06 September 2008

Harvesting sunflowers

Raccogliere il girasole

I recently wrote about the abundance of sunflower fields here in Marche as well as in other parts of Italy but as the summer wanes these fields have turned to brown patches of dead plants, as the seeds dry on the stalk. This contrasts sharply with the image many travelers to Italy have of the bright yellow fields, but such is the cycle of the growing season.

The harvest of the fields of i girasoli has begun in our area and we came upon a property owner who was cutting his field a few days ago and had the opportunity to learn more about the process. In our area most of the fields hug the side of steep slopes so this is no easy task. The property owner hires a traveling combine operator to cut his fields for a fee; these are the same combines that cut the wheat fields in the spring but with a different cutter. These machines adjust to the slope as the driver carefully maneuvers around the field.

The sunflower plants are cut about 2/3 of the way up the stalk and the seeds are separated from the rest of the plant in the combine with the debris being discharged out the rear of the machine like organic plant exhaust. The seeds are stored in the combine and then transferred to a trailer when the combine becomes full. The field we saw being harvested was about an acre and the combine had to unload its catch of seeds three times.

The seeds are then taken to a local facility where they are loaded onto trucks or trains to be shipped to the northern part of Italy where the seed oil processing plants are located.

The property owner said the fields are rotated each year between sunflowers and wheat, this coming winter this same field will be green with young winter wheat. The property owner was very pleased to explain to us the process and he was intrigued by our interest.

This photo shows how the chassis of the combine adjusts to the steep slope with the wheel carriage titling as needed.
The combine cuts the stalks about 2/3 of the height up from the ground.
The debris from removing the seeds from the dead flowers is spit out the back of the combine.
The seeds are then loaded into a trailer that will transport them to a trucking facility. From there they will be shipped to northern Italy for processing into oil.


erin said...

this was fun following the season of the sunflowers through your posts. it was interesting to see how they are cut down.

Gil said...

Thanks for posting. I've seen the yellow ones all over Umbria but have never seen them being harvested. Neat combine!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian, answers my question from your previous post.

Sad to see the sunny sunflowers all dried up but as you said it's the cycle of the growing season.

Bryan said...

I tried to find info before on the web about what they do with the sunflowers but nothing. Interesting that they make the oil which you do not find in abundance here in the stores.