Serving the Farming Industry across the Midlands for 35 Years
Sunflowers offer UK farmers an untapped opportunity to supply a growing market this season – and avoid high input costs. ‘Golden opportunity’to grow UK sunflowers

Sunflowers offer UK farmers an untapped opportunity to supply a growing market this season – and avoid high input costs.

Suffolk seed merchant Grainseed reports significant interest in sunflowers due in part to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. Both countries are major growers of the crop but production has fallen.

In a normal year, Russia would produce about 16.5m tonnes of sunflowers, with Ukraine accounting for 10m tonnes. But conflict between the two countries has limited both production and processing capabilities.

Demand could support 40,000ha of sunflowers in the UK – but so far only 300ha are currently grown here. “With climate change and increasing temperatures, the area will undoubtedly expand,” says Grainseed seed specialist Angus Fox.

“Sunflowers can be successfully produced south of a line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel but now there are more favourable areas to the north and west which can be considered too,” explains Mr Fox.

The best-selling sunflower variety in Europe is Grainseed’s Es Bella – with more seed available for 2023. The crop typically yields about 2.3t/ha in the EU but UK growers should expect to achieve about 1.6-3t/ha.

Even at this reduced level, the crop is profitable, says Mr Fox.


“With climate change we can produce good yields of good quality sunflower seed for the bird seed market. Of [all the] spring crops, sunflowers are an attractive crop for UK growers in terms of profitability.”

Bella is an early maturing sunflower variety with a high oil content of 48-50%. It has performed consistently well in trials and commercially in England, with good standing ability, disease resistance and high dry matter yield.

Nicholas Watts, of Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire, is one of the UK’s longest established sunflower growers. He planted his first crop in 1988 and grows about 40ha annually for bird seed sold to the public.

Mr Watts started growing sunflower seed to help improve wild bird populations. “As a farmer, I was able to do something about it,” he says. His advice is simply to “get the crop established – there are no short cuts.”

Agronomist and farmer Brian Fletcher has a wealth of experience of growing sunflowers and oilseed rape. “It is important to get the crop off well,” he says, and doing so will pay dividends at harvest.

“There are quite a few similarities between these two crops, but it is always attention to detail in all aspects of growing – particularly in establishment – that sets the tone for a good crop,” he explains.