The present study was conducted to identify the genetic factors controlling somatic embryogenesis in the sunflower. Two traits, the number of embryogenic explants per 40 explants plated (EE/40 E) and the number of embryos per 40 explants (E/40 E), were scored in 74 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) from a cross between 'PAC-2' and 'RHA-266'. The experiment was designed as a randomized complete block with 76 genotypes (74 recombinant inbred lines and two parents) and three replications. Each replication consisted of three Erlenmeyer flasks with 40 epidermal layers (explants). Analyses of variance indicated the existence of highly significant differences among parental genotypes and their RILs. Heritabilities for the somatic embryogenesis traits studied, EE/40 E and E/40 E, were high (0.64 and 0.77 respectively) and the genetic gain, in percentage of the best parent for 10% of selected RILs, was significant. Four QTLs for EE/40 E (tee) and seven for E/40 E (ete) were detected using composite interval mapping and AFLP mapping. The QTLs for EE/40 E explained 48% of the phenotypic variation while the QTLs for E/40 E explained about 89% of the variation.