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Sunflower Farming in Kenya

Sunflower Farming in Kenya

Sunflower Farming in Kenya does very well in arable semi arable conditions as it requires less rainfall and nutrients than maize.

Sunflower is a crop which, compared to other crops, performs well under drought conditions; this is probably the main reason for the crop’s popularity in the marginal areas of Kenya. Unfortunately the crop is particularly sensitive to high soil temperatures during emergence and it is especially in the sandy soil where it results to poor or erratic plant density.

The Sunflower plant is a major oil crop in south-west Kenya. It is a source of high quality edible vegetable oil. South-west Kenya is in the Lake Victoria region and is suitable for sunflower farming. To address constraints such as low production, research has been undertaken by KARI targeting small-scale farmers who are vulnerable to food and nutritional insecurity.

In large parts of the sunflower producing areas, the soil has acidified dramatically during the last decade. Consequently, molybdenum shortages often occur and are possibly one of the greatest yield-limiting factors. The crop is very susceptible to bird damage and for this reason, it cannot be cultivated at all in some areas. On the positive side, however, the drought tolerance and low input cost of the crop are major advantages.

The short growth season of the crop, which has the consequence that it can be planted over a period of at least three months, renders it extremely suitable for producers who make use of adaptable crop rotation and/or fallow systems. In any case, sunflower is a crop which only belongs in a crop rotation system.

Sunflower Farming in Kenya – The Sunflower Plant

The sunflower plant is extremely adoptable to tropical environmental conditions with temperatures as low as zero (0) degrees Celsius. I t does not require high temperatures but moderately warm conditions. It can thrive in Kenya, if grown from sea level of between 0m up to 2500m.

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Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Sunflower Varieties

The sunflower crop is of various varieties but two main types exists. These are:-

Tall varieties

The tall varieties are open pollinated and can grow to a height of 5-8 ft i.e 1.5m-2.4m. The most grown local varieties are:-

  • Hungarian white
  • Kenya fedha
  • Kenya shaba
  • Record
  • Grey stripped

Dwarf varieties

The dwarf varieties are normally hybrids and grow to a height of 4 ft (1.2m). They have smalller heads. The most commonly local dwarf varieties include:-

  • 8998
  • G101
  • Pan 7352
  • Pan 7369
  • H8998

    Sunflower Farming in Kenya

    Sunflower Farming in Kenya

Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Agronomy

Rainfall:- A rainfall amount of 500-750mm annually is sufficient for better yields. Good yields can also be obtained even with less than 250mm of rainfall.

In areas of short rain periods, the dwarf hybrid varieties are advisable as they have a shorter maturity period.

Soils:- It is grown in many soil types of moderate fertility. It does well on light-rich calcareous or alluvial soils with a PH of 6.0-7.5. The sunflower plant is a heavy feeder of soil nutrients and therefore enough nutrients should be available.

Light:- The daylight is not critical for sunflower production especially when all other conditions are favourable.

Crop Cycle:- Less than 100 to a maximum of 160 days

Temperature:- It is primarily a zero temperature crop and is more resistant to frost and drought than maiza or soybean. Tropical lowlands induce premature flowering and high temperatures inhibit seed set.

Weed Control:- Narrow rows are favoured for the promotion of an early canopy closure, which depresses weed growth and assists as a soil conservation measure. Well managed tillage by cross harrowing or by inter-row cultivation should suffice for weed control.

Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases


The most common diseases are:-

Stem and Head rot: White mycelium attacks roots, stem and head. Infected parts shrink and rots.

Downy mildew: Loose white mycelia on lower surface of the leaves.

White blister rust: White spores on lower surface of laef. Raised pale yellow portions on upper leaf surface stem

Charcoal rot: Discoloured stems at the base internal stems appears shredded.

Brown (leaf) rust: Reddish brown spores on both leaf surfaces.

Grey mold: Mase of grey mycelia penetrating into the heads causing rot.


The most common pests attacking the sunflower crop include:-

Cutworm: cuts seedlings at the ground level. Controlled by used of 35% EC at 1.56kg/Ha.

Semi loopers: Older larvae skeletonize leaves. Controlled by use of dip terex cypermethrine

Birds: Eats maturing seeds. Controlled by use of birds scaring devices.

African bollworm: Eats leaves and developing seeds. They can be controlled by using dip terex 95% of 13kg/Ha or cypermethrine 1L/Ha.

Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Uses of Sunflowers

  1. It mainly crashed to yield edible oil.
  2. For indusrial use- soap making. It can also be used together with linseed oil in manufacture of paints and vanish.
  3. The residual sunflower cakes/seeds heads are used as fodder for livestock industry
  4. It produces wood fuel for cooking

Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Video