Sunflower is renowned for its extensive and prolific root system and its ability to soak up residual nutrients out of reach for other commonly used covers or crops. This species can also take advantage of short growing seasons in case of damaging hail or poor emergence to cash crops. If planning to harvest for oil or seed or simply to attract birds, sunflowers have very similar planting and harvesting methods to that of corn. Because insects are attracted to the bright colors of sunflower heads, pollinators and beneficials such as bees, damsel bugs, lacewings, hoverflies, minute pirate bugs, and non-stinging parasitoid wasps are often found in fields of sunflower and in following crops. Sunflowers also work very well in cover crop cocktails/mixtures. With rapid early season establishment, additional covers under the canopy that normally don’t grow under cool conditions can begin to take advantage of warmer and favorable weather when sunflowers are growing slower. With upright growth and anchored plants in the soil, surrounding vining/climbing cover crop plants can support their own growth by working their way up to reach sunlight thereby providing the structure they need to grow. Because sunflowers can add significant biomass production in just a short growing season, they can also serve as additional forage or silage for livestock feed.
When is the right time to plant? Compare the germination temperature listed below to your soil temperature. Read this article for more info: When Can I Start Planting?
|Maturity (Days)||Seeds/lb||C/N at Maturity||Growth Habit||Root Type/Depth||Cold Kill (F)||Dry Matter Potential(Tons/acre)|
|90 - 110||8000||High||Upright||Deep Taproot||28||2 - 3|
|Use and Characteristics|
|N Fix Potential||Lasting Residue||Palatability||Hay Harvest||Regrowth||Deep Compaction||Surface Compaction||Weed Suppression||Crimp Kill|
|Fair||Very Good||Poor||Poor||Excellent||Very Good||Good||Easy|
|Plant Depth||Min Germ Temp(F)||Drilled Seed Rate (lbs/acre)||Broadcast Seed Rate (lb/acre)|
|1 - 2"||39||8 - 12||15 - 25|
|Heat||Drought||Shade||Wet Soil||Low Fertility||Low pH Soil||High pH Salinity||High pH Calcareous|
|Very Good||Good||Poor||Poor||Good||Good||Good||Very Good|