Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunflower Valley

I did not know we were at the world center of sunflower growing, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, and how cool is that!

Sunflower seeds are the primary food we feed the wild birds and squirrels that visit us daily, so it is nice to know there is an endless supply close by.

An excerpt.

“Maine has blueberries. Iowa has corn. Midsummer in the Sacramento Valley arrives with a splash of gold across the valley floor.

“Sunflowers are in bloom.

"It's just a sea of yellow out there," said Ken Scarlett, president of Woodland-based Eureka Seeds. "They're beautiful."

“Scarlett stood on the edge of a 100-acre field of sunflowers south of UC Davis' Mondavi Center, along Interstate 80.

“The sun was setting toward the Vaca Mountains, and the Delta breeze stirred the green stalks. The flowers, taller than a man, all faced east.

“Earlier in their life cycles, they would have turned in unison to face the sun as it traveled through the sky, a trait known as heliotropism that is particularly associated with sunflowers.

“Thousands of bees swarmed around the foot-wide blossoms in a pollinating frenzy. They carried pollen from the male flowers to stigmas in the females, which produce seeds.

“After their job is done, the male flowers are plowed under.

“Adults find the huge golden blooms uplifting. Children draw them to depict the sun.

"Everyone likes the look of the sunflower," Scarlett said.

“The Sacramento region is the world's center of sunflower seed production. It's at least a $50 million crop in this area, Scarlett said.

“Dry summers, good soils and a relative lack of pests and diseases create ideal conditions, experts said.

“About 40,000 acres across the Sacramento region – mainly in Yolo, Solano, Colusa and Sutter counties – are planted in sunflowers, Scarlett said.

“Virtually all the sunflowers in this area are grown for their seeds.”