Is Manitoba poised for a bumper sunflower harvest?

Sunflower industry observers say early signs are very good

Should early indications pan out, there could be a bumper crop of sunflowers in Manitoba in 2020, according to a Manitoba sunflower buyer.

“The yields are very high,” said the buyer of the harvest so far.

Manitoba Agriculture reported the first week of October that about three per cent of the crop was combined so far, which was better than the three-year average of less than one per cent complete.

“Usually yields are about 1,800 to 1,900 pounds per acre. Some of the fields that have been combined were at 3,000 pounds per acre,” he commented, noting that with an increase in acres of more than 50 per cent the stage is set for a bumper crop.

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In 2019, Manitoba sunflower growers planted approximately 65,000 acres and this year that expanded to 97,700, according to Statistics Canada. From that, production in the province was forecast to jump from 55,000 tonnes to 93,200, which would account for 98 per cent of Canada’s sunflower production.

The only other province growing a reportable amount of sunflowers this year was Saskatchewan, which is to reap 1,900 tonnes on 4,300 planted acres, according to Statistics Canada.

The buyer said oilseed sunflower prices were on the upswing, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic spurring demand for birdseeds. Prices reached C$30 to C$31 per hundredweight (cwt), but more recently retreated to C$25 to C$26/cwt.

“Not many (farmers) would contract at that level,” the buyer stated, but cautioned that supply could soon exceed demand.

Morgan Cott, special crops agronomy extension specialist for the Manitoba Crop Alliance, believes Manitoba is poised for a larger-than-average sunflower harvest.

“I was originally thinking an average or so crop because the heads were looking a little smaller, but I don’t know if that’s actually the case,” she said, stressing that it’s still very early into the harvest.

Cott said the quality of the sunflower seeds shouldn’t be much of an issue this year, despite the frosts Manitoba has received, especially in the western growing areas.

“That might be enough to blow it out of the back of the combine and not affect the quality at all,” she said.

About the author

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Glen Hallick - MarketsFarm

Glen Hallick writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. He previously reported for Postmedia newspapers in southern Manitoba and the province’s Interlake region.

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