Fields of gold: Global warming brings sunshine harvest

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Sunflowers are creeping into the English countryside. Sights like this, near the village of Eltisley in Cambridgeshire, are expected to become more common if global warming is here to stay.

At present the huge flowers are still a rare crop, with a handful of English farmers growing less than 6,000 acres in all. They thrive only south of a line between Bristol and the Wash.

Dan Bull, manager of Croxton Park Farm, grows his to provide birdseed. The bulk of Britain's modest output of seeds are crushed to make oil for cooking, or for blending into margarine and other spreads.

Mr Bull has planted 30 acres of sunflowers as a "break crop", to give the soil a rest from wheat and barley. He finds they need little fertiliser and herbicides, can be harvested with a conventional combine, and bring in pounds 200 an acre - less than other crops, but not a trivial sum.

There is only one hitch. Drivers on the nearby road stop, tramp through his barley and take photographs. ``They're a pretty crop, which seems to please Joe Bloggs,'' he said.