The UKs first Sunflower marketing pool

We are now promoting the UK’s first ever Sunflower Crop Marketing Pool as interest in the sunshine crop continues to grow, and to give our growers an additional low input option for spring planting. On average 60,000 tonnes of sunflower seed is imported into the UK each year to be used for the bird food market and with demand set to increase (last year by 25%) and climates changing, we are pleased to offer a new option for many growers across the UK.


Seed & Yield

Seed for the new marketing pool will be ES Bella from Grainseed which has a proven track record and is the top-selling Ultra Early variety in Europe. In UK trials Bella has performed consistently well, with good standing ability, disease resistance and high dry matter yield. While there are reports of yield potential reaching 4t/ha for UK grown sunflowers, growers should typically expect yields of 1.6 – 3t/ha.

Download the ES Bella information sheet.


Support for Sunflowers

Neil Groom General Manager at Grainseed he said: “It’s good to see United Oilseeds providing growers with additional break crop opportunities. We’ve been selling grain sunflower seed for many years and we’ve been watching the potential growing area in the UK increase year on year. Not only is the climate providing opportunities for growing sunflowers further North, but as farming practices evolve, this too supports the case.

United Oilseeds Managing Director James Warner commented: "As break crop specialists, it feels right that we should be pushing the sunflower conversation forward, and what better way to do that than by getting the ball rolling with the UKs first ever sunflower marketing pool.”


Quick Guide to Growing Sunflowers

  • Historically sunflowers can be successfully produced south of a line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel but this area has now expanded northwards. 
  • Grown on any soil type. Optimum pH is 6.5 to 7.5.
  • Drilled at a depth of 3 to 5cms from the 10th of April onwards depending on frost and wet conditions but with consistent 7° C soil temperature
  • Sunflowers are sown at 110.000 seeds/hectare or 120,000 seeds/ha on heavier clay soils to achieve a population of 100,000 plants/ha on a 25 - 45cm row width.
  • Sunflowers should not be grown on a closer than 1 in 4 years rotation to prevent disease (such as Sclerotinia) build up in the soil. Do not follow sunflowers with potatoes.
  • Sunflowers are a low input crop. Being drilled in April allows weeds such as black-grass to be controlled by a stale seed bed with glyphosate.  A pre-emergent herbicide containing pendimethalin (stomp) is used for early weed control but later in the season if weeds germinate they  then die as the crop closes in and prevents sunlight getting through.
  • Average yields in the UK are between 1  and 2 t/ha, with best results usually in hot dry years. A variety such as Bella reaches a height of 150 cms tall and it has good standing power.
  • The flower head should be around 10cms across, and the canopy should close over to shut out sunlight.
  • Crop is desiccated when seed is at 15 to 30% moisture. The stem should be fully dead and no longer green or yellow. Harvest occurs, using a normal cereal combine with minor adjustments, normally in the first week of October.
  • Sunflower seeds dry out fast and can be dried on an air-drying floor down to 15% moisture, before drying with warm air down to 9% moisture.

If you've decided to grow sunflowers or you are thinking about giving it a go, why not download the full sunflower growing guide.


Rape seed illustration


Contact us today on 01380 732308 for a seed quote, to discuss your seed requirements or for some help & advice.

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