(Carthamus tinctorius L.)
Safflower should be grown in rotation with small grains or maize and not directly after dry beans, sunflower, mustard and canola, to prevent Sclerotinia (white mould).
The crop requires a clod-free seedbed with enough moisture for good germination and establishment. Safflower is an annual oilseed crop which is well adapted to drier areas. It produces an oil rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids which plays an important role in reducing blood cholesterol levels. Seedoil content ranges from 30 to 40%. Safflower is a thistle-like plant with a central branch stem, a varying number of branches and a tap-root system. Each branch has 1 to 5 flowers (yellow or orange), containing 15 to 20 seeds.
Safflower should be sown during November and December after good rains. Soil encrustation can be a major problem in emergence and establishment of the crop. If crust formation has occurred, a light harrow cultivation may help to break up the crust and improve emergence. Care must be taken, however, not to damage the seedlings. Rate and depth of sowing
Sowing rate of 7 to 10 kg/ha is recommended. Row width should be 45 cm and 20 cm in the row.
Safflower is usually planted at a depth of 30 to 50 mm.
Fertiliser requirements depend on soil analyses, yield target and other crops in the rotation system.
Safflower has a deep root system allowing the plant to utilise nutrients that may not be available to small-grain crops.
In a double cropping system only 15 to 25 kg N/ha (45–90 kg LAN/ha) may be necessary, otherwise 50 kg N/ha (180 kg LAN/ha) is needed. Under rainfed conditions, apply fertiliser deep (10 cm) in the seed furrows to avoid contact with the seed.
Yields of 800 to 1 200 kg/ha may be achieved with improved production and protection technology.
Do not attempt to grow safflower without a good weed-control programme, because weed competition can be a serious problem.
It should be noted that no herbicide is registered for use on safflower in South Africa.
The most serious diseases may be alternaria leaf spot and pseudomonas bacterial blight.
Planting of disease-free seed is recommended.
Before planting seed may be treated with a fungicide.
Safflower should never be planted on the same field for 2 consecutive years. Couch grass Pigweed
Safflower is relatively free of insect attacks.
If significant populations of insects occur, contact your extension officer for recommended control measures.
Harvesting and threshing
Safflower is mature and ready to harvest when most of the leaves have turned brown and the stems are dry, but not brittle. Seeds should rub off freely from the least mature heads.
Seed moisture content should be 8 % or less.
Safflower is very spiny, therefore caution should be used when threshing by hand.
During harvesting, rain may still occur and it is therefore necessary to harvest as soon as the flower heads are ripe, because rain may lead to substantial yield loss and also sprouting in the head.