U.S. sunflower farmers and industry officials were optimistic that 2020 would be a good year for their crop. That was indeed the case with the average U.S. sunflower yield soaring to a record 1,790 pounds per acre, 241 pounds more than a year ago, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics cited by the Mandan, N.D.-based National Sunflower Association.

Nationwide, 2020 sunflower production totaled 2.98 billion pounds, up a whopping 52% from 2019. Credit more planted acres, as well as the higher average yield per acres, for the big jump. Planted area, at 1.72 million acres, was 27% above the previous year. Area harvested increased 33% from 2019 to 1.67 million acres.

North Dakota and South Dakota, which dominate U.S. production of the crop, led the way., with North Dakota retaking the top spot from its southern neighbor.

North Dakota produced 1.34 billion pounds, a 79 % jump from 2019. Compared with 2019, planted area in North Dakota increased 37 % and yield increased 356 pounds to 1,872 pounds per acre.

In South Dakota, production in South Dakota increased 40% from 2019 to 1.17 billion pounds. Planted acreage in South Dakota, at 622.000 acres, increased 17% from the previous year. The average yield in South Dakota increased 216 pounds from 2019 to 1,910 pounds per acre.

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Sunflowers yields have been rising for years, reflecting better seed varieties and greater skill by farmers in growing them, among other things.

Increased acreage reflects a number of factors, including working to improve weed control by growing more crops and, because sunflowers typically are the last crop to be harvested, to spread out the workload.