Sunflower as a Biofuels Crop: An Analysis of Lignocellulosic Chemical Properties

Angela L. Ziebell, Jessica G. Barb, Sukhpreet Sandhu, Brook T. Moyers, Robert W. Sykes, Crissa Doeppke, Kristen L. Gracom, Melissa Carlile, Laura F. Marek, Mark F. Davis, Steven J. Knapp, John M. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus Citations


Four accessions of cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and silverleaf sunflower (Helianthus argophyllus), were each grown in three locations (Georgia, British Columbia, and Iowa) at different planting densities and phenotyped for biomass-related traits and wood biochemistry. In most environments, H. argophyllus produced significantly more biomass than H. annuus. Cell wall chemistry for a subset of plants grown in Georgia and Iowa was assessed using analytical wet chemistry methods to measure lignin and sugar content/composition. The analysis of lignin and the S/G-lignin ratios for a larger number of samples (n>250) was also assessed by high-throughput pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry. Average pyMBMS estimated lignin content (i.e., dry weight fraction) for 60°C dried basal stem samples of H. annuus and H. argophyllus was 29.6% (range, 24.0%-34.6%) and 28.6% (range, 24.6%-33.3%), respectively when averaged across all environments. The average S/G lignin mass ratio was 1.5 (range, 1.0-2.0) for H. annuus and 1.7 (range, 1.0-2.4) in H. argophyllus. Stem samples from these two species only differed statistically for a few cell wall chemistry traits; however, accession level differences within each species were apparent. Cell wall chemistry in both species was significantly affected by both location and planting density, thus demonstrating the need to select for these traits in the environment for which the crop will be produced. Overall, these results show that cultivated sunflower and silverleaf sunflower both possess the necessary phenotypic diversity to facilitate the development of a hybrid sunflower with improved lignocellulosic biofuels traits, namely increased biomass, decreased lignin, and increased glucan.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)208-217
Number of pages10
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
StatePublished - 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-57230


  • Biomass
  • Lignin
  • Lignocellulosic biofuel
  • Pyrolysis molecular beam mass spectrometry
  • S/G-lignin
  • Sugar content


Dive into the research topics of 'Sunflower as a Biofuels Crop: An Analysis of Lignocellulosic Chemical Properties'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this