KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Sunflower fields in bloom

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — It is about that time of the year when sunflower blooms dot our Kansas fields. These annual plants, which can grow up to 14 feet tall, typically bloom in the Sunflower State from mid-August to the early part of September. The earliest uses of sunflowers were by Native Americans for food purposes through seeds and oil and for medicinal uses. Many of us enjoy food products and the photo opportunities the sunflowers provide before we officially transition into the fall season.

These plants bloom during this time of the year because they are planted in the spring. Soil temperatures in spring are just right. Soil temperatures have to be between 55° and 60° with the threat of frost past for the season. Unfortunately, if the spring season brings heavy rainfall that bleeds into the early summer, problems can develop with the seeds or roots experiencing rot, mildew or fungal diseases. Sunflower plants prefer moist soil that is well-drained but not oversaturated.

While sunflower plants thrive off plenty of sunlight, the heat that can build towards the end of the summer season can cause stress on these plants. In addition, any moisture in the soil will evaporate more quickly, leading farmers to water the fields more to make up for what is being lost to evaporation. As we approach the end of August and early September, temperatures sit well above average into the upper 90s and lower 100s.

Accompanying the heat will be a lack of measurable rainfall for many across Kansas. Moderate and severe drought conditions persist across northwest and central Kansas. Sunflower plants require several gallons of water per plant at least one time per week. However, if drought conditions are present, the frequency and amount of water will need to be increased.

If heat and a lack of rainfall are present, this could push up the timeline for when these flowers bloom and limit the time that the flowers look their best.

In Kansas, Sherman County, whose county seat is Goodland, produces the most sunflowers in the entire state. However, you will not have to travel all the way to northwest Kansas to see these blooms. Plenty of fields will bloom across the state, and some are already flowering across the state. A quick search will lead you to the closest field near you, but many look to be opening by the end of August if they are not already open for viewing. Once in bloom, sunflowers will look their best for about 7 to 14 days before they begin to droop. So, as you head out to enjoy these golden fields, be sure to stay hydrated and find ways to stay cool as we wrap up the month of August!

— Meteorologist Erika Paige

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