Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower seeds, followed closely by Russia. However, with the current war situation between these two countries, it is likely to have an impact on purchasing power within companies and we may see an increase in costs to the homeowner. Luckily, the U.S. has been noted as being the world’s 10th largest producer of sunflower seeds, with most of them being grown in North and South Dakota. The seeds are grown in colder climates for two specific reasons: sunflowers have a shorter growing season (June to September) and the cold winters in the Dakotas keep pests and disease at bay.


On average, 46 gallons of water are used worldwide to grow one pound of sunflower seeds.

  • That’s 24x LESS than pistachios, the world’s most water-intensive nut.
  • Sunflower seeds also use 4x LESS water than cashews and 8x LESS water than hazelnuts.


Sunflowers usually bloom with a 70 window after being planted, but the seeds need another month after they bloom and fade before they can be harvested. It equals to about just over three months from the time the seeds are put into the ground and go into the home.


In 2021, 123.6 BILLION pounds of sunflower seeds were produced worldwide. Almost half of all these seeds came from Ukraine and Russia. The United States is ranked 11th with 1.9 BILLION pounds produced. The USDA estimates that the World Sunflower Production for 2022/2023 will be 114+ billion ton, a slight decrease from 2021, but no surprise with the fighting in the eastern part of the world.


The sunflower is grown as an annual in our zone (zone 6). With bright, colorful, happy blooms that grow all summer, sunflowers are heat-tolerant, resistant to pests, and attract pollinators and birds. Sunflowers are at their peak in the middle of summer and grow into early fall when they are ready for harvesting.


Sunflower seeds are cut and harvested from the field after the bloom has died back and turned from yellow to green to brown. A harvesting machine cuts the stems in the field and funnels the head through the machine to extract the seeds. The remainder of the plant is then returned to the soil as mulch to prevent soil erosion and as added nutrients for the next crop.

Fill almost any backyard feeder with an assortment of birdfeed and you’re almost certain to be serving up some scrumptous sunflower seeds or kernels. Serve sunflower seeds if you want to attract a wide variety of birds to your backyard. Birds like cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks and purple finches use their cone-shaped bills to break open seed shells with relative ease.


Oiled sunflower seed, known as black oiled seed, is small, black and processed for sunflower oil. It is the “filet mignon” of bird food, making it the ideal choice for many bird lovers because it attracts such a large variety of birds. These seeds have a thin shell and fatty chunks of meat inside for easy feasting.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology conducted a seed preference test proving that the majority of feeder birds prefer the high-fat black oil sunflower seed.

The feeders capable of holding black-oiled sunflower seeds include the tube feeder, hopper, and tray or platform feeder.


Non-oiled seed is larger and has a thicker shell, making it a little harder for our usual backyard birds to crack open. This seed is the same that we eat at ballgames or for snacks. If this is the type of sunflower seed you choose for your feeders, it should be unsalted and not seasoned.


Most likely there will be a pile of shells underneath the feeder(s), and there are ground foragers like dove and squirrel that will rummage through the shell remains in hopes of finding uncracked pieces. If the debris builds up more than an inch or two, rake it up and add it to your compost pile or it can become moldy and harbor diseases.

To offer a cleaner solution, or if you live in an apartment and have a balcony, try using a “NO MESS” variety of bird food. There’s no waste and birds don’t need to drain their energy by cracking open shells.

Most bagged seeds will attract a variety of birds. You can also find sunflower pieces in many suet blocks and cakes, which are great for giving migrating birds the extra boost of energy they need for their flight.