Breeding of high oleic sunflowers

Project already showing promising results

24.10.2018Company news

Sunflower oil plays a major role as a raw material in the organic food and natural cosmetics sector. High oleic (HO) sunflower oil in particular is increasingly gaining in importance. This is because HO sunflower oils contain a high percentage of oleic acid (over 78 percent), which makes them nutritionally beneficial. The high percentage of monounsaturated oleic acid means that these oils are relatively insensitive to heat and light, making them especially suitable for cooking oil and for the production of cosmetics.

Today's organic farms, however, cultivate mainly hybrid sunflowers that come almost exclusively from two large seed companies, some of which are even patented. But organic farmers have no choice, as the seed market doesn't offer any alternatives.

In order to improve this situation, also with a view to producing bee-friendly varieties and securing genetic resources, the Peter Kunz and Weleda companies started to conduct growing trials with different varieties in 2005. These long-term, detailed trials led to the foundation of the Biosaatgut Sonnenblumen (organic sunflower seed) initiative.

The objective is to breed a healthy variety with the desired properties:

  • high oil content of the seed 
  • high oleic acid content of the oil
  • stable plant health
  • good adaption to the conditions of organic farming
  • sufficient yield

The first newly cultivated organic population was tested at different geographical locations with satisfactory results in 2017. Enough seeds were also produced to allow further field tests in 2018. If the results of the 2018 harvest are just as satisfactory, it will be possible for additional selected organic farmers to participate in even more field tests in 2019 and initiate registration of the variety in parallel. We are delighted that the project has got off to such an amazing start and are excited to see how it develops from here on.

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