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Sunflower on CRP Worked for Me

Saturday, November 1, 2008
filed under: Rotation

by Jim Broten

Among the enrolled acres eligible to come out of CRP in North Dakota this past year was a 270-acre medium loam field on my farm in Barnes County. After 10 years, it was time to plant those acres back to a crop. I decided to put 100 of them into sunflower and the remainder into soybeans.

Since we were in a haying program, we first hayed the acreage last fall. Then we disked the field twice. We had hoped to follow a minimum-till program, but the ground was so rough that we felt it had to be worked.

Our tillage program continued this spring with two passes with a Salford vertical tillage tool. It really broke up the lumps and smoothened things out. The result was a very nice seedbed. There was still a significant amount of residue at the soil surface, though, but our 1200 Case planter handled it well.

We planted a Clearfield® confection sunflower variety. The seeds were also treated with Cruiser because I was concerned about insects (wireworm, cutworms) in that old CRP ground. We received a good rain right after we seeded — and of course rain makes any farmer look smart! Emergence and plant stand were unbelievably good.

We had sprayed a burndown treatment of generic glyphosate in the fall of ’07, and followed that with a second preplant glyphosate application this spring. Those treatments, combined with the application of postemergent Beyond®, gave us very good weed control. The field’s quick emergence and thick plant canopy didn’t hurt, either!

These sunflower acres have not yet been harvested as of this early October writing. But they have been desiccated, so I expect we’ll get to them soon. They look excellent, and I’m anticipating a strong-yielding crop with good seed size. We did have a dry August, and that stressed our soybeans and some of the other sunflower fields. But these 100 acres look very good throughout — knolls and all.

For other growers with ground coming out of CRP, I’d advise them to seriously consider sunflower. One reason why: you can make a positive out of a negative. By that I mean that if you’ve had sunflower disease problems in the past, there’s a good chance of avoiding — or at least minimizing — them if you go in on ground that has been in CRP. That certainly was the case for me this year.

I would also emphasize two other things. First, have a properly prepared seedbed that provides good seed-to-soil contact. And second, if you have had past problems with early season insects, or are in a problem area for them, use a seed treatment for protection. It’s a good investment.

I’m quite pleased with how things have turned out this year. We recently picked up some more land that just came out of CRP, and we’ll probably be putting sunflower on at least part of it in 2009.

Jim Broten farms near Dazey in east central North Dakota. He also owns Sheyenne Tooling & Mfg., manufacturer of the "SunMaster" harvest attachment, and currently serves as board chairman of the U.S. Grains Council.
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