FROM far and wide tourists have flocked to the Liverpool Plains in the state's North West to take in one of agriculture's traditional favourites.
Favourable seasonal conditions have prompted a spike in the amount of sunflower crops planted across the state and tourists have not been able to get enough of the visually striking crops.
Ian Carter is among the several producers in the Quirindi area to plant sunflowers, however he said it was not for commercial reasons.
"Our shire's tourist centre has a mailing list of about 300 people who want to be notified whenever the sunflowers are out in bloom and to me, it seemed like a bit of fun," Mr Carter said.
"It's nothing too serious, it's only a half-hectare block on the edge of my sorghum that I've planted, and it was just for something bright and fun for people.
"Honestly, the amount of people who have been flooding in to take photos, see the flowers and enjoy their brightness has been amazing.
"I think it's really pleasing to see that something like this can make so many people happy."
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Such is the fascination with sunflowers in the region, the Liverpool Plains Shire Council has launched its Sunny-side competition, which encourages people from across the shire to grow their best sunflowers.
So far, more than 30 growers have tried their hand at growing the flowers and added to the shire's sunflower trail for tourists.
"Most are just a few plants in front gardens and things like that, but it's really pleasing to see people getting into it," Mr Carter said.
"I think with more people travelling locally because of coronavirus, this is the perfect thing to showcase what our region has to offer."
As well as the usual photos and flower picking, Mr Carter said other visitors had used the bright backdrop for more life-changing events.
"We had one guy propose to his partner in the middle of the sunflowers on Thursday," he said.
"It was quite amazing to see the two of them there in nice clothes and to hear their great news.
"I think things like that make it completely worthwhile."
Aside from helping regional tourism boom, plenty of producers across the country and in parts of Queensland are planting sunflowers for commercial benefit.
Australian Oilseeds Federation chief executive officer Nick Goddard said he was expecting summer oilseed crops to spike in the coming months.
"The Liverpool Plains has traditionally been a strong area for sunflowers, but the rise of canola has seen that diminish over the years," Mr Goddard said.
"However, anecdodatly we are hearing that there is quite a lot more sunflower crops being planted across the board.
"From what I'm hearing, I think it would be reasonable to expect that 40,000 tonnes of sunflower oil could be produced this season.
"As well as that, there is always a strong demand for sunflowers for things like bird seed and other feed sources.
"I think those who have taken advantage and put some in could get some great results, whichever way they go."
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