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 workshops at UQ Gatton. Now in its 20th 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

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
  • attend the Sunflower Activity Day at UQ Gatton to participate in agricultural activities and learn more about growing sunflowers
  • run our suggested experiments to see how certain growing conditions affect sunflower growth.

Key dates

  • UQ Sunflower Activity Day: 21 May
  • Sunflower Competition registration deadline: 28 June
  • Video submission deadline: 5pm, 8 October
  • Announcement of winners: week commencing 14 October

New competition format

We have updated the competition format to provide more flexibility for participation within school schedules.

What has changed?

  • Extended registrations: registrations are open until 28 June (if you plant after this date you won't have sufficient time to grow flowers by the deadline).
  • A rolling start: plant any time after you receive your seed pack.
  • Extended growing season: grow sunflowers when it suits your curriculum, remembering that to grow the biggest sunflowers they need plenty of light, heat and water. If a crop fails during the competition timeline, you can request new seeds.
  • Video submission of sunflower weigh-in: submit your video that records your highest yield by 5pm on 8 October.
  • New prizes: we're offering prizes for the heaviest yield in your state or territory in categories for Primary, Years 7-10 and Years 11-12. We will also award a prize for the Overall Grand Champion for the heaviest recorded yield.
  • Activity Day: replacing the traditional Weigh-in Day, a Sunflower Activity Day will be held at Gatton Campus on 21 May, where students can experience agricultural science in action.
  • Online experiments and tips: follow our scientific in-class sunflower experiments and see our expert tips, advice and answers to your frequently asked questions.

What stays the same?

  • You must grow your plants in a 14-litre pot.
  • Ensure your plant's roots don't come in contact with soil outside the pot.

Rules

Eligibility

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

We will award prizes for each state and territory in these categories:

  • Heaviest yield: primary
  • 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

Submit your video by 5pm on Tuesday, 8 October 2019.

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

Video submissions for all categories are due by 5pm on 8 October.

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).

Activity Day

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

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

  • a workshop where students can learn about the variables affecting sunflower growth and get advice from horticultural experts about their sunflowers
  • a selection of other agricultural activities.

Note: don't bring your sunflowers to campus - we recommend bringing photos of them if you want to ask specific questions about your plant.

Register for the 2019 event

Registrations for the 2019 UQ Sunflower Activity Day aren't open yet, but you can email your expression of interest to us.

Express your interest

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.

Registrations

Registrations are open for the 2019 UQ Sunflower Competition. They will close on 28 June.

Register

Experiments

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

View our experiments