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Sunflower crop looking good for harvest

Sunflowers south of Gladstone are beginning to get droopy and brown as their harvest season approaches.

It's not always wise to judge a book by its cover or, in the case of a sunflower crop, by its appearance.

Though sunflower plants can look droopy and brown by the time harvest time rolls around, it's usually those plants that are the most productive, said National Sunflower Association Communications Director Jody Kerzman.

"The thing about sunflowers is when they're pretty and blooming, that's not when they're actually ripe and ready for harvest," Kerzman said. "I think people sometimes see the heads drooping and the plants turning brown and think it's a bad thing, but it's actually a good thing. If you didn't grow up on a farm, however, you might not realize that."

Kerzman said this year's sunflower crop is lagging behind the 2012 crop, but that it will still likely be a productive harvest.

"Last year at this time, 97 percent of the crop was petals dry and this week it's 81 percent," Kerzman said. "We're going to be a little behind, but if you look at the way the summer went, it was a wet spring and then it was really hot. We had some weird extremes this summer. The good thing about sunflowers is they can get to the moisture deep in the soil that other crops can't."

According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers, 57 percent of the sunflower crop in North Dakota is rated "good" while 17 percent is rated as "excellent." Only 1 percent of the crop is currently rated as "very poor."

"I haven't talked to anyone in the western part of (North Dakota) who doesn't think it's still going to be a good sunflower crop," Kerzman said. "Anytime you have more than half of the crop in that good to excellent category, that's pretty good. You never know what's going to happen, just look at what's going on in Colorado with the rain there, but North Dakota is looking good overall this harvest, especially the sunflowers."

Just like the sunflower crop, the corn harvest in western North Dakota has yet to really get going, but according to Brian Fadness with Southwest Grain in Dickinson, there don't appear to be any major issues.

"It looks like we'll have a good crop," Fadness said. "Right now, it doesn't look like there's much standing in the way of this being a good harvest."

While it is not as big in North Dakota as in some other Midwest states, corn production measures more than two times that of any other crop nationally, according to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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