Seeds of success; Growers: Sunflower harvest ending earlyWith the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first report on this year’s sunflower crop due today, all signs are pointing toward a successful harvest in North Dakota.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
With the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first report on this year’s sunflower crop due today, all signs are pointing toward a successful harvest in North Dakota.
Despite the dry conditions for most of 2012, a number of growers in western North Dakota are already finishing their harvest weeks ahead of schedule, said National Sunflower Association Executive Director John Sandbakken.
“This has been a great year to grow a sunflower,” Sandbakken said. “It’s been dry, but the sunflower is very resistant to drought. Our estimates are that about 40 percent of this year’s crop has been harvested. If it stays dry these next couple of weeks, it will be a very good harvest.”
Sandbakken added that the reduced season also helped to reduce the amount of disease detected with the crop.
Brothers Arthur and Keith Ridl were working to finish the harvest of about 1,700 acres of sunflowers just north of Dickinson Wednesday afternoon.
“This is about three weeks earlier than normal,” Arthur Ridl said. “Some years, we’re not even started by now. I think this year is going to be better than expected yield-wise, but we’ll see.”
Sandbakken said the recent early-season snowfall didn’t have a negative effect on the crop.
“In some ways, the added moisture may have helped,” Sandbakken said. “From what we’ve seen so far, the quality of this year’s crop in North Dakota is just outstanding. Oil contents have shown to be very good so far and that’s a big plus for growers.”
Sunflower seed oil content in North Dakota has been holding steady at 42 percent to 44 percent, important because a bonus is paid for oil content above 40 percent, according to the NSA.
Due largely to an excessively wet year, South Dakota overtook its neighbor to the north in the production of sunflowers in 2011, but that will likely change, according to the June planting report from the USDA and the fact that growing conditions have been good this year in North Dakota.
“The tap root of the sunflower can go down up to 7 feet below the surface,” said sunflower grower Byron Richards of Belfield. “A lot of that moisture that we had last year got into the subsoil and the plants were able to take advantage of that.”
Richards said he finished harvesting his 2,700 acres on Wednesday.
“The early harvest is good,” he said. “We won’t have to worry about any more early snowstorms.”
About 75 percent of the sunflower seeds harvested in North Dakota go toward the making of birdseed, according to the NSA.