Sunflower Sunflower is a very important plant of modern era because of its broad use in the food and medicine. It belongs to family Asteraceae and its scientific name is Helianthus anus “Helios” means “sun” and “Anthos” means “flower”. sunflower has an herbaceous plant average of 2m height and it is sap green in color. It is among the most economical plants at present on earth. American people used this as the symbol of solar deity. During 18th century Russians used this as an essential oil in the lent in orthodox church because it was the only oil allowed to use in their fasting traditions. This was considered a holy plant. Among Zuni people its dried root is chewed before sucking venom from the snake bite and applying the poultice to the wound.
Sunflower moves along the sun; for example, in morning its head is towards east, and in noon exactly upside towards the sun, and in evening towards the west this process of sun tracking is called as the heliotropism.
Sunflower has a very nutritious and health friendly oil that has unsaturated 86 percent (66 percent, oleic acid 20 percent, and 0.1 percent linolenic acid) and total saturated fat is 12 percent (5 percent stearic acid, and 7percent palmitic acid). It is very good for heart and also has vitamin-E in it. It prevents from ‘Bad’ cholesterol and LDL.
Sunflower head contains a large number of small flowers in it. About 1,000 to 2,000 flowers are attached at the base and a flower may produce about 2,000 seed. Sunflower is very important oilseed crop because of its high oil content 50-60 percent and good oil quality. In Pakistan, the average yield of sunflower is 1,243kg per hectare.
There is declining trend in sunflower sowing area in Pakistan. Although national data is not available, but only seven years ago 2010-11 sunflower was grown on 266,964 hectares in Sindh whereas countrywide acreage was 300,614 hectares. However, the acreage then drastically dropped to 65,883 hectares in Sindh during 2015-16.
At present, Pakistan is the largest importer of the edible oil after China and India. According to estimates, Pakistan imports 2.6 million tons of edible oil every year and this oil is imported from Malaysia, Indonesia Brazil and North America.
So far Pakistan has invested about 50 billion dollars in edible industry including oil conservation and oil treatment industries.
About 75 percent of edible oil need is met with the help of imported crude and refined oil, rest is locally produced from Banola and Mustard etc. If Pakistan focus more towards sunflower production, this budget can be saved and high-quality oil can be produced locally. In addition to this, people will get more earning and more chances of prosperity.
To save edible oil import bill and for prosperity of farmers and Pakistan as well, government should do some ameliorations in its policies. Farmers should be provided with quality seeds and support price so that they may focus on cultivation of sunflower and be aware of its importance. Marginal land which lie useless should be brought under cultivation so that waste land may also be used.
At present some research stations are working on oilseeds betterment including AARI (Faisalabad), PARC and NARC (Islamabad) and condition is somewhat improving. Some very important varieties like NK-S-278 (Syngenta Pakistan), Hysun-33,39 (ICI Pakistan) are introduced, in addition to hybrids have developed including Benazir and Cheetah (4 Brothers Pakistan) and PARSUN-2 and PARSUN-3 are developed by PARC (Islamabad).
Pakistan is low in progress on oilseeds production, research and development is going on, but there is a large way to go for self-sufficiency. It is dire need is to develop good policies and act upon them to make country’s way towards progress.