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Mikkel Pates, Forum News Service, Published August 29 2013

Sunflowers bloom: Progress still behind 5-year average for North Dakota and South Dakota

BISMARCK – Sunflowers were coming into full bloom last week, and it’s about time.

Only 37 percent of North Dakota’s sunflowers were blooming the week of Aug. 12, but by Aug. 19, the National Agricultural Statistics Service was reporting that 71 percent were blooming. That 71 percent is still behind a 99 percent five-year average for the state, according to NASS.

NASS says South Dakota progress was similar. Texas sunflowers were 10 percent harvested, versus a 5 percent average. Kansas was behind normal at 65 percent bloomed, compared to the 71 percent average.

North Dakota State University helps coordinate a National Sunflower Association Sunflower Field Survey every fall, says Kevin Capistran, a Crookston, Minn., farmer and president of the NSA.

This year, the surveyors follow a number of fields during a growing season with an early season survey, followed by the traditional fall survey. In the early part of the survey, 23 fields were surveyed (after sunflower establishment) in 16 counties.

Three fields were surveyed in Minnesota, four in South Dakota and 16 in North Dakota. Seventeen of the fields were oilseed sunflowers and six were confection sunflowers.

Oil hybrid fields averaged 18,825 plants per acre population. As expected, confection stands were less, at 15,536 plants per acre. Sunflower following small grains averaged 19,234 plants per acre, compared with 16,585 for sunflower following corn.

“This is significantly different,” says Hans Kandel, an NDSU agronomist. “There tends to be more plant residue in corn fields, which may influence the sunflower stand establishment. This finding needs to be looked at in more detail.”

Farmers reported they were targeting an average of 21,600 plants per acre, so results were about 16 percent less than they expected. Some of those poorer results were a result of wet areas and planting conditions. Average seeding depth was 1.75 inches.

Capistran notes that late blooming isn’t as much a worry for sunflowers as for other crops because they can survive frost down to 26 degrees for up to four hours. He says a lack of rain is a bigger worry for most crops, but sunflowers typically can handle that the best, too.