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Sunflowers are good for high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic (monounsaturated) acid (at least 80%), and good as a frying oil. It also has a good shelf life and is used in infant formula.
The farm group, which has properties scattered throughout Canterbury, has planted more than 40ha of sunflowers at the Chertsey site. There are 62,000 sunflower plants per hectare.
Roger Lasham, of Turley Farms, said there were about 250ha of sunflowers growing around Mid Canterbury for processor Pure Oil NZ.
‘‘These are our catch crop. It’s always good to have a niche to fill the gap.’’
Turley Farms had used the same model as last year, planting the sunflowers on land vacated by peas.
This year though the sunflowers had been planted earlier (on December 11), and it had been a warmer season.
The heads on the mostly 1.4m-tall sunflowers were slightly smaller than last season, but full of seed.
At harvest just the heads are sent for processing with Pure Oil NZ, which supplies two bottled products to the domestic market; rape oil and sunflower oil.
Bulk oil was also sent overseas.