Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use sunflowers as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: midwestcovercrops.org/selector-tool/.
- Rough, hairy stems
- Alternate leaves that are egg-shaped to triangular
- Leaves with a smooth or toothed edge
- Yellow, pleated flower petals and a brown-black central disk
- Summer annual
- Minimum germination temperature: 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reliable establishment window (state average): May 20–Sept. 6
- Upright growth habit: 2–10 feet
- Preferred soil pH: 6.0–7.5
|Low fertility tolerance||Good|
- Drilled at 1–1½ inches
- In a mix: 2–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)
- Broadcast with shallow incorporation
- In a mix: 3–5 lb./acre (pure live seed)
- Broadcast without incorporation is not recommended
Additional planting information:
- 7,500 seeds per lb.
- Increase seeding rate when planting on slopes.
- Sunflower is best when used in a mix.
- This is a species that adds biodiversity and is good for beneficial insects.
Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools: efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/#/state/OH/documents/section=4&folder=-6.
- Dry matter = 1,000–5,000 lb. per acre, per year
- Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.
Additional performance information:
- Sunflower has consistent performance from year to year.
- Its vertical structure and very edible forage with seed production is well suited for grazing and wildlife.
- The taproot of sunflower reaches deep to improve soil structure.
- It is a minor host for root lesion nematode that attack corn and wheat (Pratylenchus. neglectus).
|Nitrogen scavenger||Very good|
|Quick growth||Very good|
|Lasting residue||Very good|
|Grain seed harvest||Very good|
- If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
Additional termination information:
- Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Delayed emergence: occasionally a minor problem
Increased weed potential: occasionally a minor problem
Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem
Establishment challenges: occasionally a minor problem
Mature incorporation challenges: occasionally a minor problem
This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool (midwestcovercrops.org/selector-tool/). It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at midwestcovercrops.org/statesprovince/ohio/.
The Midwest Cover Crops Council (midwestcovercrops.org) aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.
Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.