News and knowhow for farmers

Bird-resistant sunflower seeds avert farmer losses  

The entry of imported hybrid sunflower seeds which are resistant to bird attacks has been a game-changer for sunflower farmers sparing them millions in losses. 

The sunflower varieties that include H8998, Record OP, and Hysun 33 have compatible heads that make them better able to withstand bird attacks– the biggest cause of decreased seed yield amongst sunflower farmers.

According to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, birds are the major pests of sunflowers. They feed on the crop’s seed and can cause total crop loss.

Related News: Meru oilseed processor recruiting 1,000 sunflower farmers to plug waning production

Related News: Sunflower growers unable to access government-promised seeds

“It is far harder for birds to get to seeds of Hysun 33 sunflowers compared to the widely grown Kenya Fedha sunflower as an example,” said Joshua Gitonga– the founder of Oilseed processor Rafikipay Ltd who has trained more than 32,000 sunflower farmers across Kenya.

He explains that is because these varieties have compact heads making it harder for birds to dislodge seeds. Their heads are also semi-drooping which makes it harder for birds to reach the seeds as well as preventing the seeds from getting sunburnt. 

Bird attacks on sunflowers begin about 18 days after flowering until harvest. They are especially vulnerable to bird damage when left in the field to dry before harvest.

Related News: Kenya recruiting new army of sunflower farmers

As part of its ambitious five-year Edible Oils Project, the Kenyan government is looking to entirely do away with the country’s Sh120.69 billion edible oil import bill. Key to this is the Sunflower Promotion Project which targets a 50-fold increase in sunflower acreage by the end of this year to 200,000 acres from the current 4,000 acres.

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