February 28, 2011

Sunflowers Offer Additional Options for Safrinha Crop Production

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Researchers from Embrapa, in association with Aprosoja, are conducting a series of experiments in Mato Grosso as well as other regions of central Brazil looking at the feasibility of using sunflowers as an alternative to corn for safrinha crop production. The researchers feel that the production of sunflowers offers advantages including: a greater resistance to dry weather compared to corn, lower cost of production, lower insect and disease pressure and the fact that sunflower oil can be used for human consumption as well as biodiesel production. The increased tolerance to dry weather and short production cycle of sunflowers would be advantageous especially if the planting of the safrinha crops is delayed such as it is this year.

Sunflowers were first introduced into Mato Grosso during the 1990's, but a series of problems including varietal selection, climate adaptation, and management practices restricted the widespread use of sunflowers in the state.

Approximately 40,000 hectares of sunflowers are grown in Mato Grosso as compared to 1.8 million hectares of safrinha corn production. The main municipalities for sunflower production are Campos de Julio and Sapezal in western Mato Grosso and Campo Verde and Primavera do Leste in southeastern Mato Grosso.

Sunflower oil, along with soybean oil and canola oil are the three most widely used vegetable oils worldwide for biodiesel production. Currently, 80% of the vegetable oil used in biodiesel production in Brazil is soybean oil and the federal government is providing financial incentives for the production of alternative oils such as sunflower, palm, peanut, cotton seed, and castor bean oil.