I have too many sunflower photos for one post so I split them up into yesterday’s post and this one.
Do you see the flowering sunflowers in the center of the photo? If you count 10 rows to each side you’ll see (barely) that every 10th and 11th row there are flowers in bloom. The field was planted with two varieties of sunflowers, a smaller one that bloomed earlier and the larger variety. The following is from Wikipedia:
“Typically, sunflowers tend to be self sterile. But for a sunflower to produce seeds, it needs pollen from a different sunflower. This is also known as cross-breeding, or in this case, cross-pollination. Occasionally, a sunflower can self-pollinate. Self-pollination produces an inbred line which, when bred with a separate inbred line, will result in a hybrid flower.”
This is two of the shorter rows in full bloom. The taller sunflowers are also blooming. I assume that these are two varieties that (with probably a male-sterile flower on the larger plants) produce a hybrid seed. At harvest time I talked to a representative of the buyer who was out in the field and she said that this was a seed crop that was going to Europe to be planted for oil production.
Sunflowers typically follow the sun, but when they get large the heads don’t move anymore. This was the view from my house –all the flowers facing east. If I wanted to see the pretty faces I had to walk around the field. Do you want to know more about this? Here is an article from the New York Times that explains why and how the sunflowers move to face the sun. This is an excerpt from it:
“The answer was in their stems. Like those of other plants, the stems of young sunflowers grow more at night — but only on their west side, which is what allows their heads to bend eastward. During the day, the stems’ east side grows, and they bend west with the sun. Dr. Atamian collected samples of the opposite sides of stems from sunflowers periodically, and found that different genes, related to light detection and growth, appeared active on opposite sides of the stems.”
Isn’t that amazing? And isn’t it cool that there is so much to be learned about the seemingly most mundane things in our world? I’m all for promoting science to explore ideas and not just to solve a problem. But I digress…
You saw bees on the sunflowers in the previous post.
Here they are at their hives. Hives were placed all around the field.
Here is another interesting article–this one about the bees that pollinate sunflowers. “In sunflower hybrid seed production, pollen from a male row of sunflowers must be moved by bees to a female (male-sterile) row. Growers typically use honey bees to accomplish this task. However, most honey bee workers specialize as either nectar or pollen foragers. Nectar foragers tend primarily to visit female rows, while pollen foragers visit male rows. If few bees cross between rows, growers can experience poor seed-set.” The article goes on to say that native bees collect both pollen and nectar and by chasing the honeybees from row to row they make the whole process more efficient in terms of getting the 100% pollination. Therefore growers should encourage native bee populations.
The photos above were all taken in June.
By mid-July the heads were drooping and the two rows of smaller plants were cut. The sole purpose of those sunflowers was to provide half of the genetics of the hybrid seed to be harvested from the larger plants.
The seed was ready to harvest in mid-August.
The harvester drove through the field, cutting the plants,…
…sorting out the waste,…
…and periodically dumping the seed into a waiting truck.
But the job isn’t over. While plants were being harvested in one part of the field the other part was being disked.
A month later the field is still being prepped to get ready for next year’s crop–tomatoes.