FROM BLOOM TO BUST: The wilting future of sunflower tourism
THE sun has set on the Southern Downs Sunflower Route after disastrous drought conditions shut down hope of a summer crop.
Tourists turned their heads to regional Queensland late last year, when the bright bloom of sunflowers sparked social media interest.
The viral posts inspired a tourism craze that drove hundreds of visitors into small towns such as Allora, Freestone and Willowvale.
Business was booming, with local shops such as Amy's Country Cafe singing the sunflower's praises.
Now, there is only dust.
"There is absolutely diddly-squat," said Allora farmer Melinda Hoey.
"The land is bone dry and no one has attempted to grow their sunflowers this year.
"Anyone irrigating crops are doing it to keep their cattle alive or to grow hay for their stock."
The summer crop was a failure, most of what grew either "keeled over" or was stripped to feed the cattle.
Mrs Hoey said they won't be trying again until the rain comes.
"We didn't even bother planting again," she said.
"You just can't grow anything, even if we put seed in nothing would pop up and the mice would just eat it.
"It's just wasted money, just dead money."
The crop failure represents a loss of income from harvest, but also from tourism.
"We would have loved to do something extra with it this year," Mrs Hoey said.
"We had plans to have a better set up, with a spot where people can go in and a donation box to help us out.
"We were even thinking of selling flowers on site."
Though the main attraction of the 66km route may be dormant for now, Mrs Hoey urged potential visitors to consider the sunny side of the situation.
"There are so many great things to do out here and every bit helps," she said.
"We have the Darling Downs Zoo, plenty of places to stay in and blinking great places to eat.
"We need visitors more than ever."