Here comes the sun . . . Sunflowers growing near Weston, in North Otago. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Fields of sunflowers are brightening up rural North Otago once again.

Topflite’s sunflowers, grown by Rosedale Farming Co Ltd, have become an annual attraction in the Waitaki district, and they are about to hit their full height and golden glory.

Topflite general manager Greg Webster said the crops had developed slightly later than previous years, but were really ‘‘cranking’’ now.

‘‘They’ve been definitely enjoying the sunshine that we’ve had lately — and they’re looking good,’’ Mr Webster said.

The location of the sunflower crops changes each year, on rotation around Rosedale-owned land to prevent any diseases. Due to a growing demand for sunflower seeds, this year Topflite had to contract other farmers to help grow sunflowers on their land, and the company was looking for more farmers to add a crop to their property in future years.

‘‘Demand keeps growing, but the farm’s not getting any bigger, so we need more spots to grow them.’’

Mr Webster put the growth down to Topflite’s strong performance in the market, and an increasing interest in feeding wild birds. Sunflowers were also becoming popular for regenerative agriculture, and for sprouting as microgreens.

‘‘All those things add up to a bit more demand.’’

Topflite originally started growing sunflowers for oil in the 1960s, but made the shift to growing them for bird clubs in 1974. Now, they plant about 150 tonnes each year, and 90%-95% of what is produced is used in the New Zealand birdseed market.

‘‘We’re the only supplier of New Zealand-grown sunflower for birds, so if people want it, then they have toget it from us,’’ Mr Webster said.

The sunflowers always generated a lot of interest when they were in full bloom, and many people stopped to take photos.

Mr Webster’s home looks out on to one of this year’s fields, and the flowers always brightened up the day.

‘‘They’re quite eye catching,’’ he said.

‘‘You don’t really get sick of seeing them.’’