Sunflowers shoot up in Coalstoun Lakes

Coalstoun Lakes growers Peter and Lauren McNaughton are looking forward to their sunflower harvest


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Leah, Claire and Luke McNaughton (back) with their parents Peter and Lauren in their sunflower crop at Coalstoun Lakes. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher

Leah, Claire and Luke McNaughton (back) with their parents Peter and Lauren in their sunflower crop at Coalstoun Lakes. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher

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Find out why these sunflowers mean so much to this family and their community.

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FOR the first time in decades a new crop has shown its head in the traditionally peanut growing region of Coalstoun Lakes bringing plenty of sunshine to the small community. 

Local grower and cattle producer Peter McNaughton made the decision to incorporate sunflowers into his summer rotation instead of mungbeans and has been pleasantly surprised with the results.

The 30 hectares of the Aussie Gold 62 variety were planted on February 10 at 30,000 plants to the hectare having had 40mm over New Years and 70mm in early February. 

Another 101mm (four inches) since then has helped the plants rise with a commendable strike rate.

The McNaughtons with their sunflowers.

The McNaughtons with their sunflowers.

Mr McNaughton’s wife, Lauren, had been asking for sunflowers for almost 10 years before demand for the crop enticed him to take up the opportunity.

While sunflowers have been missing in the area since the mid 1980s, Mr McNaughton hopes his change of direction will bring above average yields and reach half a tonne to one tonne per hectare. 

The couple usually plant in early December but they were held back after running wheat straight into their mungbean stubble to feed off.

“It was starting to get a bit late for sorghum and the price was fluctuating a bit so I wasn’t sure,” he said.

“We planted mungbeans last year and we didn’t have too much success with them because it was so dry so we through we will just have a go growing sunnies.” 

The late plant coinciding with peanuts in the area being pulled has helped them avoid large bird pressures.

The sunflower success is yet another example of the diverse crops the red volcanic soil can grow as the Coalstoun Lakes growers continues to fight to see an irrigation pipeline brought to their region.

About 116,000 megalitres at Paradise Dam, about 30km away, remains unutilised with growers in the area wanting to maximum production from their fertile soil.  

pbAgrifood director Peter Bradie said black sunflowers were currently worth about $900/tonne delivered on the Darling Downs but could easily fluctuate based on supply and demand.

His said the majority of the blacks went into produce stores with some graded up for horse feed and bird seed.

“The last few years there has only been limited numbers of sunflowers planted...and it got to about $1100/tonne,” he said.

“I’ve had a couple of growers in the Riverina/New South Wales area which they don’t normally have them so there are a few patches around.” 

A special three acre paddock on the McNaughton’s property has been named Nate’s Paddock in honour of a friend’s baby boy who was stillborn in 2015.

All proceeds from the specific sunflower patch will go towards the Stillbirth Foundation while bunches of the flowers were sold successfully at their recent local markets.

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