10 Reasons Why Farmers Grow Sunflowers

When you pass a lovely yellow field of sunflowers, you might wonder about the usefulness of the bright, vibrant plant. Sure, some people grow sunflowers because they’re simply a beautiful sight to behold, but that isn’t the only reason. In fact, farmers choose to grow sunflowers for a wide array of reasons. 

Farmers may choose to grow sunflowers because they can sell their flowers or seeds. Sunflowers also attract bees, lure birds away from other crops, and act as a barrier against the wind. Overall, sunflowers can be very beneficial for surrounding crops while also providing some aesthetic appeal. 

Let’s get into more detail about why farmers grow sunflowers and the benefits they provide. 

1. Producing Sunflower Seeds

One of the biggest benefits of growing sunflowers getting to keep their seeds. Not only are they a good food source, but they can make excellent-quality oil as well. Farmers may choose to sell sunflowers seeds they grow, or they may choose to keep the seeds for themselves and process them further. Either way, having a nice supply of sunflower seeds available can be a huge benefit. 

Sunflowers seeds are a very popular and versatile snack. You can eat them as they are or add them to other recipes. Studies also link sunflower seeds to many health benefits, like lowering your heart disease and high blood pressure risk. They can also boost your energy and help you maintain a healthy immune system. Both of these are vital for those working on a farm all day. 

Another important use for sunflowers seeds is that farmers can press them into sunflower oil. People use this oil in many different forms, and just like sunflower seeds, it has many benefits. It works well as a cooking oil due to its high smoke point and low saturated fat content. You can also use it for medicinal purposes. 

Therefore, with the health benefits and popularity of sunflower seeds and oil in mind, it comes as no surprise that some farmers choose to grow these plants. However, this is far from the only reason behind a farmer’s choice to grow sunflowers, as they don’t always produce seeds

In fact, there are a few reasons that might cause your sunflowers to not have any seeds at all. Still, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow sunflowers. So, let’s talk about some other reasons farmers grow sunflowers.

2. Selling the Flowers

If their sunflowers don’t have seeds for some reason, farmers may sell the sunflowers themselves instead. In this case, farmers may choose to sell sunflowers right from their property. This is especially common for those who live along a busy road. 

Alternatively, farmers may choose to sell their sunflowers to local florists in the area. This is a great way for farmers to make some extra money off sunflowers with no seeds, and it can also help local florists. Selling to a local florist is a great way to cut costs and help out a small business. 

While this may not be the most popular reason why farmers grow sunflowers, it’s an important alternative to consider. Not many crops give you the option to still sell them if something goes wrong along the growth process. With sunflowers, farmers are guaranteed at least a small profit. 

3. Cleansing the Soil

One of the best benefits of planting sunflowers is their ability to absorb toxic metals from the soil. This makes them ideal for planting near other crops, in undisturbed soil, and before planting a new crop in place. If a farmer has contaminated soil on their farm, they can plant sunflowers to absorb those metals and make the soil safer for future crops. 

Sunflowers are unique because their absorption of those toxic metals from the soil does not affect them. Sunflowers are resistant to those same metals they pull from the ground. This means that not only will they cleanse the soil, but they will continue to grow strong. 

Because sunflowers are able to absorb these metals while remaining resistant, the harmful metals in the soil do not affect the seeds. Farmers can enjoy cleaner soil while still reaping the benefits of growing sunflowers to sell their seeds or flowers. 

4. Attracting Bees

Another reason why farmers may choose to grow sunflowers is that they attract bees. Bees just can’t resist those beautiful yellow flowers, and they are far more likely to come from far away when they see a sunflower rather than just ordinary crops. 

The color of the sunflower petals is not the only reason that bees flock toward them. While the yellow color catches their attention, bees truly come for sunflowers because of the food they provide. The center of a sunflower consists of many florets. These florets contain nectar and pollen, which make them a great food source for bees to consume. 

So, once bees notice sunflowers, they will come to feast and often bring large groups of other bees with them. Bees are very social. So, they will most likely bring lots of friends along with them once they find the farmer’s sunflowers. 

Bees are very important for the overall health and growth of certain crops. They pollinate apples, pumpkins, squash, and broccoli, just to name a few crops. Farmers often rely on bees to keep many of their crops growing healthy. Sunflowers can help attract more bees to speed up and overall increase the growth of other crops through pollination. 

Attracting bees to crops that need pollination is absolutely crucial, especially in recent years. With scientists noting a decrease in the bee population, it can be more difficult for those crops that require pollination to grow fully. So, farmers are now looking for alternative methods to draw bees to their crops. 

While there are many reasons to grow sunflowers, drawing in more bees is something that directly affects all other crops on the farm. Farmers need bees to have a successful crop every year. With their population declining, sunflowers are becoming more vital for farmers everywhere. 

5. Creating a Wind Barrier

While they look beautiful and elegant, sunflowers have very strong stems. This means that they can withstand a lot of wind without breaking or dying. Because of this strength and wind resistance, farmers commonly use sunflowers to help combat the wind. 

Wind can be a major factor when it comes to crop destruction. Strong winds can break or bend tall crops. Not only is this a nuisance for farmers, but it can also mean that the crops won’t grow as they should. That’s why in high-wind areas, you may notice farmers using sunflowers to surround their other crops. This is to prevent the wind from harming more delicate crops. 

Now that we know how sunflowers can help combat strong winds let’s talk more about why wind can be such a major issue for crops. Constant wind can negatively affect crops even if it’s not very strong. Remember, some wind is good as it can help with pollination and allow carbon to flow through crops. 

However, excess wind can make crops dry out faster. This means that farmers will need to take care to water their crops more often when strong winds are present. High winds can negatively impact pollination as flowers may blow away. 

If the farm is located near a coast, the wind can bring salt water through. Saltwater can often dry out certain plant species, which is why you’ll want to avoid it as much as possible. As you can see, the wind is not always a farmer’s friend. This is yet another reason why it’s so common to see sunflowers surrounding other crops. They block a good amount of wind without blocking neighboring plants entirely. 

6. Preparing the Soil for Other Plants

There’s more than one way in which sunflowers can improve soil quality. Sunflowers can grow very deep roots that penetrate even stubborn soil. While this makes them more likely to grow healthy and strong, it can also loosen the soil for future crops that farmers may place there. 

Sunflower roots usually go about three feet (0.9 m) deep, but some have gone up to five feet (1.5 m) deep. This deep root system can help prepare the soil for other crops that may not be able to extend their roots as easily. So, planting sunflowers is a great way for farmers to prepare the soil for the next crop they decide to plant there. 

Remember, sunflowers also clean the soil and remove toxic metals. This, combined with their ability to grow deep roots, make them a great plant for preparing the soil for future crops. So, you may see farmers plant sunflowers one year and plant something else in their place the following year. 

7. Providing Shade

Another major benefit of growing sunflowers is that they are very tall and provide a good amount of shade for nearby crops. The height of sunflowers varies greatly. Ordinary sunflowers will grow about 5-10 feet tall (1.5-3 m). Those on the smaller side may only grow about a foot (0.3 m) tall, while large sunflowers can grow up to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall. 

When it comes to farming, medium to large sunflowers are the most popular because they can provide a good amount of shade for other crops during the day. There are quite a few crops that can greatly benefit from partial shade during the day. 

Remember, sunflowers planted on one side of a crop will not provide a full day of shade. Instead, they will provide partial shade, which can be vital for crops to grow healthy and strong. Partial shade helps some crops live longer and can make them require less water as the sun won’t dry them out as much. 

Lettuce, squash, onions, corn, peppers, and basil are some of the most popular crops that benefit from partial shade. 

While each of these crops needs some sunlight to grow, too much sun can be a problem. While some farmers may choose to cover them for some of the days or even water them more often to make up for the sun’s drying effect, sunflowers can be a helpful alternative to both of these solutions. 

Not only will they protect the leaves and stalks from browning under the hot sun, but a tall sunflower will also shade the roots, allowing them to retain moisture throughout the summer. 

8. Controlling Birds

Birds can be a major nuisance for farmers who grow certain crops. Birds may come to the farm looking for food, and they can easily find it among the crops. This is especially relevant for fruits and vegetables as birds will rarely turn down the free meal. 

Eating the crops is not the only problem that birds can cause for farmers. They can also spread bacteria to certain crops, making them a health risk. Farmers will try their best to keep birds away from their growing crops, especially fruits and vegetables that are grown for consumption. 

However, the goal is to not keep birds away completely, as they can be beneficial too. Birds eat invasive insects that can keep crops from growing strong or even growing at all. They are a more natural option for getting rid of insects and other pests that can cause problems for farmers. 

That’s why farmers may choose to compromise. Instead of fighting hard to keep the birds away from their farm altogether, they may choose to plant sunflowers instead. Sunflowers attract birds due to their bright color and delicious seeds. If the farmer has no intention of selling or eating sunflower seeds, then these plants can be a great way to distract birds and prevent them from eating other crops.

Birds often can’t resist the appeal of sunflowers, given their color and the many seeds they produce. Farmers often use this to their advantage by giving the birds something to eat besides their fruits and vegetables. 

9. Suppressing Weed Growth

Sunflowers are bright and beautiful, but they can be a nightmare for weeds. Keeping weeds at bay is high on the priority list of any farmer, as they can cause quite a few problems. Weeds absorb important nutrients that crops need to grow healthy and strong. This can cause abnormalities in the growth of crops and, if worse comes to worst, kill the crops completely. 

Weed control is vital for any farmer or gardener who wants to take care of their plants. It can be even more difficult for farmers to manage the weed-removal process because weeds can hide well in tall crops. Rather than inspect their crops regularly for weeds, they may choose an alternative method to prevent them from growing in the first place. 

This is where sunflowers come in. They make for a great way to combat weed growth for multiple reasons. First, the height of sunflowers is a major advantage when it comes to weeds. Most weeds need sunlight to thrive in the soil. Since sunflowers produce a lot of shade due to their shape and height, this can prevent sunlight from reaching and feeding weeds. 

Secondly, sunflowers that have strong roots will absorb the nutrients that weeds need to grow and thrive. This is very similar to what weeds can do to crops and other plants. Once sunflowers grow, they can overpower most weeds nearby and use their nutrients to become even stronger. 

Finally, sunflower blooms give off toxins that can prevent other plants from growing nearby. While this isn’t much of a concern for crops, it can certainly be an issue for weeds. 

Even though they may not kill weeds, these toxins can certainly impede their growth and make them easier to kill in other ways. Therefore, it’s best to use sunflower growth as an extra measure along with other weed-removal techniques for the best results. 

10. Sunflowers Look Nice

Last but not least, farmers may choose to grow sunflowers simply because they’re pretty. While other crops are useful and provide food along with other important resources, some farmers may choose sunflowers simply because they add some gorgeous color to an otherwise plain green field. 

This may be the final reason, but that doesn’t make it insignificant. Sure, there are plenty of other reasons why sunflowers are beneficial for farms, but farmers take pride in how their land looks. Not only do they want their crops to grow healthy, but they want them to look healthy too. 

The aesthetic appeal of a plant is especially important for casual gardeners, who engage in the practice with the ultimate goal of adding some color and charm to their spaces. When you combine the one-of-a-kind look of sunflowers with the plethora of practical benefits they provide, it becomes even more clear why they’re so coveted among gardeners and farmers. 

So, if you’re considering sunflowers for your farm or garden, make sure to consider the benefits above. You’ll soon reap the benefits of healthy crops and as many sunflower seeds as you can eat.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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