We all know where sunflower seeds come from - the clue is in the name, but how are they grown commercially, and what does a sunflower seed harvest look like? Let's take a look at how sunflowers are typically grown and how they are harvested commercially.
How are Sunflower Seeds Grown?
For commercial sunflower seed production, sunflowers are grown as a crop. It's a beautiful sight to see - row upon row of tall majestic sunflowers basking in the sunshine.
Some commercial sunflower growers plant their sunflowers directly from seed, while others transplant baby plants into the soil. While the plants are small, they're planted into the earth about 2-3 inches deep and at least 12 inches apart. Spacing the plants in this way, rather than scattering the seeds, gives each plant room to grow without competing with the one next to it.
How are Sunflower Seeds Harvested?
Sunflower seeds need to be mature before they are harvested. This means waiting until the sunflower head has finished flowering. In most cases, farmers wait until their sunflowers start to turn brown before harvesting the seeds because this is a good indication that the seeds are ready to fall naturally.
Once the sunflowers are ready to be harvested, they are cut down by a combine that separates the seeds from the sunflower's head. The seeds fall down into a container on the side of the combine, while the rest of the plant - including the stem and leaves - get chopped up for animal feed or compost.
The seeds are then dried and cleaned, ready to be packaged and sold.
Do Sunflower Seeds Stay in Their Shell?
The answer to this question depends on the variety of sunflower seeds. Some types have hulls that are easily removed, while others have a harder hull that needs to be cracked open. The most common way to remove the shells from sunflower seeds is by using a commercial shelling machine.
This machine has a rotating drum with teeth that crush the shells, allowing the seeds to escape. The seeds are then cleaned and sorted according to size and quality before they are packaged and sold.
Where are Sunflower Seeds Grown?
Sunflower seeds are grown all over the world. In 2019, the total global production of sunflower seeds exceeded 56 million tonnes! Russia and Ukraine remain the two biggest sunflower seed-producing countries in the world, contributing approximately 55% of the world total. China, Argentina, and Romania also produce several million tonnes each year.
So there you have it - a brief overview of how sunflower seeds are grown and harvested commercially. Do you enjoy eating sunflower seeds? If so, read more about sunflower seeds here.