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Sunflowers as cover crop?

farmerjesse
Tue, 19 May 2020 10:09:11 GMT

Has anyone tried this? I have seen sunflowers recommended in cover crop mixes––and obviously sunflowers are great for pollinators and soil––but I also know sunflowers have some intense root balls. Thoughts? Maybe as a late summer winter kill option?

buddingmoonfarm
Tue, 19 May 2020 12:13:23 GMT

I interplanet sunflowers with cucuberits. They do have huge root balls that don’t break down even after a long, cold winter. So, I either remove them to direct seed or leave them in if I am transplanting widely spaced plants. The soil around them is beautiful the next year and filled with worms. I also plant them as a mineral accumulator, but do not have soil test data to back that up.

David Blanchard
Tue, 19 May 2020 12:17:59 GMT

I love sunflowers as a cover crop, for insect forage, soil building, and aesthetics. Yes, they have a lot of roots - but the roots are arguably the most valuable part of a cover crop! The key is to fit the sunflowers into the right slot in the rotation. Clearly, immediately preceding a small-seeded crop that needs a decent seedbed is not the right slot. We tend to use sunflowers as part of a year- long cover crop that includes annual ryegrass and several kinds of clover. The sunflowers die in the fall and by the time we need the bed next spring the roots aren't much of an issue.

farmerjesse
Wed, 20 May 2020 08:57:53 GMT

Awesome thanks, y'all!