It's hard to keep the grin off your face when surrounded by sunflowers! Our Managing Director Ben Cole is all smiles in Steve Ford’s summer cover crop.
This crop was seeded in October last year, and after receiving 20mm of rain from a thunderstorm in November has powered through the hottest summer on record with no follow up rain. This shows that the soil is healthy and retaining moisture, despite the season being so hot and dry.
An example of one of the benefits of this relationship is that sunflowers can actually improve phosphorus availability in the soil! The fungi living on and around the roots of sunflower plants take mineral phosphorus (which plants can’t absorb) and transform it into a plant available phosphorus that plants can actually use to grow.
You can actually see this relationship on the roots of healthy plants with a good mycorrhizal association - it looks a bit like a head of dreadlocks, the way the extra soil clings to the fungi around the roots. The fungi essentially extends the reach of the plant’s roots, bringing up water and minerals from the subsoil layer.
Ben loves the sunflowers for another reason too - as a local beekeeper, they’re a great source of both nectar and pollen for his bees! He loves to admire the pollen on their legs after foraging on sunflowers - they are bright yellow and bold like a pair of 80’s leg warmers!