Plants and Politics

Acres Of Sunshine

A ray of light and enlightenment from Flora: Four years ago, looking for a less costly product alternative to the soybean/corn grind, Dave Burt decided to try his luck with sunflowers, plants far better suited to his lean, mean soil.

Today, bird seed is his most lucrative crop.

Though demand and storage issues prevent him from expanding his sunflower operation, the man's poised to make some radical changes. That's a whole 'nother story but I daresay a remarkable one that fills this reporter with grade A sunshine.

To be continued...

sunflower fields

Greetings from Flora, Illinois! photo credit: Dave Burt hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Dave Burt



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How beautiful! It reminds me of a scene from Provence or Tuscany. I'm so happy to hear that our American farmers are finding new ways to grow their home business.

Sent by Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden blog) | 10:18 AM | 9-26-2008

It must be amazing standing in that field of sunflowers. Thanks for the great picture.

Sent by Sondra | 2:00 PM | 9-26-2008

Oh, I first got that you were speaking from Flora, meaning the life source / web of conciousness / daughter of the great Mother - you know, Flora the entity.


I think I'll keep it that way in my head. Something to carry with me today. : )

Sent by Sarah in VA | 10:37 AM | 9-27-2008

Cute picture! Now speaking of pictures, GardenRant readers want to see more of your garden, so how about it? I subscribe to Talking Plants, so I'll be on the look-out. Susan

Sent by Susan Harris | 9:12 PM | 9-27-2008

What's the difference between corn, beans, or sunflowers? All row crops w/ chemicals.

Sent by Jan Nielsen | 10:10 PM | 9-27-2008

I'll tell you what the difference is. Sunflowers are non-GMO and demand infinitely less fertilizer. It's a start.

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 1:00 AM | 9-28-2008

This is a good and very current article that highlights the decision process of a working farmer that lead to his planting sunflower as a crop after concluding that he needed an alternative to corn in his circumstances.

And this:

is a nice overview of sunflower related info.

Sent by burro | 1:38 PM | 9-28-2008

interesting, I will be looking for the next installment...
and yeah, GardenRant readers do want more pics of your own garden! looks like excellent inspiration from the teaser photos over there.

Sent by ann | 2:39 PM | 9-28-2008

Ketzel, High yielding sunflowers extract alot of their nutrition from deeper subsoil The higher the yields, the more uptake of nutrients. Like corn, you need to replace what they extract, or you'll be back to low fertility levels and poor soil.

Sunflowers do not add much organic matter to the soil as their residue is basically 0. Sunflowers can cause problems on highly erodible soils during heavy winter rain following freeze.

Insect and disease pressure can be a problem as well. Sunflowers should not be planted except 1 in 4 years of a rotation with other crops and shouldn't be planted after soybeans.

Unless you have excellent subsoil water level recharges in the winter, you will find sunflowers will extract moisture from as deep as 9' during the growing season, and can dry the subsoil to the point the next crop will suffer.

They will make soil very mellow, and can break up deep clay soils and improve tilth.

Continous 5 year corn on our farm has raised organic matter from 1.4 to 4% on my clay soils by working in the residue from the stalks.

Sunflowers are a high maintenance crop in terms of harvest and storage, something most growers aren't willing to deal with.

Sent by Dave B | 10:50 PM | 9-28-2008

Delighted you checked in with us Flora's own Dave Burt!

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 1:42 AM | 9-29-2008

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