The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a large flowered plant of the genus Helianthus, from the Greek helios, “sun” and anthos, “flower.” Both annual and perennial biotypes exist; however, annual hybridized sunflowers are primarily used for commercial agricultural production. Sunflowers are widely grown for edible oil and edible seeds. Sunflower has a diverse fatty acid profile with most commercial hybrids being either mid oleic or high oleic. Due to many wild relatives in the Helianthus genus, sunflowers have not been genetically engineered for commercial release to avoid unpredictable integration of “events” such as herbicide tolerance into wild weed species; for example, cocklebur. This non-GM crop is also a common component of bird food, livestock forage (meal or silage), and has industrial applications. Sunflower is native to North America; thus, it has tremendous adaptability across the entire country. From full-season production in northern-tier states to double cropping production following winter wheat harvest in central and southern states, this crop offers good opportunities to growers who have market outlets established. An interesting rotational benefit from sunflowers on following corn crops in higher rainfall areas of the country is available in the research resources of the National Sunflower Association (NSA).
The NSA website is also an excellent resource for growers interested in sunflower production and caters for farmers all over the country.