Sea of Sunflowers

-A A +A

Sunflowers light up the countryside along road in western Mills County

By Joe Foreman, Editor

Take a drive down 182nd Street, a few miles south from Allis Road, and you can’t miss it.

Tucked away in the Missouri River valley of western Mills County stands a spectacular field of bright yellow sunflowers. On a sunny summer morning, the 10-acre patch lights up the rolling countryside surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans.

The sunflower field is on federal land managed on contract by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“This is the second successful year for the sunflowers,” DNR Natural Resources Technician Jonathan Ross said. “We tried establishing it a couple other times, but it got flooded.”

The sunflowers were planted at the location with a purpose in mind, Ross said.

“What we typically try to do is plant sunflowers specifically for the mourning doves,” he said. “But, a lot of what we see in the field are local birds.”

Iowa has one of the largest mourning dove populations in North America, Ross noted. It’s a popular game bird, hunted for sport and meat.

The sunflowers planted in the Mills County field are of the commercial black oil seed variety, commonly used in the production of bird seed. The plants aren’t as tall as some of the ornamental varieties often seen in domestic gardens.

Ross said the DNR manages three fields on the site and crops are rotated around. Next year, the sunflowers will likely be replaced with wheat. Sunflowers will be planted in one of the other nearby fields managed by the DNR.

“Usually, it’s two years of sunflowers and then a year or two of wheat or something else,” Ross said.

As of last week, most of the plants in the sunflower field were in full bloom, creating a colorful scene.