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

Sunflower Magazine

A Look Back - 30 Years
April 2012

Editorial Comments / Don Lilleboe — “Farmers reading this magazine don’t have to be told about the ‘cost-price’ squeeze.’ They’ve been feeling the pinch for some time now, and it doesn’t show signs of letting up soon. Production costs continue to rise while commodity prices lag behind.

“It’s not the best of times for U.S. sunflower crushers either. As of this writing, the major crushers here in the Upper Midwest have temporarily shut down. And some of them are saying that except to fulfill current sales commitments, they may not open their doors again until the new crop comes off this fall. . . .

“[The] domestic crusher is faced with four conditions which are making his life difficult right now: (1) the comparatively short supply and high price of sunflower seed (try telling a grower his seed is too high priced . . .); (2) a glut of soybean and cottonseed oils available at very cheap prices; (3) a European crushing industry which imposes a 10 percent duty on imported sun oil but none on seed; and (4) a subsidized Argentine crushing industry which can sell sun oil into foreign markets at roughly $110 a metric ton under what American crushers can offer right now.

“The bottom line is that U.S. sun oil, [compared to] major competitors for domestic and foreign sales, has become too expensive (or its competitors are too cheap, the result’s the same either way).”

Plant Sunflower With a Drill? / Don Lilleboe — “Though you’ve likely heard it before, Earl Rott will tell you again: it’s not essential to use a row crop planter to put in your sunflower. And his is the voice of experience. Rott, who farms near the north central South Dakota community of Leola, will be drilling his seventh sunflower crop this spring. . . .

“Utilizing already-owned equipment is the primary reason Rott feels the use of a grain drill is justified when seeding sunflower — that plus the fact that it does the job. Rott, who seeds with a 28-foot Melroe drill with six-inch spacings, feels he gets very adequate in-row spacing and seed placement. He’ll plug up four holes and leave the fifth open (end holes are closed), resulting in row spacings of about 28 inches and a per acre population of around 17,-18,000.

“Rott feels his brand of drill may be a bit more conducive for planting flowers than some others. ‘We’ve just got a seed wheel, and the way you control the seeding rate is by simply speeding up or slowing down this wheel,’ he states. [His model drill] has three types of seed wheels: coarse, medium or fine. Rott feels the medium works best for planting sunflower seeds. He prefers to stay away from size five seed, but all others work quite well for him. . . .

“ ‘For dryland areas such as the central and western Dakotas, I think drills will work quite well for most people planting sunflower,’ Earl Rott remarks, concurring that while some may want to try solid-seeded flowers, he’s quite satisfied to be drilling in rows. ‘When done correctly, you’re getting the seed down right, firming the soil well, and you don’t have to go out and buy another line of equipment.’ ”

This Agronomist Likes No-Till / Don Lilleboe — “No-till sunflower has a convert in Dr. Steve Miller, North Dakota State University agronomist. Miller began studying sunflower grown under a no-till cropping system in 1976 and, at that time, was admittedly somewhat of a skeptic.

“Five years of research data and general field observations have altered his view of no-till, however. ‘The more I see crops on no-till and how well they respond, it definitely convinces me that you can grow very good crops without tillage,’ he remarks. ‘I wasn’t very pro no-till when I started (researching), but I’m becoming more so all the time.’

“Yield maintenance is one reason for Miller’s positive attitude. He has conducted field trials at Fargo, N.D., for five years, comparing yields of no-till versus conventionally tilled sunflower in a wheat/sunflower/wheat/sunflower rotation schedule. What he’s found is that the no-till plots averaged eight percent higher yields than the conventional tillage plots. The mean for the five years of no-till was 1,590 pounds, compared to an average of 1,470 pounds per acre on the conventional.

“Miller cautions that these averages were attained under weed-free conditions. . . . Also, the plots have basically been fertilized to the maximum levels so that fertility in either situation wasn’t going to be a problem. The bottom line to his results, though, is that yields can be maintained under a continuous system of no-till.

“The limited arsenal of registered herbicides is the main hindrance to no-till sunflower production right now, according to Miller. . . . ‘If a grower is seriously considering going no-till in sunflower, I would suggest that he go on some of his cleanest fields,’ Miller advises. ‘He should do as good a job as possible of controlling the weeds in the previous crop, because we really don’t have a lot of registered options right now.’ ”

Television Show Produced by Nat’l Association — “ ‘The Sunflower Story II,’ a half-hour program produced by the National Sunflower Association in cooperation with Ag USA Productions of Pacific Palisades, Calif., is being shown on a number of television stations around the nation this winter and spring.

“This program, which emphasizes the qualities and uses of sunflower and its products, is the second sunflower program produced through Ag USA. The first, produced in late 1980, gave a general overview of the sunflower industry and introduced ways of utilizing sun products.”

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