Sunflower crop earliest for more than a decade after heatwave

The flowers are in bloom at Vine House Farm near Spalding in Lincolnshire about two weeks early. Credit: PA

A Lincolnshire farm has reported its earliest sunflower crop in more than a decade after this month's extreme temperatures.

The bright yellow blooms are in colour two weeks earlier than usual at Vine House Farm near Spalding, which grows the flowers for seeds which are used in bird feed.

Sunflowers fill 100 acres of fields at the farm, the equivalent of 50 football pitches, with an estimated 12 million heads.

A provisional UK temperature record of 40.3C was set in Coningsby in Lincolnshire earlier this month.

Lucy Taylor, manager at the family farm, said the recent sunshine and high temperatures had been “perhaps more akin to the south of France than the Midlands."

Ralph Taylor, three, amongst the crop of sunflowers at Vine House Farm. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Ms Taylor said the sunflower crop was about two weeks early this year.

“The last time we’ll have seen something like this I can’t really remember, probably 15 years ago or something like that,” she said.

“It’s a once in 20 years sort of occasion, a fortnight early.”

Honey bees pollinating the sunflowers. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

She said the dry conditions “won’t have detrimentally affected” the plants, which have a tap root that grows deep into the soil to search for moisture.

“They like the hot weather because we’re one of the most northern areas to grow sunflowers,” said Ms Taylor.

“The warmer it is the better.”

She said the prolonged period of warm and dry weather also helped the sunflowers to germinate faster than usual, potentially saving a greater number of them from pecking pigeons.

The sunflowers have bloomed two weeks early following the recent heatwave. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

“The pigeons like them when they’re just popping up through the soil,” said Ms Taylor.

“Because it was such lovely weather when we drilled them, they popped out of the soil really quickly and perhaps caught the pigeons unguarded so to speak, so they weren’t on the crop like they normally would be.

“That’s meant we’ve probably got a thicker crop than what we normally would have because of the fantastic growing conditions from the word go.”

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