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Published June 29, 2010, 10:54 AM

Sunflower crop status similar to a year ago

To borrow one of Yogi Berra’s lines, it looks like deja vu all over again for area sunflower growers.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

To borrow one of Yogi Berra’s lines, it looks like deja vu all over again for area sunflower growers.

As was the case a year ago, farmers are nearing the crop insurance deadlines to plant sunflowers. But it appears farmers will end up planting most of their sunflowers, just like they did a year ago.

“If they’re able to get in a few good days, I think they can get in most of what’s left,” says Mike Rose, Ward County extension agent in Minot, N.D.

North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of sunflowers, and Ward County is one of the state’s top producers.

Repeated rains in late May slowed sunflower planting in Ward County and much of the region. A year ago, flooding and a late spring delayed sunflower planting.

Heavy rains in northwestern Minnesota had allowed many farmers there to plant only about half of their sunflowers by early June, says Russell Severson, a Crookston, Minn.-based regional extension educator for crops.

But good weather would allow most of the rest to get in the ground, he says.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the National Sunflower Association in Bismarck, N.D., is optimistic that most acres originally slated for sunflowers will be planted to the crop.

Some low, wet spots may go unseeded, with producers using the prevent planting provisions in their insurance, he says.

But some fields planned for other crops might be shifted to sunflowers, which can be planted relatively late, he says.

June planting deadlines

June 5 was the final planting date in Montana and the northern one-third of North Dakota for 2010 crop insurance purposes. June 10 was the final planting date in Minnesota, the southern two-thirds of North Dakota and the northern one-third of South Dakota. June 15 is the final planting date in the southern two-thirds of South Dakota.

The final planting date is the last day allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency on which a farmer can plant and still receive full coverage, the National Sunflower Association says.

Coverage declines by 1 percent per day after, with the actual final date that the crop can be planted coming 20 to 25 days after the date listed. The number of days depends on the county,

Though planting was delayed a year ago, area farmers generally ended with good sunflower harvests.

Sunflowers yielded a record 1,800 pounds per acre in South Dakota and a near-record 1,518 pounds per acre in North Dakota.

In Minnesota, the crop yielded a so-so crop of 1,353 pounds per acre.

USDA stopped making sunflower estimates for Montana in 2008.

Subsoil moisture is good

Last year’s sunflower crop was helped by plentiful subsoil moisture, Kleingartner says.

Sunflowers have a large taproot that allow them to tap subsoil moisture.

There’s plenty of subsoil moisture this year, too, which can help carry sunflowers through any dry stretch, he says.

But warmer temperatures are necessary, he says.

“We need some heat units,” he says.

As of June 7, 65 percent of North Dakota sunflowers had been planted, USDA says.

That compares with 64 percent at the same time a year ago and the 2004 to ’09 average for early June of 80 percent.

Forty-two percent of South Dakota sunflowers were planted as of June 7. That compares with 38 percent a year earlier and the 2004 to ’09 average for early June of 36 percent.

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