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Wet weather not likely to spur more sunflower planting

CNS Canada — If seeding delays persist this spring, sunflowers remain a crop that can be planted later on — but while there’s some talk of increased U.S. acres, they’re not seen to be as likely in Canada.

North Dakota and some parts of South Dakota are experiencing delayed seeding of small-grain crops due to cold, wet weather. As a result, U.S. officials expect some producers in those areas to turn to sunflowers, and other short-season crops.

However, this trend is unlikely to be repeated on Canada’s Prairies, according to Troy Turner, an agronomist with the National Sunflower Association of Canada. Seed varieties needed for short-season sunflowers are hard to find this time of year, he said.

“You can’t just throw in any variety you want; you could potentially be harvesting in the New Year.”

Most producers who planned to use short-season sunflowers already have their hands on them by now, he said.

“I can’t see them picking up too many acres, I think guys will still put in wheat and maybe some canola.”

At the same, he said, the late spring could have implications down the road for yields.

Sunflowers, Turner explained, generally take 93 to 95 days to reach maturity before drydown. That means if most growers wait a few weeks to get the moisture down, they’re usually harvesting by the end of September. However, he said, the rule to remember is the later you plant sunflowers, the lighter they generally end up being.

“Once they get under a certain spec of weight they get very hard to market,” he said, noting many light-weight sunflowers wind up as bird food.

According to the April 24 planting intentions report from Statistics Canada, sunflower acreage for 2014 is expected at 125,000 acres, up from 70,000 last year.

The vast majority of those will be planted in Manitoba with a growing number in southeastern Saskatchewan, Turner said.

Ground temperatures are still cool but warmer conditions are expected to set in, Turner said, adding he’s hopeful growers can start planting within the next two weeks.

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

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