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30 Years Ago

Thursday, December 1, 2022
filed under: Historical

        Saying Good-Bye to Fallow / By Don Lilleboe — “Though it claims a long, well-ingrained tradition in his corner of the High Plains, summer fallow doesn’t carry much weight in Joe Kinnie’s vision for the future.  The northeastern Colorado producer still has a bevy of tillage implements parked along the shelterbelt, but he believes it’s only a matter of time until his equipment line will be confined to that of the committed no-till farmer: tractor, drill and sprayer.
        “Summer fallow ground carries with it two familiar liabilities, Kinnie points out:  (1) It’s not producing any income during the fallow year, but the tax man still wants his due.  (2) Weeds still need to be controlled; and that translates into more dollars and — if tillage is the means of controlling the weeds — the loss of about one-half inch of soil moisture with each tillage pass.
        “Kinnie’s still-evolving movement toward no-till production and away from a conventional fallow/tillage system began in the mid-1980s.  His initial goal was to produce continuous no-till wheat, but increased cheatgrass populations and disease problems left him convinced that the key to success was in crop diversity.  That diversification first took the form of a wheat/corn/millet/fallow rotation.  Then, in the latter ’80s, he plugged sunflower into the program.  Sunflower following wheat has worked well for the Julesburg, Colo., grower — so well, in fact, that his 1992 program incorporated 1,700 acres of ’flowers. . . .
        “Weed control is commonly cited as the major challenge for no-till sunflower producers, and Joe Kinnie is no exception.  The key, he emphasizes, has to be preseason control.  ‘If you can keep those weeds out of the field before you seed, giving the sunflower plants a running start over the weeds, they’ll handle the weed competition,’ he contends. . . .
        “To Kinnie, ‘preseason’ weed control starts the moment the combine pulls out of a field the previous summer or fall — and it continues up to the moment the drill or row-crop planter is pulled in the following year.
        “ ‘A lot of fellows try to cut corners to reduce herbicide costs.  So they’ll eliminate a spray or cut down on rates.  But they’re only “cutting their own throats” when they do that,’ he ventures.  That’s particularly true for fields being planted to sunflower, he says, given the plaucity of postemergent herbicides for use on his crop.”
        Promising Pectin / By Don Lilleboe — “Led by food scientist Dr. Sam K.C. Chang, [a North Dakota State University] team is exploring the potential of threshed sunflower heads as a source of pectin.  Pectin — found in all plants, though minimally in most — is a natural gumming and gelling agent.  It has numerous food and non-food applications because of its ability to provide cohesion and stability to the products to which it is added. . . .
        “Most of the pectin in sunflower heads is found in the soft white tissue in the center (receptacle) of the head.  By weight, pectin typically comprises 15 to 25 percent of the sunflower head.  That level compares very favorably with other pectin sources, according to Chang. . . .
        “To date, Chang and his associates have been attaining an extraction rate of around 50 percent of the sunflower pectin in the heads they have processed.  To be economically viable, he says, that rate must be increased.
`      “What’s the value of an ‘acre’s worth’ of sunflower pectin?  The figures are going to vary, depending upon the amount of head residue and the pectin extraction rate.  Chang offers the following example, however:  Five hundred pounds of collected sunflower head material per acre, coupled with a pectin extraction factor of 10 percent and a commercial value of $7.00 per pound, gives a per-acre pectin value of $350.”
        New Sunflower Seed Firm, ‘Proseed,’ Now Marketing — Proseed, a new sunflower seed company, has begun marketing oil sunflower hybrids to farmers in the Upper Midwest.  The firm will have two varieties available for 1993 plantings.
        “Proseed is owned jointly by veteran sunflower geneticist Mounir Abdallah and The Arthur Companies, a third-generation agribusiness of North Dakota’s Burgum and Peltier families.  The seed company is based in Arthur, N.D.”
        Sunflower in 1992: The Early (Field) Gets the (Yield) — “The thermometer and the calendar told the story for much of the 1992 U.S. sunflower crop.  The summer of ’92 turned out to be the second coldest on record at Fargo and Bismarck, N.D., and third to seventh coldest on record at several other reporting stations around the nation’s top sunflower-producing state.  June-August temperatures were anywhere from two to six degrees below normal in North Dakota, and the scenario was similar in adjacent regions of South Dakota and Minnesota.
        “The result, for row crops, was apparent: Crop maturity dragged out — and, in many cases, was never reached as autumn frost nipped heat-deprived plants, lowered yields and adversely impacted crop quality.  As of mid-November, for example, about 15 percent of the Northern sunflower crop remained unharvested, with a significant portion expected to be abandoned due to low yield and poor quality.  If anything, the story on corn was even tougher. . . .
        “While the final third of the Minnesota/Dakota sunflower crop was disappointing, the middle third produced an average crop while the first third generally was of excellent yield and quality.  An early October National Sunflower Association unofficial survey pegged U.S. average yields at an impressive 1,535 pounds per acre, while USDA’s October estimate was 1,416 pounds.  Both those numbers now appear too high, of course, given the condition of later-planted fields and overall mediocre to poor yields across the northern counties of Minnesota and North Dakota.
        “The High Plains, however, generally enjoyed an exceptionally productive sunflower year.”
        USDA Announces SOAP Allocations — “USDA has announced allocations under the Sunflower Oil Assistance Program (SOAP) to seven countries, totaling 365,000 metric tons, for market year 1992/93.  Among them are Algeria (100,000 tons), Egypt (40,000), Guatemala (15,000), Mexico (80,000), republics of the ex-USSR (80,000), Turkey (30,000) and Venezuela (20,000 tons).  Last year’s initial allocation was 190,000 tons.  However, additional allocations were made throughout the marketing year.”
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