Article image

Sunflower extracts shield blueberries from fruit rot

A new study from the American Chemical Society reveals that sunflower extracts could be a natural solution to extend the life of blueberries. 

It can be very disappointing to open a pack of blueberries and find them covered in fuzzy mold. This is not just unpleasant for consumers. Gray mold and its fungal counterparts play a significant role in fruit rot, leading to substantial economic setbacks and adding to the global concern of food wastage.

Sunflower waste

However, the ACS study reveals that compounds derived from what is typically considered waste in sunflower crops can potentially shield blueberries from rot.

While sunflowers are globally grown for their seeds and the oil they produce, their flower stems, termed “receptacles,” have largely been dismissed as waste. 

Focus of the study

Researchers Xiao-Dong Luo and Yun Zhao recognized the sunflower’s impressive resistance to numerous plant diseases and questioned whether these discarded receptacles might harbor chemicals that provide this resilience.

The primary goal was to discover if these chemicals could be utilized to protect fruits from fungal pathogens. This could potentially offer an alternative to the harmful chemical fungicides that are often linked to toxicity and the development of resistance.

Active chemicals 

The researchers extracted compounds from sunflower stems using methanol and ethyl acetate. Their primary focus was on a group of chemicals known as diterpenoids, renowned for their biological activity. 

The results were promising. Out of the 17 diterpenoids they identified, four were entirely new discoveries. The majority of these natural chemicals exhibited significant activity against the notorious gray mold.

Further studies on the sunflower extracts revealed their potent mechanism of action. Four of the diterpenoids – including both of the newly discovered compounds – had the ability to damage the plasma membrane of the gray mold fungus. 

This damage resulted in leakage from the fungal cells and hindered its capability to form biofilms – a key element in its growth and survival.

Study implications 

The researchers went a step further to test the real-world application of their findings. After treating blueberries with the sunflower receptacle extracts, they subjected these fruits to mold spores. Over the span of six days, the extracts successfully defended nearly 50 percent of the blueberries from mold colonization.

The research paves the way for a new, natural method of safeguarding fruits from postharvest diseases. By harnessing the power of sunflower stem extracts, the food industry may soon have an eco-friendly, effective tool against fungal invaders.

More about sunflower extract

Sunflower extract is more than just a byproduct of a beautiful flower. Its rich composition makes it a popular choice for various applications, from skincare to food preservation. Sunflowers, scientifically known as Helianthus annuus, contain an array of beneficial compounds:

  • Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can combat oxidative stress.
  • Sunflower oil, extracted from its seeds, primarily contains linoleic acid, which can be beneficial for skin health.
  • Phytosterols are compounds that can support heart health and lower cholesterol levels.
  • Saponins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids found in sunflowers have antioxidant properties and can be beneficial for overall health.

Skin and hair care

Due to its rich Vitamin E content, sunflower extract is often found in skincare and haircare products. The fatty acids in sunflower oil help to maintain the skin’s natural barrier, assisting in moisture retention.

Antioxidants in the extract can combat free radicals, potentially reducing signs of aging. Sunflower oil can also soothe and nourish the scalp, possibly preventing hair thinning.

Health benefits

The phytosterols in sunflower seeds have been linked to reducing cholesterol, which can support heart health.

Various compounds in sunflowers can combat oxidative stress, potentially reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases. Furthermore, certain compounds in sunflower extract can reduce inflammation.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day