planted later in the season, especially in late January will have a lower yield potential. Late planting can also lead to reduced oil content for sunflower.

According to the second round crop and livestock assessment 2021/2022 season, sunflower production was estimated at 11 117 tonnes, a 22 percent decrease from 14 198 obtained in 2020/2021 season. The crop yield was low as a result of late planting and early cessation of the season across the country.

Sunflower is a strategic oilseed crop in Zimbabwe, which has the potential to augment supply of raw materials for the manufacturing of cooking oil for human consumption and oilcake for animal feed.

To spruce up production in the 2022/2023 season, sunflower has been deemed a mandatory crop for each household in both high and low rainfall areas.

The country’s annual requirement for crude sunflower oil is at least 70 000 tonnes, requiring annual production of at least 210 000 tonnes from 262 000 hectares.

The country is targeting to support farmers through the Presidential Input Scheme, private financers, CBZ and AFC to enhance sunflower production.

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