The potential of sunflower as a crop for ensilage and zero-grazing in northern Britain

F. Harper, Elizabeth Donaldson, Annie R. Henderson, R. A. Edwards

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The growth, development, chemical composition and nutritive value of sunflower (cv. Fransol), was examined from the flower-bud (12 July) to milky-ripe seed (late September) stages. Dry-matter yield increased from 2-1 to 14-1 t/ha over the period. Dry-matter content was low (100-110 g/kg) up to flowering, early in August, and then increased to 193 g/kg. Crude protein content declined after flowering and ether extract values were low throughout the period. Organic-matter digestibility in vitro and derived metabolizable energy values declined rapidly with the onset of flowering. Gross energy values, calculated from the proximate constituents, increased to 17-6 MJ/kg d.m. at the end of the period. Calcium to phosphorus ratios varied from 5-6 to 7-4:1.Sunflower was cut and fed to eight Friesian heifers over 3 weeks from the onset of flowering. Average daily d.m. intake was 63-5 g/kg W0.76 and the organic-matter digestibility was 0-684. Average live-weight gain was 0-79 kg/day. Fresh sunflower was successfully ensiled without an additive 2 weeks after flowering and the silage (pH 4-0) was fed to three cross-bred wethers in a feeding trial. The organic -matter digestibility was 0-649, the metabolizable energy 80 MJ/kg d.m. and the average d.m. intake 67-3 g/kg W0'76. In a metabolism trial, with four fistulated sheep, the organic-matter digestibility was 0-718, the metabolizable energy 9-4 MJ/kg d.m. and the d.m. intake 43-1 g/kg W076. Rumen pH decreased and total volatile fatty acid concentration increased markedly within 2 h of feeding the silage. Molar proportions of acetic and propionic acid (0-539 and 0-381), 1 h after feeding, were typical of cereal-based diets. Ammonia-nitrogen concentration increased to a maximum of 216 mg/1 within 2 h of feeding. The good yield and animal performance from fresh sunflower make it a possible annual crop for zero-grazing in late summer in northern Britain. Satisfactory results from feeding sunflower silage suggest that the crop has potential for ensilage if the problem of effluent can be overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Agricultural Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPrint publication - Feb 1981


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