Sunflowers and cover crops serve dual purpose
Svitak Hay Farms of Lincolnville tried something new this year. They planted sunflowers into a cover crop of turnips and several other plants.
The sunflowers were harvested this past week using special pans bolted onto the front of the combine to catch the stalks and feed them into the machine.
The black, high-oil seeds are being stored in bins and will later be shipped to Lamar, Colorado, to be processed into sunflower oil.
Cattle will be turned into the cover crop to provide winter grazing. They will eat the green plants, then eat the turnip bulbs out of the ground.
Shane Svitak was harvesting, on Monday, an 80-acre field of sunflowers west of Lincolnville. He said they had 450 acres altogether and were planning to winter two groups of cows on the cover crops.
He was pleased with how their experiment turned out. Competing with cover crops for moisture during a summer dry spell, the sunflower heads were a little smaller but still yielded well, and fall rains stimulated the growth of the cover crops, which are lush and green.
“As dry as it was, I was pretty impressed with what we got,” Svitak said. “We got decent flowers and decent grazing.”
One group of cows that are grazing a field planted to cover crops alone will be rotated to a wheat pasture adjacent to a harvested sunflower field.
“Our goal is to have winter grazing as long as possible,” Svitak said. “It also builds up the soil.”
Last modified Nov. 8, 2017