First sunflower marketing pool created in the UK

29-01 | |
As a crop, sunflowers are a low input crop and a great break crop for replenishing soil health and structure. Photo: Canva
As a crop, sunflowers are a low input crop and a great break crop for replenishing soil health and structure. Photo: Canva

Break crop specialist United Oilseeds are promoting the UK’s first ever Sunflower Crop Marketing Pool as interest in the crop continues to grow, and to give growers an additional 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. Leading seed supplier Grainseed has confirmed that demand could support 40,000 ha of sunflowers in the UK. In fact, over the past year, they have seen a 25% increase in the area grown from 300 ha to 400 ha.

We have been thinking about sunflowers for a while now, with the subject coming up in conversations more frequently. As break crop specialists, it feels right that we should be pushing the conversation forward, and what better way to do that than by getting the ball rolling with the UK’s first ever sunflower marketing pool.

James Warner, United Oilseeds Managing Director

James Warner, United Oilseeds Managing Director said: “It’s important that we provide our members with new break crop opportunities, which is why we’ve always been a front runner in developing crop marketing pools. I think if you wind the clock back, it was the late United Oilseeds MD Richard Matthews who originally created the first ever OSR Marketing Pool, after persuading his then boss to purchase OSR from a group of Hampshire Growers and lorry it to Liverpool in 15 tonne trucks.”

Growing potential for Sunflowers as break crop

With tricky conditions for farmers over the winter, leading to uncertainty about what to plant in the spring, Sunflowers could be a tempting prospect as an alternative.

Speaking to Neil Groom General Manager at Suffolk-based 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.”

Low impact crop

As a crop, sunflowers are a low input crop and a great break crop for replenishing soil health and structure. Classed as an arable crop for SFI purposes growers can see additional returns of £45/ha under IPM4.

For growers wanting to join the UK’s first sunflower marketing pool

It will be on a produce of area contract, default free when contracted solely to United Oilseeds. Crop movement is at the buyers call at the end of harvest, with storage options also available. As with UOM OSR pools, growers will be able to draw down payments to suit their cash flow requirements and for those that are members, the sunflower crop will be included as a part of the redistribution of profits payments.

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. The ES Bella variety has a high oil content of between 48-50% and matures in 135-140 days. It boasts good standing ability, high dry matter yield and good disease resistance.

While sunflowers were traditionally grown south of the Wash to the Bristol Channel, there are now more favourable areas to the North and West where the crop can be successfully grown.

Tony McDougal Freelance Journalist
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