Home > QLD sunflower competition draws record-beating entries

QLD sunflower competition draws record-beating entries

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article image Downlands students Bonnie McLellan, Amy Wilson and Nicholas Darrow helped grow a 2.65m tall sunflower
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This year’s University of Queensland Sunflower Competition drew heavyweight entries with high school students from across the country entering some of the best specimens seen in the competition’s 15-year history.

Brisbane’s Mueller College took out the Overall Heaviest Grand Champion at the weigh-in day at UQ Gatton last week, tipping the scales at 4.455kg, and beating the previous record of 3.82kg set last year by Toowoomba’s Downlands College.

Downlands students did not go home empty handed however, winning the Tallest Sunflower Prize with a plant measuring 2.65m.

Downlands agricultural science teacher Dr Jeff Buchanan said he knew their entry would be up there in weight, but the students faced planting window obstacles and stronger competition.

Mr Buchanan said as sunflowers are not typically grown in autumn, his year 9 and 10 students attempted to replicate summer conditions with intricate light regimes in the school greenhouse, which when combined with a generous diet of fertiliser, led to the towering result.

The students equipped the greenhouse with heaters and extra light from 4pm to 10pm to replicate typical summer conditions of New South Wales and Queensland.

He said the students decided on a program of nutrients including nitrogen, potassium and sulphur, with a budget of 4kg of nitrogen per plant. The students applied one-third of the fertiliser straight up in a mix (N, K, S) and the remaining two-thirds went through as soluble form throughout the season.

The science teacher said while students gravitate towards animal husbandry programs at the college, plant science is important too, so the competition was a fun and interactive way for students to learn about agronomy.

Toowoomba had another win when Toowoomba SHS Wilsonton Campus took home the Most Ornamental Sunflower Prize.

In the Heaviest Sunflower Category, Years 8-10, Mueller College won first place with 4.455kg, Downlands College class 1 scored second with 3.871kg and Downlands College class 2 scooped third with 3.690kg.

In the Heaviest Sunflower Category, Years 11 & 12, Glasshouse Country Christian College took home all three places with plants weighing between 2.595kg and 2.928kg.

Corinda State High School and Mt Maria College won the two Encouragement Awards.

Each year, UQ supplies schools with a small quantity of Pacific Seeds hybrid sunflower seeds in January and planting kicks off from February 25, with harvest occurring three months later.

Over 77 schools participated in 2014 reaching over 2500 students in the classroom, with 13 schools and 230 students and teachers attending the event at UQ Gatton Campus.

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