: 10 Dec
Vol. 21 No. 17
Commercial Crop to Agro-tourism
Thantawan / Photos by Induang
fine day, my friends and I went to Nong Saeng County,
Saraburi Province, to visit our beloved friend,
Tawan, whom we hadn't seen for a long time. As we
were approaching his home, all of us were stunned
by the magnificent scenery of the vast area of a
golden sunflower field of which the background was
the clear blue sky. It was very beautiful and photogenic.
Tawan welcomed us with the lovely yellow sunflowers
from his field.
here to enlarge the map
We were very surprised after learning that Tawan
had turned himself from an office worker to a sunflower
expert. After chatting for a while, Tawan took us
to admire the beauty of the sunflowers in his field.
While walking along the rows of the sunflowers,
Tawan gave us a lot of information about this exotic
plant. It is so interesting that I would like to
share it with you. Are you ready? Welcome to the
world of the sunflower.
Nature of the Sunflower
The sunflower or
Heliathus annus. Or known as Thantawan
in Thai is an annual plant well grown in temperate
zones. When the plant is in the bud stage, it tends
to follow the movement of the sun from the east
to the west, in order to improve the efficiency
of photosynthesis. Once the flower fully opens,
it will face east and there will be no movement
A sunflower can grow to 5 metres tall. Its green
leaves are in the heart shape. Normally each cultivated
sunflower plant has only one flower, but the wild
species have multiple flowers. The flower has yellow
or reddish-yellow petals around a brown disc. In
each disc, there are several hundred to a thousand
florets that are hermaphrodite. Its fruits or seeds
are various in colour -- pure black, black with
gray or white stripes and white with gray stripes.
This depends on the species.
Like the Soya bean and the oil palm, the sunflower
is a commercial oil crop that plays an outstanding
role in the world market. There are two types of
commercial sunflower, viz. Oilseed -- Its small
black seed is very high in oil content. It is processed
into sunflower oil and meal, and is also used for
feeding birds, Non-oilseed (confectionery sunflower)
-- Its larger black and white striped seed is used
to make a variety of food products from snacks to
the sunflower is the flower of pride and cheerfulness.
There is a legend based on Greek mythology that
tells us the origin of the sunflower. The legend
has it that once upon a time, Clytie, a dryad,
deeply fell in love with Apollo, the God of the
Sun. But Apollo felt no love for her. Hence, all
she could do was just sitting and fixing her eyes
only on her beloved sun from sunrise until sunset.
Magically, the body of Clytie was changed into
a sunflower. Her legs turned to be the stem while
the face became the flower. Her gold hair became
the yellow petals. Though in the form of a flower,
Clytie still turned her face to the sun all the
time. That is why the sunflower always turns its
head to the sun.
Actually, the sunflower is a native plant of North
America. It is said that the plant was cultivated,
in about 3000 BC, by Indians in the area which
is the present-day Arizona and New Mexico. Then,
around 1500 AD, the sunflower was taken to Europe
by Spanish explorers. There, it was planted as
an ornamental plant. This exotic flower, later,
gained its popularity as a commercial crop when
it was brought to Russia.
Before World War I (1914-1918), our planet had
about 3,200 sq. kilometres of sunflower fields
which could produce about a hundred thousand ton
of sunflower oil. At present, the quantity of
sunflower oil from all over the world is sevenfold.
The figure, however, tends to rise continuously.
The countries that are major producers of the
sunflower include Russia, Argentina, the combined
European Union, China, India, Turkey and South
Sunflower Cultivation in Thailand
In Thailand, we started planting sunflowers as a
commercial crop in 1988, with a total area of 12
sq. kilometres. Last year, the area of sunflower
fields increased to about 800 sq. kilometres that
gave over sixty thousand ton of sunflower oil. The
plant is commonly grown after the farmer harvested
their main crops (corn, Soya beans, etc.). Generally,
farmers will grow sunflowers during the period from
late September to November. Then the plants will
be in full bloom around November and December.
sunflower is well grown in central, northern and
northeastern provinces of Thailand such as Lop Buri,
Saraburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phetchabun, Uthai Thani,
Uttaradit, Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi, Kam- phaeng
Phet, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Sakaeo and Nakhon Ratchasima.However,
Lop Buri and Saraburi are the most famous sites