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Success depends on the seed

Seed is the most important and essential step towards a successful harvest. Agronomy practices can only enhance the genetic potential of the seed sown. Seed is truly the baseline for success or failure for any crop. The highest yield and quality off the combine requires the highest quality seed planted in the spring.

“The higher cost of hybrid seed, limited cash-flow at planting, and sometimes limited availability are common considerations when a producer is deciding between open pollinated (OP) and hybrid sunflower seed,” said Nuseed Europe Product Development Manager Gyorgy Barna, Ph.D.  “The hybrid seed will have substantially higher yield potential and quality.”

The real question is which variety type,hybrid or OP variety, will provide the best results for both production and profitability.

What is a hybrid?

A hybrid is the product of a cross between two unrelated parents, one designated female and male. Self-pollination is the process of taking the pollen from a single plant and applying this to the stigma of the same plant.  When sunflower is self-pollinated, each generation becomes weaker in each year. This is known as inbreeding, and after successive generations, this leads to weakened plants called inbred lines. These inbred lines are small sized, with reduced yields. However, when two inbred lines are crossed, the vigor is restored in the resulting seed, and the yield of the plants grown from the seed is greatly increased. This is known as hybrid vigor because of the interaction between the sets of genes obtained from the two different inbred lines.

Hybrid sunflower characteristics:

  • uniform appearance
  • plant vigour
  • high yielding
  • improved grain quality
  • specific traits concerning disease resistance and/or tolerance

Advantages of growing hybrid sunflowers:

  • significantly more yield than OP varieties
  • uniform maturity enabling agronomic operations, such as fertilizing, spraying and harvesting at uniform plant stages for best results
  • uniformity and color marketing advantages when sold to buyers with quality standards

What is an open pollinated (OP) variety?

An OP variety is one whose seed is produced by random cross pollination. The pollination of the plants in the field is not controlled, which means the crop will not be uniform. The sunflower crop will vary in plant height, the color of kernels and head size and shape. The plants will also all mature at different times in the same field making harvest difficult.

Disadvantages of growing OP sunflowers:

  • yield potential is substantially less
  • reduced profit margins in high potential, fertile fields
  • no uniformity in head size, kernel colour or maturity
  • commodity unconformity will lower the price received
  • lack of uniformity makes spraying and harvest more difficult
  • possible poor seed quality can result poor germination and weak plants which cannot compete against weeds
  • no traits to exhibit disease or herbicide resistance

“The genetic germplasm we are creating Nuseed hybrids from is the best in the world,” said Barna.  “Our regional field testing demonstrates our hybrids have the agronomic and yield performance that can give an economic advantage.  And our work with processors and roasters is creating new added value.”

Comparison of Nuseed ONYX sunflower hybrids and OP variety


  Hybrid OP
Access to genetic traits high low
Benefits from seed treatments and quality control high Only certified seed
Yield per hectares (tonnes)  3,4  2,0
% Loss due to lodging 1% 10%
Yield premium size 65% 10%
% Loss due to uniformity 2% 25%
x times the profit (Onyx versus OP variety) 3,9