While the 2014 Manitoba sunflower crop fell short of expected acres, a drier spring could bring the 2015 crop closer to pre-flooding levels.
“April is really going to tell the tale,” said Gregg Fotheringham, president of the National Sunflower Association of Canada. “If we see spring come in April when it’s supposed to come, I think we’re going to see a lot of sunflower acres back in the southwest, which we desperately need.”
Just over 85,000 acres of sunflowers were planted in Manitoba last year, about 30 per cent of those were confectionery. However, in the mid-2000s, acres peaked at roughly 190,000 and the association would like to see at least 100,000 acres planted this spring.
Fotheringham said poor weather conditions in the southwest really stymied growth last season.
“As a board we are shooting for that 100,000 mark… we fell short last year, but we felt that was attainable. So we’re still on the cusp, and we’re wondering what Mother Nature is going to give us between now and the first of May,” said Fotheringham, following the association’s annual general meeting at CropConnect in Winnipeg.
“We certainly went into the fall wet. But we haven’t had a lot of snowfall this winter, so lets hope that continues, and that we just have an early spring with no rain events. That’s what we need.”
A smaller crop also means getting new products and research to sunflower producers can be difficult — fewer research dollars and a reduced market for suppliers make attaining good information a bit of a battle, Fotheringham said. But he added that research is ongoing and that advances are being made, even on issues like sclerotinia. All of which makes the crop easier to produce.
“We’ve got more tools available to us than we did five years ago, that’s for sure,” he said.
And sunflowers continue to be in demand.
“There’s very favourable prices right now, in particular in the oilseed market, I’m hearing some 24 cents a pound for oil, I’m hearing 28 cents a pound for confects, those are very good prices at this time of year, and I think our processors still have acres available, so it pencils out very well,” Fotheringham said, encouraging farmers to see if the crop fits with their rotation.