Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I know very little about sunflowers but because it is an oil-producing plant with pretty flowers, I think it is worth some attention. My first few packets of imported seeds performed terribly. The plants were spindly and the flowers did not contain any viable seeds. Then I bought a robust plant already in flower in a local nursery. This produced some seeds and I raised several dozen plants successfully. However the percentage of seed set ranges between zero and 80%. I have not seen any pollinators. According to the textbooks, most cultivars are self-incompatible. I expect, by selection, to produce plants that are self-compatible, which should then have a high percentage seed set. Simultaneously I will eliminate all weak plants. We will see how many generations are needed to produce strong high-yielding plants for humid tropical conditions. A sunflower generation is about 5 months. An oil palm breeding cycle is about 5 years, so I will have done 10 generations of selection for sunflower in the time it takes to do one generation of oil palm. Sunflowers are way behind oil palm in oil yield per ha, which is why only a maverick like me will work on it. It's the challenge, you see; the horticultural equivalent of computer geeks starting up from a garage.

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