Seed World

Growing the Sunflower Seed Industry

Dave Holman visiting SV Genetics sunflower trials in China.

Founded in 1980, S&W Seed Company is a global agricultural company with the vision to be the world’s preferred proprietary seed company by supplying a range of forage and specialty crop products to support the growing global demand for animal proteins and healthier consumer diets. With proven top performance of their sunflower seeds expanding into many countries, it is no wonder why S&W is growing the sunflower seed market.

The Global Sunflower Seed Industry

The SV Genetics sunflower program commenced in 2005, when David Holman’s company SeedVision Pty. Ltd. commenced a hybrid sunflower product development program utilizing public and private parental lines sourced from around the world.

Several of those hybrids were licensed to regional seed companies in South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan and China. In 2010, Alan Scott joined forces with Holman, and a new company — SV Genetics Pty. Ltd. — was formed. SVG has licensing agreements with 14 different partners to provide its grain sorghum, forage sorghum and sunflower genetics in approximately seven locations throughout the world, including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Europe, Pakistan and South Africa.

The company housed sunflower nurseries, based at Gatton in Queensland Australia, where a long growing season allowed two nurseries per year. This enabled rapid progress, and several new sunflower hybrids were commercialised. Sunflower hybrids were soon being tested in 20 countries, and additional licenses were finalized in Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, China, South Africa, Pakistan and the Ukraine. At the same time, Parent Seed was being produced in Australia, South Africa, Chile and Bolivia, enabling contra-season activity to be conducted.

In 2014, SV Genetics established a breeding nursery in Hungary under contract with a private breeder. This enabled the breeding activity to target specific European, Ukrainian and Russian problems such as Downey Mildew and Orobanche. As progress was made, several additional hybrids were licensed in the Ukraine.

In early 2016, a partnership was formed with a private breeder in Argentina. This enabled a broadening of the germplasm base, and initial results from this collaboration are very encouraging.

In May 2016, SV Genetics was acquired by the S&W Seed Company (USA). Since then, the sunflower program has been expanded further with a strengthening of the Hungarian breeding program, and the establishment of a new R&D facility in Toowoomba, Australia. In February 2017, S&W commenced commercial seed production for one of the company’s proprietary hybrid sunflower seed varieties in New South Wales, Australia. This marks S&W’s initial entry into the “vertical production model” for sunflower, a nearly $1 billion global crop. The move continues S&W’s recent strategic initiatives to expand vertically by leveraging the company’s key distribution and production capabilities.

Growing With the Market

Globally, sunflower seed sales are valued at approximately USD1.1 billion. Of this, the big 3 markets are:

  • EU28 $252 million
  • Ukraine and Eastern EU $312 million
  • Russia $341 million

The balance is in China, Turkey, South Africa and several other countries. The bulk of sunflower production is used to produce polyunsaturated oil. However in recent years, varieties have been developed to produce oils that are high in oleic acid, which is monounsaturated. Oils that are higher in monounsaturates are reputed to be more stable during cooking and food manufacturing.

With worldwide sales and distribution through both a direct sales force as well as dealer-distributors, the S&W Seed Company is dedicated to providing the world’s farmers with the very best sunflower seed varieties to maximize their yields and profits.

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