Sowing sunflowers and maize species together was an idea adapted by dryland cover crop specialists Kiwi Seed, as a way to boost the resulting silage feed quality each year.

Boosting maize silage protein through drilling 25% of the block in sunflower seeds is an idea from the United States adapted by Kiwi Seed, and willingly tried by a farmer in Koromiko, Marlborough.

“No idea is crazy,” Kiwi Seed agronomist Maren Ricken said.

“Sunflower seed is way cheaper than maize, has high oil protein, the roots open up heavy soils and the flowers support beneficial insects,”

“Sunflowers also add diversity to a monoculture crop.”

A dairy farmer client in Koromiko took up the challenge. The resulting crude protein content in the sunflowers was about 30% higher than the maize (10.8% versus 7.1%) while dry matter was similar. The addition of sunflowers did not alter the total yield significantly. Maize silage yield average for New Zealand in 2019 was 21.3 tonnes of drymatter per hectare.

The block was split sown, with sunflower seed put in the outside two sowing buckets on the maize sower. As the drill turned and came back, the sunflower lines were side by side, giving the space for the sunlight they need. Sunflowers made up 25% of the area.