Sunflowers attract a lot of attention because of their beauty and the rotation of their heads with the sun, but their versatility is starting to turn producers' heads too, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.

Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Lubbock, works with a number of crops, but his expertise with sunflowers has him burning up the pavement between Etter to the north and Lamesa to the south with experimental trials as interest grows.

"AgriLife Extension has been testing sunflower hybrids for both confectionary and oilseed yield since about 2002, but starting in 2008, Texas AgriLife Research added sunflower to our official crop-testing program where companies pay to have their hybrids tested," Trostle said.

That testing in Texas is currently offered for the Dumas, Lubbock, Corsicana and Corpus Christi areas, but the primary focus and the largest tests are the High Plains sites, he said.

"It was a significant change for me when Texas AgriLife Research added sunflowers to the crop testing program in 2008," Trostle said. "Over the three years of the program, we have averaged nine confectionary hybrids and about 24 oilseed hybrids per year."

The number of entries is up compared to past years as Texas sunflowers are drawing interest from more of the Dakota-based seed companies who are either interested in expanding sales into the Texas market or testing their hybrids at more southerly locations where heat is usually much higher than in the Dakotas, he said.