Weather Forecast


Sunflower harvest coming along slowly but surely

A custom combiner cuts a field of sunflowers south of Lefor on Thursday. The sunflowers had been partially downed by snow and wind over the past months. (Courtesy Photo)

One such farmer, Doug Fitterer, who grew corn and sunflowers in the New England area this year, said Thursday that he hopes to have his harvesting completed by the end of the week.

“For the most part, corn is all in and we’re working on sunflowers now,” Fitterer said. “As far as the sunflower harvest, it’s been challenging and interesting. I’m getting about 85 percent of these sunflowers, but some are on the ground and there’s nothing you can do. The ones that are on the ground, however, aren’t really worth salvaging anyway.”

Fitterer said he hasn’t sent any product samples into his distributor, but he is somewhat concerned about the quality of his sunflower yield.

“A lot of these sunflowers have been down for quite a while,” Fitterer said. “It wasn’t just the (October) snowstorm. It was the summer with the rain and thunderstorms. We’ve been at this sunflower crop for about a month now, but we should be done soon. The bushels are there and the pounds are there. We’re just working a little harder at it this year.”

As of Tuesday, North Dakota growers had harvested about 45 percent of the state’s sunflower crop, according to the most recent crop progress and conditions report put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the same time last year, 91 percent of the crop was harvested, though the average for this time of year is 76 percent, according to the report.

“I was out driving around a little bit (Wednesday) and I think we’re a little further along than the 45 percent number,” said National Sunflower Association Executive Director John Sandbakken. “The weather the past few days has been really good and, as far as I could tell, people were really moving and taking a lot of acres off. At the rate things are going, they’re going to get a lot in during the next few days. From the people I’ve talked to, moisture levels have been really good and that’s surprised some people. The seeds have actually dried out pretty well.”

Though the recent USDA report listed only 7 percent of the sunflower crop currently in as being in “excellent” condition, just 12 percent of the crop was described as “poor” or “very poor,” meaning most of the yield is in “good” or “fair” condition.

“It’s a very good crop for sunflowers this year, but there have been more challenges and costs associated with it,” Fitterer said. “It’s been a long harvest, but it’s been a good harvest. We can’t complain. We’d rather have this to deal with than have draught. At least we have this moisture for next year.”

The most up-to-date USDA statistic show that, as of the week ending Nov. 10, 64 percent of North Dakota’s corn crop has been harvested.

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.
(701) 456-1207