From sunflower bark to biostimulants and biopesticides

(08-07-2021) Developing biostimulants and biopesticides from sunflower bark? Yes we can!


Professor Danny Geelen investigates together with his colleagues at KULeuven (Belgium) and the Toulouse Institute of Technology (INPT, France) in collaboration with Oleon and Ovalie how bioactive compounds can be extracted from sunflower bark and developed as biopesticides and biostimulants. 

Previous studies in the framework of the Bio2Bio project demonstrated that water extracts from sunflower bark exert interesting bioactivity. Bioassays on tomato demonstrated improved rooting and induced systemic resistance against foliar pathogens including Botrytis cinerea upon treatment with a water extract derived from sunflower bark. In the follow up project, entitled BioSUNmulant, researchers aim to create an integrated value chain based on sunflower biomass by considering the entire process from biomass collection, extraction of bioactive molecules via extrusion, up to the formulation and testing the extracts in the field. INPT with the help of Ovalie aim to validate the fibers which are a byproduct from the extrusion activity as a natural insulation material. 

Sunflower is grown in Europe for its seed, from which high-quality oil and protein are extracted. The seed is only accounted for a small part of the plant, leaving a substantial amount of sunflower biomass unexploited. Indeed, the current harvesting practice cuts the sunflower heads from which seeds are isolated, and the remaining material is discarded via the back of the combine harvester back into the field including the bark. As a result, sunflower growers would greatly benefit from new applications that create value from the unused sunflower biomass. The outcome of the project is an integrated value chain for sunflower biomass by-product (Figure 1), taking into account economic, environmental and societal impact, contributing to the sustainable development goals set by the UN and the Circular Economy Plan of the European Commission. The project will disseminate results among academia, industries, and policymakers, through communication tools such as conferences, workshops, and university classes. 

Sunflower biomass value chain

BioSUNmulant is an Era-net project funded by Facce-JPI. The project started in January 2020 and lasts 36 months.