People come every day to Char Madhabpur in Kurigram Sadar upazila to see the beauty of sunflowers being cultivated there. Some even come to see the successful cultivation of sunflowers on this unproductive low-lying char land. A "char" is a silted-up section of riverbed that has risen above the water.
Sunflowers are being cultivated on around 57 acres of the unproductive char land in the district this year for the first time.
The Department Of Agricultural Extension in Khamarbari took an initiative to utilise the low-lying char areas for cultivation, and is expecting a very good yield of the crop.
One normally gets six to 10 maunds of sunflower seeds from one bigha of land, but the department is expecting more than 10 maunds of seeds per bigha from the char areas.
Usually a sunflower contains around 1,300 seeds, according to agriculture officials of the district. But each sunflower grown in the char areas had 2,000-2,500 seeds, which could be called a bumper production, they said.
Dr Mustafijur Rahman Prodhan, deputy director of the department, said there are more than 500 chars in 16 rivers in the district.
"The agriculture department is trying to utilise this unproductive, sandy and low-lying land of the char areas by cultivating adversity-tolerant crops there," he added.
He said, "Sunflowers are being cultivated experimentally on the land, and the yield of the crop is very good. Sunflower oil can be used as an alternative to soya bean oil. Sunflower oil contains low cholesterol. Sunflowers can also be used as animal feed. We hope that sunflower farming will contribute to the agricultural development of the district."
As many as 10 farmers of Char Madhabpur village in Kurigram's Sadar upazila are cultivating sunflowers on seven acres of land.
Abu Bakar Siddique, a resident of the Puratan Post Office Para area in Kurigram municipality, has cultivated the crop on four acres of land.
The crop needs irrigation only six times in a three-month period whereas other crops need it every day. Furthermore, the sunflower field needs weeding only once over this period. The mature plants are around seven feet tall, which is why no weed can survive in the field, according to farmers.
"I have been farming for around 10 years now. Before that I used to be a building contractor. From 2011 to 2018, I cultivated bananas, cabbage and cauliflower on low-lying char areas during the dry season," said Siddique.
He took the land on lease, and with suggestions and help from the agriculture department he cultivated sunflowers for the first time this year.
The agriculture department has given him the hybrid seeds of the Pacific Hysun-33 variety of sunflower and chemical fertiliser free of cost.
"I sowed the sunflower seeds in November last year. The flowers started blooming within three months. I expect to harvest the flowers by the end of March," said Siddique.
He has spent around Tk70,000 on leasing the land and cultivating the crop. But he does not know how much he will have to spend on harvesting and threshing the sunflowers.
Abdur Rahim, a farmer of the same village, said, "I have seen that sunflower cultivation needs less cost and labour. If I find that the crop can be sold easily, I will cultivate it on several bighas of land in the char in the next season."
Farmer Siddique said new seeds could be sold for Tk50 per kilogramme. But if the seeds were sold several months after being harvested, the price would be almost double, he added.
Jakir Hossain, the agriculture officer of Kurigram Sadar upazila, said,"We have talked to a sunflower oil producing company in Lakshmipur, and they are interested in buying the sunflower seeds from the farmers."