Sunflower competition

Enter your students in the UQ Sunflower Competition and inspire them to become the next generation of plant and agricultural scientists.

The annual competition provides interactive learning opportunities through school-based experiments and an optional day of weigh ins and workshops at UQ Gatton. Now in its 21st year, it also supports teachers to deliver their science curriculum in a plant-based context.

If you can't find what you're looking for, email our UQ Sunflower Competition team at science.events@uq.edu.au.

Format and key dates

Latest COVID-19 advice: As a precautionary response to slow the rate of community transition of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), UQ has made a decision to cancel all University events unless they are critical to teaching or research. This includes student, academic and public events on and off campus until the end of June 2020.

Therefore, the Sunflower Activity Day in May 2020 has been cancelled. The rest of the competition will go ahead.

Get involved

Grow sunflowers at your school as part of the curriculum or as an extracurricular activity.

To get involved in the competition you can:

  • enter the ‘Heaviest Yield’ competition by submitting a video that shows you removing the sunflower head and weighing it on calibrated digital scales
  • cancelled: attend the Sunflower Day at UQ Gatton to submit your sunflower entry, participate in agricultural activities and learn more about growing sunflowers
  • run our suggested experiments to see how certain growing conditions affect sunflower growth.
  • participate in the online Q&A session with our sunflower experts.

Key dates

  • Registrations close: Extended to Monday 24 February 2020
  • Cancelled: UQ Sunflower Activity Day: Tuesday 19 May 2020
  • Video submission deadline: 5pm, Tuesday 6 October 2020
  • Announcement of winners: Saturday 24 October 2020

Competition format

Schools have three options on how they want to participate in the 2020 Sunflower Competition. We have a recommended planting week, 24-28 February 2020, during which we encourage schools to plant as sunflowers grow better in warmer weather and if planted then, the sunflower will be approximately fully grown for Sunflower Day.

  • Option 1: cancelled
    Schools plant during the recommended planting week between 24-28 February and bring their grown sunflowers to Sunflower Day on Tuesday 19 May for weigh in and schools have the option of staying the afternoon to participate in plant science activities.
  • Option 2
    Schools plant during the recommended planting week between 24-28 February and submit their entries online via video when their plants are fully grown.
  • Option 3
    If schools are unable to plant during this period, schools have the option of planting later on in the year and submit their entry online via video before Tuesday 6 October 2020.

Rules

Eligibility

The competition is open to all secondary school students in Australia.

We will award prizes for in each of these categories:

  • Heaviest yield: years 7-10
  • Heaviest yield: primary years 11-12

We will also award a prize for Overall Grand Champion for the heaviest recorded yield.

Seed kits and equipment

UQ will supply you with Sunbird 7 seeds (Pacific Seeds sunflower hybrid). You must plant this variety.

Note: the supplied seeds have been treated and are not fit for human consumption. Ensure students wash their hands after contact.

You can plant any time after you receive your seeds, remembering that sunflowers need plenty of light, heat and water to thrive. If a crop fails during the competition timeframe, you can request new seeds.

You will need to source the following equipment:

  • 14-litre pot
  • potting mix
  • fertiliser
  • protective mask
  • watering can.

Pots

Pots must be no larger than 14 litres in volume - we will disqualify entries grown in larger pots.

Ask your local garden supplier to recommend a standard 300mm, 14-litre pot.

Place your pot on an impervious surface such as concrete - don't place it directly on to soil.

Use a saucer to avoid your sunflower's roots escaping the pot.

Growing conditions

Teams and individual entrants can choose where and how to grow their plant within the limits of:

  • pot size
  • solid potting media
  • competition rules.

Teams and individual entrants can choose a watering and fertilising regime that they believe maximises growth.

Note: plants will perform best in full sun but you may wish to grow comparison plants in the shade for class interest.

Video submission

Please ensure your video submission is submitted by 5pm on Tuesday 6 October 2020.

Videos must be:

  • file type: MPG, MPEG, AVI, WMV, WAV or MOV (a smartphone-quality video will suffice)
  • less than 15MB
  • a maximum of 45 seconds
  • uncut and show the pot with a 30-centimetre ruler placed in front of it, then the sunflower head being removed and weighed on a set of calibrated digital scales.

Note: your video must show the plant in its original growing pot and soil medium.

While recording, clearly state the following: “This is the entry for <Group Name> from <School Name> from <State/Territory> in the year <Primary/7-10/11-12> category.”

Save the file name as the school, state, group and category (e.g. UQGatton_QLD_Class_8H_Year_7_10.mov)

This task offers a great opportunity for film and media students to help with video production.

Submit results

Please ensure your video submission is submitted by 5pm on Tuesday 6 October 2020.

Before you submit your entry, take note of the required steps below and watch our instructional video.

Submit your video entry

Submit your video via the CloudStor link below. 

Submit your video via CloudStor

If you have problems submitting your entry, email the UQ Sunflower Competition team at science.events@uq.edu.au.

How to record your heaviest yield

  1. Place a 30-centimetre ruler in front of your pot.
  2. Start filming with a shot of the pot and move up the stem to the flower.
  3. Film the removal of the head as per the instructional video on this page.
  4. Place the head of the flower on a set of calibrated digital scales with the screen clearly visible.
  5. While recording, clearly state the following: "This is the entry for <Group Name> from <School Name> from <State/Territory> in the year <Primary/7-10/11-12> category”.
  6. Save the file name with the school, state, group and category (e.g. UQGatton_QLD_Class_8H_Year_7_10.mov).

Note: your video must show the plant in its original growing pot and soil medium.

Watch our instructional video

Watch our example video that outlines how to record your entry (YouTube, 4m:50s).

Sunflower Day

Latest COVID-19 (coronavirus) advice: As a precautionary response to slow the rate of community transition of COVID-19, UQ has made a decision to cancel all University events unless they are critical to teaching or research. This includes student, academic and public events on and off campus until the end of June 2020.

Therefore, the Sunflower Activity Day in May 2020 has been cancelled. The rest of the competition will go ahead.

About Sunflower Day

Sunflower Day is an optional day of weigh ins and workshops offered as part of UQ's annual Sunflower Competition. 

Held at Gatton Campus in May, Sunflower Day introduces students to the Gatton campus and includes:

  • the opportunity to bring your school's sunflower entries to campus to be weighed by our sunflower experts
  • a workshop where students can learn about the variables affecting sunflower growth and get advice from horticultural experts about their sunflowers
  • lunch for attendees.

FAQs

What are the most important factors judges will consider

Judges will check if you have grown your plant:

  • in a 14-litre or smaller pot
  • in a solid medium (not in a hydroponic situation)
  • in the pot shown in your video submission.

They will also check that the roots haven't grown through the base of your pot.

Which parts of the plant are included in the weigh-in?

All parts of the plant above the cotyledonary node, including the flower head, all leaves and stem. The nodes are the parts of the stem where the leaves attach.

The cotyledonary node is first node produced by the seedling when it germinates and is where the cotyledons are. Cotyledons are the first two leaves to emerge after the sunflower seed germinates.

What is the best time for growing sunflowers?

Sunflowers can be planted all year round but they thrive best during warm summer conditions.

How many flowers or heads does a sunflower have?

The cultivated sunflower should only have one flower or head, although other cultivated and wild varieties are known to have multiple flowers.

Why are sunflowers grown commercially in Australia?

The sunflower is a major summer oilseed crop and consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of the various types of sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is light in taste and appearance. It is also popular because it is low in saturated fats and high in vitamin E. Sunflower seeds are very nutritious, boasting high levels of zinc, potassium and phosphorus.

Note: the supplied seeds for this competition have been treated and are not fit for human consumption. Ensure students wash their hands after contact.

Why is my sunflower not growing well?

Many variables contribute to strong sunflower growth.

Plants mature anywhere between 60 to 80 days. In the meantime, check:

  • where your pot is positioned
  • the pH level of your soil
  • your soil type
  • any drainage issues (plants should not be waterlogged)
  • how much you are watering - too much or too little?
  • fertiliser type and amount being administered.

My sunflower is getting quite tall, how can I support it?

Use a piece of bamboo to stake your plants.

Do any pests like sunflowers?

Yes - keep watch for birds, slugs and snails and be proactive with plants and diseases - treating for pests won't ruin your experiment. Try to check on your plants every day. If you see a problem developing, you can address it immediately.

Do sunflowers really face the sun?

In a certain stage of growth known as the budding stage, sunflowers face the sun, but they won't do this permanently.

Previous winners

2019 Overall ‘Heaviest Sunflower’ Grand Champion

  • Glasshouse Christian College - 960g

Heaviest Yield Years 11-12 QLD

  • 1st: Glasshouse Christian College - 632g
  • 2nd: Glasshouse Christian College - 541g
  • 3rd: Calamvale Community College - 110g

Heaviest Yield Years 7-10 QLD 

  • 1st: Glasshouse Christian College - 960g
  • 2nd: Glasshouse Christian College - 884g
  • 3rd: Glasshouse Christian College - 713g

Heaviest Yield Years 7-10 NSW

  • 1st: Armidale Secondary College - 77.85g
  • 2nd: Armidale Secondary College - 76.85g

Heaviest Yield - Primary School

  • 1st: Young Homeschool - 549g
  • 2nd: Young Homeschool - 542g
  • 3rd: Young Homeschool - 502g

2018 Overall ‘Heaviest Sunflower’ Grand Champion

  • Nanango State High School Years 11-12 - 2.97 kg

Heaviest Yield Years 7-10 (Gatton)

  • 1st Brisbane Adventist College - 806g
  • 2nd Nanango State High School - 803g
  • 3rd Brisbane Adventist College - 673g

Heaviest Yield Years 11-12 (Gatton)

  • 1st Nanango State High School - 925g
  • 2nd Glasshouse Christian College - 871g
  • 3rd Marymount College - 851g

Heaviest Yield Years 7-10 (Regional)

  • 1st Harristown State High School, Ag Science class - 941g
  • 2nd Atherton State High School - 561g
  • 3rd Redlands College - 535g

Heaviest Yield Years 11-12 (Regional)

  • 1st St Stephen’s College, Mareeba - 159g

2017 Overall ‘Heaviest Sunflower’ Grand Champion

  • Nanango State High School Years 7-10 - 3.463kg

Heaviest Sunflower Category Years 7 to 10

  • 1st Nanango State High School - 3.463kg
  • 2nd Glasshouse Christian College - 3.284kg
  • 3rd Nanango State High School - 3.122kg

Heaviest Sunflower Category Years 11 and 12

  • 1st Nanango State High School - 3.032kg                                
  • 2nd Nanango State High School - 2.579kg                
  • 3rd Laidley State High School - 2.056kg

2016 Overall ‘Heaviest Sunflower’ Grand Champion

  • Glasshouse Christian College - 2.023 kg

Heaviest Sunflower Category Years 7 to 10

  • 1st Glasshouse Christian College - 2.023kg
  • 2nd St Edmunds College - 1.957kg
  • 3rd Pittsworth State High School - 1.924kg

Heaviest Sunflower Category Years 11 and 12

  • 1st Marymount College - 1.871kg                                
  • 2nd Marymount College - 1.719kg                
  • 3rd Laidley State High School - 1.266kg

2021 registrations

If you are interested in participating in the program in 2021, please complete the EOI form. 

2021 Expression of Interest

Experiments

Follow our scientific experiments to learn how light, water, fertiliser and potting mix conditions affect sunflower growth.

View our experiments