North America’s sunflower crop seeing strong yields

The sunflower harvest in North America is underway, and so far producers have reported above-average yields.

"The Canadian sunflower crop has been yielding great," said Mike Durand, sales and purchasing manager with Nestibo Agra at Deloraine, Man. "The poorest yield I’ve heard so far was just over 1,800 pounds per acre, and some are yielding well over 3,000 pounds per acre — which is rare."

Similar yields were reported in the U.S. John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association at Mandan, N.D., said yields in the U.S. have been reported in the 1,600-2,200 pounds per acre range, with some over 3,000 pounds per acre as well.

As of Friday, the North American sunflower harvest had progressed faster than normal. Sandbakken noted the harvest in the U.S. was about 25 per cent complete. The normal pace is about one to five per cent complete at this time of year, he said.

Some rain and snow falling across North American sunflower growing regions in early October delayed the harvest slightly, but it is still expected to be at least 90 per cent complete by the end of this month, both Sandbakken and Durand said.

Yields and harvest pace have been above average, because sunflowers in North America flourished in the hot weather that hit growing regions during the summer.

"When it was hot and dry, the sunflowers tapped really deep, and they had access to moisture," Durand said. "And they also grabbed up any residual nitrogen that was leached down below, which is probably the reason why we’re seeing such huge yields."

The quality of the North American sunflower crop was also being reported as very good because of the hot, dry weather.

"With the dry conditions disease has almost been almost nonexistent, and that has really improved the quality," Sandbakken noted.

Prices for sunflowers have remained firm this year, and are higher than they were at the same time last year in the U.S.

"There’s a little bit of harvest pressure because everybody is delivering on their contracts," Sandbakken said. "But, once that harvest pressure subsides I think we should see an increase in price."

Sandbakken noted prices will need to remain strong to persuade U.S. producers to plant sunflower acres, as there’s going to be good competition for acres.

In Canada, sunflower acres are expected to stay the same if not see an increase in the 2013-14 crop year, Durand said.

"I think that with the reports of the high yields that we’re seeing right now and just from a small poll we’ve done with farmers here, sunflower acres should move up next year," he said.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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