1. Which climate is suitable for castor cultivation?

Basically castor is considered to be a drought hardy crop and comes up well under dry and warm regions receiving a rainfall of 50-75 cm. In heavy rainfall areas, the crop puts up excessive vegetative growth and acquires perennial habit. The crop can come up well at altitudes of 1200 to 2100m. It requires a moderately high temperature (20-26oC) with low humidity to produce higher yields.

2. Where the castor crop is cultivated in India?

In India the crop is cultivated principally in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. To a lesser extentit is produced in states like Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Orissa. There is potential to produce castor in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Haryana states also. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is raised under irrigated situations with high productivity, while in Andhra Pradesh and other states it is grown under rainfed conditions with low yields.

3. What are the suitable soils for castor cultivation?

Castor can be grown on all types of soils having good drainage. It is generally grown on red
sandy loams in Peninsular India and on light alluvial soils in the North-Western states. Soils
that are not suitable for cultivation of food crops and commercial crops are often put to castor cultivation in our country. The crop responds well to good management and copious inputs.

4. How to prepare the field for castor cultivation?

The castor soils should be prepared immediately after the receipt of pre-monsoon showers. For this the field should be ploughed across slope twice. This should be followed by two harrowings with blade harrow to control weeds and to conserve soil moisture. If soil moisture is sufficient, summer ploughing helps in moisture conservation apart from insect-pest and disease management.

5. What is the best sowing time for castor?

The best sowing time is immediately after onset of monsoon in    kharif season. The optimum time is from second fortnight of June in Andhra Pradesh and other Southern States. The best time for sowing in Gujarat and Rajasthan is first fortnight of July. As the sowings are delayed, there would be reduction in yields.
For sowing in rabi season, September 15 to October 15 is ideal time; while for summer crop January is the proper sowing time.

6. How much seed is required for sowing one hectare field?

For sowing in drylands, a seed rate of 8-10 kg/ha is required; while for irrigated conditions and hybrids, a seed rate of 5 kg/ha will be sufficient.

7. Due to delayed monsoon, if the sowing of other dryland crops is delayed, can we sow castor instead?

Yes. In dry  land farming, if sowing of crops like groundnut, sorghum, etc. is not possible, castor can be taken up as the best ‘contingent crop’ which can provide stability to rainfed farming in drought prone areas. It serves as a cushion against drought periods and provides a back up for economic security.

8. Under unfavourable weather, what are the tips for raising castor as a contingent crop?

Under unfavourable conditions, it is recommended to grow short duration varieties like Jyothi, Kranti, GC-2. A close spacing of 60 x 30 cm has to be adopted. Through repeated intercultures with blade harrow, soil  mulch has to be created to reduce evaporation losses and to conserve moisture. Following a  rain, application of 20 kg N/ha helps in enhancing yields. Providing two limited irrigations at critical stages (50-75 days) coinciding with spike development would contribute to enhanced yields. Even in command areas, when rice plantings  cannot be taken up, castor can be  taken up as a contingent crop in August-September or October-January with limited irrigations.

9. What are the tips to obtain higher yield?

To improve productivity of castor the important considerations are (i) use of quality seed of recommended variety/hybrid (ii) following proper crop rotation, especially in wilt endemic areas (iii) sowing at optimum time immediately after onset of monsoon, (iv) seed treatment with fungicide before sowing (v) application of recommended fertilizer, (vi) application of protective irrigations at critical stages, (vii) Integrated management of important pests and diseases, (viii) harvesting at physiological maturity, (ix) adoption of low- cost production practices. These practices will greatly aid in reducing  production costs and enhancing yield and income level both in irrigated and rainfed situations.

10. What are the suitable varieties of castor and their characteristic features for various states?

Varieties suitable for rainfed areas should be of short / medium duration.

The varieties for rainfed areas: RC 8, Jwala(48-1), Jyoti (DCS 9), TMV 5, TMV 6, Kranti
(PCS 4), AKC 1, CH 1, Kiran, Harita.
For irrigated areas - GC 2 variety is suitable.

11. What are the varieties suitable for rearing eri silk worm?

As per the preliminary information available, genotypes such as 48-1, DCH 177,DCH 32,GCH 4, are suitable for rearing eri silkworm in peninsular Indian states like A.P, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu.

12. What are the important insect pests that damage castor?

Though more than 60 species of insects feed on castor, about half-a-dozen are of economic importance. The red hairy caterpillar, semilooper, Spodoptera litura, the leaf hopper and capsule borer are the important insect pests on kharif sown castor.

13. When and how do the major insect pests damage castor?

The red hairy caterpillar (RHC) usually infests rainfed castor during germination and early crop growth stage in June and July. The damage is done mostly by the migrating caterpillars, often necessitating resowing of the fields. The semilooper becomes serious during July-August and Spodoptera   during August-October. These two pests feed on leaves and defoliate the crop. During colder months leaf hopper becomes active and suck sap from the plants. The infestation of capsule borer starts from flowering stage and continuous till the harvest of the crop.

14. What are the diseases that come through seed?

The diseases that come through seed are Alternaria blight, bacterial leaf blight, Fusarium wilt and Botrytis grey rot

15. Which disease normally occurs during germination and seedling stage?

Seedling blight caused by Phytophthora parasitica is a serious disease of germinating seed, affecting cotyledonary leaves and growing points, causing plant mortality resulting in loss of plant stand.

16. What are the common uses of castor oil?

Castor oil has since long been utilized as lamp and lubricant oil. Since this oil is 16 times more viscous than other oils, it is one of the best lubricants. Castor oil can stay as liquid at high and low temperatures and hence it has gained greater importance as aviation lubricant. Its hydroxy group reacts in the intestine and functions as a laxative. It also serves as a very good hair oil and body massage oil. Castor oil, like any other oil, can be utilized in the manufacture of soaps. This oil serves as a preservative of grains in homes and markets.

17. Can we use castor oil as biodiesel?

Castor oil is highly viscous. It will be difficult to spray as a mist in internal combustion engines. Another factor which is against its use as bio-fuel is its prohibitive cost. However, castor, when dehydrated, gives a product called dehydrated castor oil (DCO) which can be used as biofuel, since its viscosity will be similar to that of other vegetable oils. Another route through which castor oil can be used as diesel substitute is by transesterifying the oil to its methyl esters. The methyl esters can serve more efficiently as biofuel. The higher cost of castor oil and its products seem to be the major limitation for using it as bio-fuel.

1. Why do sunflowers follow sun?

When sunflower plant is in the bud to flowering stage, it tends to follow the movement of the sun daily from east to west. This is due to the hormonal effect (auxin) wherein during flowering stage, there will be accumulation of auxin near the head region. When plant faces the sun, the shaded side of the plant accumulates higher concentration of auxin that causes the epinasty (elongation) of cells in the region making differential elongation of the stem at the same position of the plant. The elongated cells push the upper head to bend in the opposite direction to face the sun. This phenomenon continues to occur thus making the sunflower tracking the sun from east to west. Once the flowering completes, the auxin production reduces and it stays facing east

2. What are the special features of sunflower crop?

Sunflower crop has special features such as:

  • Short duration (90 to 110days)
  • High seed and oil yield
  • Suits for cultivated in all the seasons
  • Can be cultivated in all soil types
  • Forms an ideal intercrop with many crops of the region
  • Can be a catch crop for short growing seasons
  • Fits well as contingent crop under different situations
  • High seed multiplication ratio (> 1:80)
  • Non-branched determinate plant type with single head amenable for mechanical harvesting
  • Sunflower can be grown in crop sequences with groundnut, cotton, maize, potato, pulses and rice as preceding or succeeding crop

3. What is the best season for sunflower cultivation?

Sunflower is a relatively photo and thermo insensitive plant. It can be grown in all the seasons in our country. However, the ideal sowing time at a place can be decided based on the criterion to avoid flowering period of the crop coinciding with hot and dry weather (>38°C) or continuous rain/drizzle conditions that leads to poor seed set.

4. What is the recommended sowing time for sunflower in different regions of India?

For traditional areas, for kharif (rainy season) second fortnight of June to mid July in light soils, and up to second fortnight of August for heavy soils. For rabi (winter season), the crop can be sown from September to first fortnight of October.  As spring season crop in the Indo-Gangetic belt of northern India, sowing can be done from January to second fortnight of February .

5. What are the best soils for sunflower cultivation?

Sunflower can be grown on all soil types viz., red, black and alluvial soils. It grows best in deep, well-drained and fertile soils. Water logging areas should be avoided. The ideal pH is around 6.5-8.0. It can tolerate slight alkaline conditions but not acidity. Sunflower can tolerate moderate levels of salinity

6. How much seed is required for planting in one hectare?

Optimum plant population of sunflower in one hectare (10000m2) is 55555 at a spacing of 60cm x 30cm. Considering the seed index (weight per 100 seeds) of most varieties and hybrids and provision for variations in germination, a seed rate of 5kg/ha is recommended at 2-3 seeds per spot sowing. Under precision planting and with high quality seeds, seed rate can be reduced to 3-4kg.  

7. How is sunflower planted?

Sunflower can be planted by direct sowing of seed in the soil. Once the soil is prepared to fine tilth, furrows can be opened at 60cm spacing and within the furrow, one to two seeds can be dibbled (hand placement) at 30cm. Mechanical sowing devices such as seed drills, seed-cum-ferti drills, precision planters are also available. The depth of sowing should be 2-3inches. Soil should be covered well with wet soil to have proper seed-soil contact.

8. Which micronutrients are essential for sunflower cultivation?

Among all the micronutrients (Zn, Cu, Fe, Mn, B, Mo, Cl), boron (B) is most important for sunflower. Besides, as per the soil test reports, deficient micronutrient needs to be rectified by application. In general, Zn is found to be deficient that can be corrected by applying 5kg Zinc sulphate (ZnSO4/ha).

9. How should we control weeds in sunflower?

Weeds in sunflower can be controlled by providing two hoeing followed by one hand weeding at an interval of 15 days commencing from 15-20 days after sowing. Alternatively, use of alachlor or pendimethamlin or fluchloralin @ 1.5 kg/ha in 600 l  water as pre-emergence spray on the same evening after sowing followed by one hand weeding and interculture at 35 DAS provide effective control of weeds.

10. When irrigation water is limited which stages of sunflower it should be applied?

Whenever irrigation water is limited irrigation should be given at critical stages for realizing higher yield. The moisture stress should be avoided at critical stages. The critical stages for irrigation in sunflower are bud initiation flower opening and seed filling. The numbers of days after planting to attain critical crop growth stages are as follows:
Stage    Days after planting
     Short duration varieties    Long duration varieties
Bud initiation    30-35    35-40
Flower opening    45-50    55-65
Seed filling    55-80    65-90

11. How to separate seeds from sunflower heads?

In sunflower, threshing is normally done after drying heads for 2-3 days to facilitate easy separation of seed. The threshing is done by beating the harvested heads with sticks or rubbing or through manual operated threshers. Power operated mechanical threshers are also available which can be used on custom hire basis in villages.

12.What are the major insect pests of sunflower?

Since the crop can be grown at any part of the time thus the insect pest fauna varies in space and time.

  • In kharif-sown crop major pests are: thrips, white flies and leaf hoppers as sucking pests while Spodoptera litura and green semilooper, Trichoplusia sp as foliage feeder and Helicoverpa armigera as Capitulum borer. Many a times capitulum borer also feeds on the calyx and sepals.
  • In rabi season leafhopper is a major pest in south India besides thrips and whiteflies as minor pests.
  • In north India crop is grown in spring season, where cutworm is a major pest at seedling stage, while leafhoppers, green semilooper and capitulum bore are other major pests.

13.How insect pest damage affect sunflower crop?

  • Soil and seedling insect –pests like termites and cutworms affect roots and seedlings
  • Defoliators and sap sucking insect – pests affect photosynthetic area of leaf and cause loss in food reserves
  • Capitulum borer destroys floral parts, ovaries; developing seeds thus reduce the seed yield
  • Damage by insect pests predisposes plants to various diseases through affected parts

14. Can sunflower crop support bee farming?

Sunflower serves as a source of nectar and pollen for honeybees and yields useful honey. Besides yielding honey, the bee activity enhances sunflower seed yield to the extent of 20 to 30% through increasing pollination, seed setting, seed weight and oil content. Five beehives per hectare are found to be optimum. Thus supplemental apiary also provides additional employment and income along with sunflower cultivation. Care should be taken to avoid insecticidal sprays during flowering period.

15. Which disease has become major threat to sunflower cultivation during recent past and what are the symptoms and causal agent of the disease?

Sunflower necrosis disease (SND) is the economically important disease and it has become a major threat to sunflower cultivation during recent past. The disease appears at all the growth stages of crop. The characteristic symptoms are mosaic, mottling and sudden necrosis of leaves, black streaks on petiole, stem, twisting and systemic infection of floral parts. If the infection is at early stages of the crop, the plants become stunted, weak and die before flowering. In late infected plants, only flower heads become malformed which result into complete failure of seed setting or with partial failure of seed setting with chaffy grains.
Tobacco streak virus causes the necrosis disease.

16. How long the seed can be stored for its use ?

The seed after harvesting will be viable and give good germination upto one year under normal conditions.  It is advisable to use the seed before one year for getting good germination.

17.How valuable the sunflower oil?

Sunflower oil is preferred for its high quality and nutrition than other edible oils. Sunflower oil has high and moderate levels of poly and mono unsaturated fatty acids and less than 15% of saturated fatty acids.
High proportion of the essential fatty acid is considered to reduce blood cholesterol and hence sunflower has a special significance. Sunflower oil is an excellent salad oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids. High oleic sunflower oil with 80% oleic acid is also available. It has greater oxidative stability and is useful as a frying oil in the preparation of snack foods.
Sunflower oil to some extent is used in industrial manufacture of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, vanaspathi, paints and lubricants

18. After oil extraction, how the meal is useful?

The defatted meal is used mostly in feed stuffs. Sunflower protein is balanced with respect to all amino acids except lysine. Sunflower is a good source of water soluble B complex vitamins.

19. Are there any other uses of sunflower?

Apart from growing sunflower as an oilseed crop, it is also grown for preparation of silage for cattle in some of the developed countries. There is growing interest for non-oilseed sunflowers as snack in the developed economies, besides the increasing demand for sunflower as bird feed due to its preference by many species of birds. Few species of sunflowers are economically important as ornamental, source of pigments/dye. Other products of value are sunbutter, biodiesel, sunflower wax, sunflower bran, sunflower screenings. Helianthus tuberosus yields tubers rich in sugars and are considered potential source for alcohol extraction. Sunflower pith is also considered for development of rubber

1. Can we take safflower as a contingent crop in rabi in the event of below normal rainfall in kharif?  

Yes. It is a remuneratively contingent crop in the event of scanty rainfall or below normal rainfall conditions. It cannot withstand excessive rainfall or humidity at any stage of if its growth due to damage from fungal diseases.

2. Can we use seed collected from a variety?

Seed collected from a variety can be used for next season, but it is recommended to change seed after every 3 to 4 years

3. What is the ideal climate for safflower cultivation?

Safflower is adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions. In India, safflower is mostly grown between 14 and 22o N and 73.5 and 79oE during winter season (September/October to March/April). It is more or less day-neutral but thermosensitive. It does not favour extremes of either heat or cold. The crop is tolerant to low temperature (<15oC) at seedling and vegetative stages but sensitive at elongation, flowering and post flowering stages. It comes up better in relatively drier areas. It can’t withstand excessive rainfall or humidity at any stage of its growth due to damage from fungal diseases. Frequent and prolonged rains and heavy dew at flowering stage adversely affect pollination and seed development

4. What type of soils are suitable for safflower cultivation?

Safflower requires moderate to highly fertile, fairly deep, moisture retentive and well drained soils with neutral pH. At present commercial cultivation is restricted to medium and deep black soils in peninsular India, the crop comes up equally well in a variety of other soils like sandy loams, clay loams and alluvials

5. How much seed is required for sowing in one hectare field?

7.5 to 10 kg of seed is required when safflower is grown after kharif fallow. Whenever safflower is taken as a sequence crop after short duration cereals and pulses, 10 to 15 kg of seed is required to obtain satisfactory plant stand

6. What is the optimum spacing for safflower?

A spacing of 45 x 20 cm is recommended.  Row spacing of 60cm is also practiced under irrigated conditions.  As the crop has good branching ability, it has some elasticity in spacing needs
If there is limited water, at what stages it should be applied?
Provide one life saving irrigation at early elongation or at flowering stage of the crop or whenever the soil moisture becomes very critical for crop growth.

7. Any intercultural operations are needed to conserve soil moisture?

In black soils, cracks begin to appear from December onwards. To delay cracking, close them superficially with dust mulch as and when they appear and thereby minimize moisture losses. Give one additional interculture or hoeing using bullock drawn hoes/ harrow/ sweeps in December before the crop canopy is closed and the spines become problematic

8. How to harvest the safflower crop?

Cut plants with the help of sickles at the base or whenever possible uproot by pulling and stack them in the field in the form of small and well pressed heaps until they are fully dried.  Combine harvesters used in wheat can also be used for harvesting safflower

9. How to thresh the crop?

  • For easy handling and transport to the threshing yard, arrange sets of plants in the heap in opposite directions with their cut ends overlapping and branched and spiny portions away
  • If necessary, use improvised sacks and gloves made from used gunny bags to protect legs and hands against spines
  • Thresh either by beating with sticks or with the help of bullock drawn stonerollers or tractor and the resulting material is winnowed to clear seeds
  • The threshing and cleaning operation can also be made with power-operated threshers used for other crops such as wheat

10. When rains are delayed what are the management practices to be followed?

  • It is more profitable to go in for safflower whenever there are late rains in October/ November.
  • In single cropped rabi areas, the occurrence of prolonged dry weather conditions immediately after planting coupled with insufficient moisture at seeding time result in poor and uneven plant stand and / or near failure of early sown rabi crops. In such a case, scrap the early sown rabi crop and resow with safflower taking advantage of favourable rains in October / early November.

11. When monsoon is extended, what are the management practices to be followed?

  • Whenever favourable rains are received immediately after harvest of kharif crops sometime in late September/ October and soil moisture adequate for second crop, take full advantage of the situation by planting safflower immediately after harvest of kharif cereals, legumes and others
  • Several light and medium textured soils in the potential safflower growing areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc., which are normally cropped in kharif can be put to productive use by taking safflower either as a contingent crop after the harvest of kharif crops whenever near/above normal seasonal conditions prevail in rabi
  • In case plantings are delayed and/ or soil depth is limited, use higher seed rate than normal to curtail excessive vegetative growth of safflower

12. What are the economically important pests of safflower?

Of the 80 species of insects, mites and nematodes recorded across the world and more than 25 insect pests in India, aphid (Uroleucon carthami) is the most destructive and dreaded pest of safflower.  The other insect pests of economic importance are: safflower caterpillar (Perigaea capensis), gram pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera), capsule/fruit fly (Acanthiophilus helianthi), semilooper (Plusia sp.) and gujhia weevil (Tanymecus indicus)

13. Are there any resistant/tolerant varieties to wilt disease?

Yes. Hybrids DSH-129, NARI-NH-6 and varieties A1, HUS-305, Parbhani Kusum and NARI-6 are resistant to wilt

14. What are the diseases that can be managed by crop rotation? Which crops to be used in rotation?

Wilt and root rot diseases can be managed by crop rotation. Chickpea, wheat or rabi sorghum can be used for rotation. Two to three years of rotation should be followed

15. Is there any difference in incidence of diseases on spiny and non-spiny varieties?

Non-spiny varieties are less prone to leaf spot diseases most probably due to their longer duration and susceptible stage of the crop escapes favourable period for the disease development

16. What are the common uses of safflower oil?

Safflower oil is much valued edible oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid 78%), which plays an effective role in reducing blood cholesterol level and is considered as a healthy cooking medium.  It is used in infant foods and liquid nutrition formulations.  It is also used in frozen desserts since safflower oil is having high stability at low temperatures

17. How the whole safflower plants are used?

The tea made out of safflower foliage can prevent abortion and infertility in women. The leaves and shoots are used as leafy vegetable.  They are rich in vitamin A, iron, phosphorus and calcium. Tender safflower plants can also be glazed or stored as hay or silage.  The safflower stalks are rich in cellulose and are used as an alternate source of lignocellulosic material for pulp and board industry to make craft paper, particleboards etc.  The stalks can be used as fuel. Safflower is sown as border/fence crop to ward of stray animals

18. What are the therapeutic uses of safflower petals?

Safflower petals based prescriptions dilate arteries, reduce hypertension and increase blood flow, which enables oxygenation of tissues. Safflower eye drops reduce myopia especially in children.  Flowers soaked overnight and applied wet to reduce allergy rashes. Safflower decoctions have been used successfully for treatment of male sterility and dead sperm excess disease