A Look Back - 30 Years Ago
NSA President Visits Reagan, Block — “Don Zimbleman, Fullerton, N.D., farmer and president of the National Sunflower Association, was one of 18 U.S. farmer leaders who met with President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Agriculture John Block in early January to discuss national farm and food policies. ‘There is a definite feeling in Washington to revamp farm programs away from price supports and loan levels that artificially set commodity prices. The redirection appears to be an aggressive export policy to regain markets that were lost in the past several years,’ Zimbleman noted.
“ ‘There was considerable interest in sunflower and how it competes, since there are no loan programs or price supports for our commodity,’ the NSA president added. ‘I indicated that for sunflower to survive without farm programs, we need more and better export credit programs and federal help in breaking down trade barriers and foreign subsidies.’ ”
They Ridge Plant ’Flowers — “In 1983 the Spiekermeiers — father Paul and sons Steve and Rob — decided to switch their 2,000-acre sunflower, corn and soybean operation near Sheldon, N.D., over to a ridge-plant program. They invested $17,000 in the purchase of a Buffalo Till cultivator with a single wide sweep, a stalk chopper and a Buffalo conversion kit for their John Deere 7000 planter.
“Prior to planting, the Spiekermeiers put on an application of 100 pounds of actual nitrogen in urea on their sunflower. They later applied seven gallons of 10-34-0 liquid at planting. They seeded in 30-inch rows at a population of 22,000 plants per acre, aiming for a final stand of 19,-20,000.
“By eliminating their plowing, digging and disking operations, ‘we figure the ridge-plant system saved us $20 to $25 an acre in tillage costs alone,’ says the elder Spiekermeier. Simultaneously, a switch to banding granular herbicide lowered chemical costs. ‘Our chemical costs for banding eight pounds of Amiben in a field of sunflower came out to $7.00 per acre,’ says Rob Spiekermeier. That would compare to typical costs in the area for broadcasting and incorporation of herbicide of around $16.00, according to John Nalewaja, weed control specialist at North Dakota State University. . . .
“Steve Spiekermeier says their sunflower yields ranged from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds per acre in 1983. Getting the performance they wanted from their converted planter was the only big headache they encountered with ridge planting. ‘When we put on the tracking wheels and ridge cutters, we lost leverage on the planter unit and couldn’t get it to raise properly,’ Paul says. In 1984 they’ll go with a regular ridge-planting unit rather than trying to convert a conventional unit again.”
A Look at Twin Rows — “Twins don’t run in Emery Visto’s family, but the Oakes, N.D., farmer and implement dealer was seeing double last year. We’re talking about twin-row sunflower here, folks. Twin-row cropping is a concept that’s been attracting increased attention in corn and soybean areas, and after giving it a try in 1983, Visto thinks it’s definitely viable for sunflower also. . . .
“Visto planted 800 acres of sunflower and several hundred more acres of corn in twin rows last year. He took a couple IH 56 planters from his implement shop and concocted two six-row planters — each of which carried 12 planting units. Placing them together behind a twin hitch, he came away with a system employing 24 units to plant 12 sets of twin rows. . . .
“His weed problems within the twin rows were minimal, Visto says. He attributes that in part to the canopy provided by the plants’ spacing pattern. While cultivating in between the sets of twin rows, the only problem, he jokes, was that ‘you just had to drive a little straighter.’
“Harvesting didn’t present obstacles either. ‘We used nine-inch pans on the sunflower and the regular corn head on the corn, and we never had a bit of trouble,’ Visto remarks. He had check strips on the corn and reaped at least a 10-bushel yield advantage with the twin rows. While there were no checks on the sunflower, Visto is confident the twin-row concept did boost his yields significantly.”
Allelopathy: Chemicals in Sunflower Can Help Fight Weeds — “Sunflower ranks prominently in the allelopathy story now being unveiled by public and private scientists here in the United States and abroad. Research has shown that sunflower stems, leaves and, perhaps to a lesser extent, roots, contain certain chemical compounds which distinctly influence germination and growth of certain weeds.
“Dr. Gerald Leather, USDA plant physiologist at Frederick, Md., has studied allelopathy in sunflower since 1976. Knowing that wild sunflower species often have a negative effect on the growth of adjacent plants in their native habitat, he set out to learn whether cultivated varieties retained the allelopathic traits of their wild cousins; also, whether laboratory tests could predict allelopathic performance out in the field.
“Leather’s studies have encompassed 13 cultivated sunflower varieties and 17 species of weeds in an effort to measure the varieties’ impact on these weeds. Among the weeds are such prominent ones as Canada thistle, foxtail, Johnson grass, lambsquarters, pigweed and wild mustard. Using extracts of sunflower steam, leaf and root tissue in laboratory and greenhouse studies, Leather discovered that the extracts’ effect on weed seed germination was mixed, depending on the weed species, which sunflower variety the extract came from and the concentration of the extract. The grass weed seeds showed little or no response. A few broadleaves were actually stimulated by the sunflower tissues; others were stimulated or inhibited depending on the tissue concentration. . . .”
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