Sunflowers Introduced as ‘Flower Power’ Energy Source

November 2012

Leading energy crop specialist, KWS UK has introduced a sunflower for use on field margins that can be ensiled alongside maize grown for biogas.

The move comes on the back of major on farm investment in anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in the UK, most of which are powered by purpose bred high DM maize hybrids.

“With around 4,000 ha of maize now grown for this purpose, often in areas where maize has not been commonplace in the past, sunflowers are a visually appealing addition to field margins,” says KWS biogas specialist, John Burgess.

“Helawin is a strong growing sunflower which can be harvested and ensiled at the same time as the maize, adding to the bulk in the biogas plant, and maximising yield across the cropped area,” he points out.

“We see it also being used in areas adjoining roads and footpaths as well as field margins or corners and have selected Helawin for its good early vigour for late spring or early summer planting and its relatively early maturity.”

KWS recommends planting of Helawin from the end of April when soil temperatures reach 12 - 15C and a seed rate of 70,000 seeds/ha at a row width: 40–75cm. The sunflower is supplied in 1ha packs.

“With biogas producers likely to plant almost 10,000ha of maize next year in rotation with a growing area of energy beet and rye crops, sunflowers can be a visually appealing addition to this burgeoning biogas crop landscape,” he says.