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You Are Here Sunflower Magazine > A Look Back - 30 Years

Sunflower Magazine

A Look Back - 30 Years
January 2013

One Field / Three Uses / Same Year / By Don Lilleboe — “Northwood, N.D., farmer Marv Klevberg accomplished three things within the same 160-acre field this past year: he qualified part of it for the set-aside program, he grew a crop of confection sunflower, and he planted winter wheat.

“In one field, in one year, in North Dakota? Yup.

“Klevberg utilized the ‘skip-row’ concept he’d previously observed being used on cotton ground in Texas. He learned from his state ASCS office that he could skip a minimum of 160 inches, plant four rows of sunflower (or other non-program crop), skip another 160 inches, plant another four rows, and so forth. Fifty percent of the field would then qualify as set-aside acres. (The four-row/160-inch pattern is a minimum. One could, for example, have gone with eight rows and 320 inches.) Klevberg seeded his confection flowers by utilizing only the center four boxes on an eight-row planter and then extending his guide marker 10 inches. This established the desired cropping pattern. . . . .

“The final yields on the skip-row confection flowers were impressive, due in good share to the four-row concept permitting more outside rows, which in turn resulted in larger heads and seeds. On a per acre basis, the skip-row sunflower yielded 1,980 pounds. Another nearby field — this one planted entirely in confection sunflower — ran 1,550 pounds per acre.

“Percentage of large seeds, a very desirable trait with confection sunflower, also differed considerably between the two fields. The sunflower in the skip-row field produced 57 percent large seeds (run over a 20/64 screen), while the other field yielded 32 percent.”

Solid Seeding: How Viable Is It? / By Don Lilleboe — “There are lots of ‘depends on’ to consider when trying to assess the viability of solid seeding of sunflower: depends on whether you already own row crop planting and cultivating equipment; depends on your moisture profile prior to and during the growing season; depends on how good a job your preplant herbicide does; depends on how stretched for time you are during the cultivation season; depends on how important an earlier drydown is to you; depends on whether you carry Federal Crop Insurance on your sunflower.

“Solid seeding is really somewhat of a misnomer, since what we’re referring to here is the planting of sunflower in narrow rows — anywhere from eight inches on up to 22 inches or more. Such seeding is usually done with a grain drill or air seeder.

“The practice has always been in the minority on U.S. sunflower acres. But in Manitoba, where they’ve been raising oil-type sunflower commercially for some 40 years, it was until recently the predominant method of seeding flowers.

“ ‘I would say we’ve gone from a situation where as recently as five years ago it would be 50 percent solid seeded, to a situation today where it’s probably 90 percent row crop,” observes Bob Ferguson, specialty crops manager for United Grain Growers, Winnipeg. Solid seeding’s previous popularity was largely due to growers not owning row crop equipment and not wishing to invest in it. ‘It was a way to try the crop and get your feet wet without investing $25,000,’ Ferguson explains. “The main reason for the switchover, he suggests, is that when row cropping, ‘If you get into trouble (with weed control), you can cultivate. With solid seeding, you’re limited to a harrow operation.’ ”

Sunflower Fixed in Irrigator’s Rotation / By Don Lilleboe — “1982 was a year in which Texas boosted its sunflower acreage by 10-fold — up to 250,000 from the previous year’s 25,000. But most of these added acres were put in simply as a ‘catch crop,’ something which could be planted on hailed-out cotton ground.

“Weldon Jones was an exception to the rule. The Hart, Texas, farmer put in his fifth crop of irrigated sunflower on 160 acres. For Jones, sunflower has become an established part of a rotation which also includes wheat, corn and sugarbeets. . . .

“Like most irrigators in the area, Jones utilizes a furrow irrigation system. In some years, he prewaters (irrigate prior to planting); in others, he’ll ‘water up’ (after planting). Soil moisture and early spring rainfall determine which one he’ll opt for. The initial watering will be followed by one or two more during the bud or early bloom stages, depending on the amount of rain falling in the interim. Last year, Jones was able to get by with only one additional watering, that being when the plants were in the bud stage. . . .

“Though water tables continue to drop while pumping costs continue to rise, Jones believes the advantages of irrigating his sunflower definitely outweigh the added labor and expense. ‘We have planted some sunflower dryland, and most of the time yields were around 700-900 pounds an acre. On our irrigated, we’ve never made less than 2,300,’ he observes.’

Eastern Sunflower / By Walter Schmidt, Area Extension Agent, Fremont, Ohio — “Since 1979 some 10,-15,000 acres of oil-type sunflower have been planted annually in Ohio. Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania acreages have been roughly 4,000, 15,000 and 3,000, respectively, during this period. Varietal trials, herbicide and fertility trials and plant population and date of planting studies have been conducted in Ohio for the past four years. . . .

“The greatest potential for sunflower in Indiana and Ohio is as a double crop following wheat harvest or some other small grain (rye harvested green for straw, for instance). Land value in this region is such that a sunflower crop cannot pay cash rent or make interest assessments of $100-plus per acre and remain a viable crop alternative if planted as a single crop. Double cropping greatly reduces this land charge assessed to the sunflower.”

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