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Return to Rows

Tuesday, April 1, 2003
filed under: Planting Systems

some sunflower in the past, but primarily in rows, and the last two years, all in rows “for a combination of a lot of different reasons.”

Buxa used a 33-foot Concord air drill for solid seeding and two eight-row Cyclo planters for rows. It’s virtually a “wash” between the two as far as planting speed, and solid seeding probably gets the nod in time savings, but not by much in an average field. “Now if you’re ground isn’t straight and hard to seed in rows, and you have a lot of sloughs and contours and turning, then air seeding is the only way to do it. You talk to someone in a different part of the state with a lot of ground like that, and they would probably thing it’s foolish to go back to rows.”

Seed distribution and uniformity is better with the planters, he says. “Yes, you have the 10” row spacings (with the air seeder), but not uniformly seeded across the field. You’d find three seeds there, one here, two there. With the row planters you get more precision.”

Buxa finds that weed control is better with sunflower in rows. “With solid seeding, it always seems like we’d have to spray twice, for mustard and for grass,” he says. “With rows, you can cultivate if you want to. Spartan has helped with the weed control, and I’m sure Clearfield will too. But cultivation still has its place. Everybody hates to do it, but I think it pays off, for us at least.”

He figures by switching from a solid seeding population rate of 24,000-27,000/acre to 21,000-22,000 with rows saves in the ballpark of up to a few dollars per acre.

Like Sperle, Buxa finds field scouting easier with rows. “You can go down the line and if there isn’t another seedling there, something’s wrong.”

It’s also beneficial not to spread one piece of equipment too thin, especially when planting is delayed. “With the later springs we’ve had lately, our air seeder was tied up seeding small grains, when it should have been seeding sunflowers,” he says. “More and more people now days, if they’re not done with their small grains by mid May or so, they’ll either try to do both, or quit with the wheat and get their ‘flowers in.”

Buxa says dry-down might be a bit quick with solid-seeded sunflower, but yield is comparable between the two planting systems. “In certain years there’s a yield advantage to solid seeding, but not always.”

One clear advantage he notes that rows have over solid-seeded sunflower is better standability. “That really is legit. The solid-seeded sunflower is more prone to blowing over than the rows. We’ve had some bad winds, and it seems the thicker the sunflower was seeded, the worse they went over.”

Though Buxa says planting sunflower in rows works best on his farm, it may not be the best option for others, depending on the type of land, the amount of ground to cover, and one’s budget for machinery. “If I started seeding sunflower today and had to buy a $20,000 row crop planter, I don’t know if I’d do it.” Still, he adds, many farmers do have at least one or two eight-foot row planters in the yard, and if a person can grow a better sunflower crop in rows, then you might as well go ahead and use them. – Tracy Sayler

Plant Population Observations

A three year NDSU trial examined the interactions between four row spacings (6, 12, 18 and 30 inches), two hybrids (IS6111 and C187) and three plant populations per acre (18,000, 22,000 and 26,000). Their findings indicate that row spacing changes alone produce a minimal yield difference. Yield differences were more strongly affected by plant population per acre.

Sunflower adjusts to low populations by increasing seeds per head and weight per seed. The plant adjusts to high populations by decreasing seeds per head and weight per seed. Research has shown that the sunflower plant can only compensate to a certain point, after which yield losses can occur. This is evident in favorable growing situations when the plant’s inability to compensate adequately for plant populations that are too low or too high results in yield loss.

Observe the basics of good seeding management:

• Do your research and seed the best plant population per acre for the variety you’ve chosen.

• Get advice from your seed supplier and drill manufacturer on how to calibrate your drill to seed the correct population.

• Check your calibration every time you switch hybrids or load up with a different seed lot of the same variety.

Air seeding sunflowers works well with proper calibration and the correct plant populations for the location. With fluctuating commodity prices, sunflowers may offer producers the flexibility they need to balance the books this season. – excerpted from Seeding Today, December 1999.

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