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There is an overview.

sunflowerSunflowers have a long history in Missouri, dating back at least a thousand years to when they were cultivated in fields by Native Americans. Although modern sunflower cultivars were not grown widely in the U.S. until the 1970s, there were tests of sunflower oilseed processing by the Southeast Missouri Sunflower Growers’ Association in Missouri in 1926.

Despite their primary production being in the Northern and Western Plains, sunflowers are well adapted to Missouri conditions. Several thousand acres of sunflowers have been produced in Missouri over the last few years.

The availability of oilseed loan deficiency payments is making it more economically favorable for sunflowers. The market for oilseed and birdseed in Missouri is growing at a faster rate than the market for sunflowers. As a double crop after wheat, sunflowers can be planted from April through July.

Adding sunflowers to an existing crop rotation can reduce pest problems. Sunflower is a shorter season than most crops, so it can be planted later or harvest earlier. Sunflowers can tolerate dry conditions better than other crops due to their ability to extract water from the soil profile.

There is a production guide.

Growth and development.

Helianthus annuus is also known as the Sunflower. A broadleaf plant emerges from the soil with two large cotyledons. Emergence will take four to five days when planted an inch deep in warm soil, but will take a few days longer in cooler soils. Large plants can be difficult to push out of the soil.

Large, rough leaves are produced by sunflowers. After two months in early August, sunflowers in Missouri will be in full bloom, and be mature by late September. Depending on planting date and soil conditions, current sunflower varieties in Missouri range between five and seven feet in height. After reaching their full height, heads on commercial cultivars are designed to make it harder for birds to eat the seed.

A field of sunflowers in bloom is a striking sight, and many farmers remark about the pleasure they get from seeing the flowers. There are two types of flowers in the inflorescence. There are individual ray flowers around the edge of the head. Hundreds of disk flowers form into a seed on the face of the head. Commercial sunflowers have flowers that are self-compatible for pollination, meaning they do not require a pollinating insect, although some studies have shown bee pollinators providing a slight yield boost. Early in their development, sunflowers turn with the sun, but later stay east-facing before facing downwards. Some farmers like to plant their rows north and south so that the heads can lean into the row space, rather than bumping against an adjacent plant, causing some seed to fall.

sunflowerOf the roughly 3 million acres of sunflowers that are grown each year in the U.S., up to 90% are the oilseed type. A significant fraction of the oilseed harvest goes for birdseed production, but most of the seeds are processed into vegetable oil. Of the seeds processed for oil, about equal thirds are dehulled, partially dehulled, or left with hulls on for processing. When hulls are removed, they become a very low value byproduct, most often burned for fuel.

The use of vegetable oil for cooking began in Russia in the 1800s. It is native to the U. It was n’t seen as a vegetable oil source here until the last 50 years, and only began to be grown for this purpose about 25 years ago. It is lower in saturated fats than vegetable oils. The development of NuSun varieties that are mid-level in oleic acid has spurred further interest in using it in food preparation. NuSun oil is more stable than most vegetable oils and does n’t need to be hydrogenated to improve shelf life.

The remaining seed material is fed to the livestock after the oil is removed from the seed. The amount of oil that was mechanically pressed from the seed and the degree to which the hull was removed prior to oil processing affect the nutrition value of the meal. The meal will have more fiber and less fat if all of the hull remains on the seed. If the hull is left on the seed, the meal will have a 42 % percentage of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a certain amount of a The fat content of solvent extract meal is 1 %, and 9 % in mechanically pressed seed meal. The publication “ Sunflower Meal Use in Livestock Rations ” is a good source of information on the various types of sunflower meal and their feed values for various animals. The meal can be used as the sole source of supplemental nutrition for beef and dairy cattle.

sunflower is used in the U for snack food. It is a premium market, but only 10 % of the crop each year. Confectionery prices are higher than oilseed sunflower. The majority of the sunflowers are sold for snack food. In Russia, people carry packets of sunflower seeds around in their pockets, making them even more popular than peanuts. Confectionery sunflower can be found in processed foods, such as granola bars, multigrain breads or other baking uses. Confectionery sunflower varieties have seeds that are larger, easier to dehull, lower in fat and can be white or striped.

It is certain that hundreds of thousands of acres are used for the purpose of birdseed usage. The premium component in most birdseed mixes is sunflowers, which is more expensive than other components such as millet, or cracked corn. Most of the oilseed used for birdseed is the oilseed type that does n’t meet food grade standards. The cheaper oilseed type is used by packagers. The thinner hull and smaller seed size of the oilseed type make it easier for small songbirds to eat it. Birds do n’t care if the seed is black or striped, but most buyers want the same seed in their package.

Economics and marketing.

The easiest way to market sunflower in Missouri is through the birdseed market. Most sunflower producers sell to a regional packager, but some sell to a local retail store or directly to consumers. Pennington Seed in southwest Missouri is one of the bigger buyers of birdseed. Keller and Sons is located in northeast Missouri and in southeast Missouri.

In theory, birdseed prices should be unaffected by what happens in the vegetable oil market, but unfortunately they are. Sunflower oilseed prices follow soybean prices. Farmers who sell their own packaged birdseed have more control over their pricing, but still have to keep an eye on their competitors prices.

Confectionery sunflower prices do n’t track soybean prices very closely, but will follow broad swings in the price of vegetable oils. Many current and potential sunflower producers are interested in the higher price of confectionaries. With this higher price comes more demanding production and handling requirements to get a high quality, undamaged seed suitable for the human food market. Although there is n’t an established buyer ‘s network for sunflowers in Missouri, this is a product that would make a good direct marketing product.

Growing the oilseed type is more important than growing the confectionery type for sunflower growers. The oilseed varieties should be grown by most Missouri producers.

With the emergence of NuSun and high oleic types of sunflowers, there is an opportunity to grow one of these and receive a price premium over regular oilseed prices. Until markets develop further for these specialty oil types, Missouri growers will be required to ship them to out-of-state markets, but in a few cases there may be a price advantage to growing one of these types. The Jefferson Institute can provide information on buyers.

Similar to growing soybeans, the economics of growing sunflowers are fairly similar. Weed control costs on sunflowers should be similar to soybeans. Nitrogen is needed with sunflowers to makefertilizer more expensive than soybeans. The other production cost is the harvest, which is similar to corn or soybeans. An extra cost is created by the distance to market. Depending on the distance to market, this can cost a penny a pound.

The recent prices of Missouri sunflowers have been around $ 10-12. Prices can vary a lot. The price of birdseed in Missouri is 10 to 20 % higher than in the Plains states due to the fact that they have to pay to bring the bird from several hundred miles away. In 1999 and 2002 the total income was about $ 12/cwt with the loan deficiency payment. In Missouri.

The production studies show average yields of around 2000 pounds per acre for full season sunflowers and 1500 pounds per acre for double crop sunflowers. The yield potential for both types of production is higher when soils are not limiting. Net income from full season sunflowers is comparable to corn or soybeans in Missouri. In northern Missouri, double crop sunflowers provide better income than double crop soybeans. There are reasons to grow sunflowers.

To have a double crop option in the north Missouri ; to have a drought tolerant option, especially on sandy loam soils ; to reduce pest pressures through rotation ; to spread out labor or risk ; and to have a crop that can be direct marketed.

How to grow a vegetable.

In rotation with corn, soybeans and/or Sorghum, sunflowers work well as a full season crop. As a double crop after wheat, sunflowers are an equally good choice for the southern half of Missouri, and are a very good choice for the northern part of the state. Regardless of whether they are grown as a single crop or double crop, sunflowers should not be planted in the same field more than once every three to four years. On erosive fields, seeding a fall cover crop after sunflowers is a good idea. Sunflowers grow best on well drained soils, are tolerant of clay loam or silty clay loam soils, and perform well on sandy loam soils. They may be a good choice for bottom ground that does n’t dry out until early summer, since the sunflowers can be planted relatively late.

There is a variety selection.

Several varieties of sunflowers are available from most major seed companies. New seed should be purchased each year because almost all of the commercial varieties are hybrid. The new hybrid of sunflowers has better disease resistance and higher yields. Special types with unique seed oil characteristics have been developed through conventional plant breeding, including “ NuSun ” sunflowers that are higher in oleic acid in their seed oil than are conventional oilseed sunflowers. Reflecting market demands, many companies are releasing NuSun varieties that are considered mid-level in their oleic acid content ( there are also “ high-oleic ” varieties available that are desired for certain food and industrial uses ). Variety test comparisons in Missouri show a significant difference in yield of available varieties, but similarity in height and maturity. Selecting a variety with high oil content may be worthwhile for a vegetable oil market. To get the latest information on variety performance in Missouri, and for a list of seed sources, refer to the Jefferson Institute publication.

There is planting.

The seeds should be planted 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Studies show that sunflowers do not yield better in narrow rows than they do in wide rows. Sunflowers are not very sensitive to seeding rate since head size and seed number will increase in a thinner stand. The seeding rate can be as high as 25,000 plants per acre. The seeding rate is based on the weight of the seeds, but will be around 3 to 4 pounds per acre. Number 2 is the largest and number 5 is the smallest. The size of most sunflower seed is 3 or 4. The size of the seed can affect what type of planter modifications are needed.

After soils have warmed to 50 degrees F, planting can begin. Through mid-July. It is possible to plant a couple of different dates to reduce risk and spread out labor load. It ‘s likely that planting early will avoid bird damage. It is less likely to have damage from the sunflowers when planting late. In the northern part of Missouri, double crop planting after wheat works well since sunflowers are more frost tolerant than soybeans.


It responds to nitrogen, but has modest fertility needs. Roughly 50 to 70 lbs is the weight to follow soybeans in the rotation. N/acre is appropriate. About 80 to 100 lbs. N/acre is suitable. A cover crop can reduce or eliminate the need for N fertilization. Austrian winter peas can be planted in early April, and the legume can be planted in June. If good legume growth occurs, this approach can eliminate the need for N fertilization. For double crop after wheat, apply about 60 lbs. If the wheat stubble is incorporated, it ‘s about 80 lbs. If the sunflowers are grown no-till, it will be N/acre. Extra P and K can be applied to the wheat the previous fall if the soil test recommends it. On sandy soils, sunflower is responsive to extra potassium. The Sunflower appears to be tolerant of soils with a low pH. If the pH is below 6, consider liming. To improve the availability of nitrogen in the soil. In cool soils of early spring, starterfertilizer can be beneficial, but should not be placed in direct contact with the seed.

Pest management.

sunflower is very competitive with most weeds because of its vigorous growth and large size. The weeds must not be allowed to start. Most sunflower producers in Missouri make use of both methods to control weeds, applying a preplant herbicide and then row cultivating at least once after the sunflowers are established. Some of the preemergence herbicides that are available for sunflowers are Treflan, Prowl, Sonalan, and Eptam, all of which are grass herbicides with control of some broadleafs. In 2002, a broadleaf herbicide called Spartan was given a temporary Section 18 registration in Missouri. A section 18 application has been submitted for Spartan. Poast and Select are available for grass control. In the rare situation where a harvest aide is needed, paraquat or sodium chlorate can be used. If you do n’t want to use pesticides, you can use either a cover crop or a stale seedbed technique to kill the weeds.

It is similar to corn in that a lot of insects like to eat it. Sometimes a problem is worth looking for, and a few are worth getting treatment for. Unless a lot of cutworms are present, there is rarely a problem at the seedling stage. Many insects feed on the plant ‘s leaves, but they do n’t cause economic damage. Once the flower bud has begun to grow, it ‘s time to look for insect pests. The whole head can fall off if the head clipper insects attack the stem right below the head. There is a main threat to sunflower in Missouri. Scouting should be used to identify the adult moths, and spray should be used if enough are present. It is very difficult to control insects once the eggs have hatched. In most years, planting in June or July can help avoid sunflowers. Asana, Baythroid, Furadan, Endosulfan, Lorsban, Parathion, Permethrin, Stryker, and Warrior are all broad spectrum insecticides. Bt products and pyrethrin may also be used. It is a good idea to avoid spraying an insect when bees are present.

Although a number of diseases have been identified for sunflowers, just as with other crops, relatively few diseases have been seen in Missouri. In cool wet soils, seeds are usually treated with a fungicide. There are various leaf and foliar diseases that can cause surface spots or yellow patches. Scopinia, also known as white mold, is the greatest disease threat to sunflowers. It is possible to reduce the likelihood of disease by using good rotation practices. Pesticide products are not a guarantee that a label for the product is applicable to Missouri, and are only a starting point for product use. The latest information on the use of a pesticide can be found on the product label.


When the back of the flower head is yellow, the seeds are mature. seeds are usually ready for harvest when the head turns brown. Harvesting at high moisture may be useful to avoid bird damage or reduce loss from lodging. Corn heads, wheat, and row-crop have all been successfully used with sunflowers. Row-crop heads can be used without modification. Corn heads need to be modified with a knife. A row head has a lower amount of seed and head loss than a platform head. Adding pans to the platform can improve efficiency. Combine settings need to be adjusted for sunflowers. The lighter weight of sunflowers will cause airspeed to be lower. On a combine, a 1/3 to 1 inch setting is appropriate for the wide open concave. A bottom screen of 1/6 inch and a top screen of 1/2 to 5/8 inch are typical. The cylinder speed should be in the range of 250 to 400rpm. The goal of the process is for the head to be passed through the combine, or in a few large pieces, with all developed seed removed from the head. There will be a lot of trash in the grain if the head is ground up into small pieces.

There is storage.

sunflower can be safely stored at 10 % or less, but it should be 8 % or less during warmer months. When taking a reading on the hull of the seeds that are being dried in a bin, keep in mind that it dries faster than the kernels. To get a more accurate reading, place some seed in a jar overnight and take the reading the next day, after the hull and kernels have equalized.

Bins with perforated floors are better for drying sunflower. The hot spots in the stored grain should be avoided if aeration is not available. Storage problems can be reduced by cleaning before storage when there is excessive trash in the harvest. It is possible to use ambient air to cool and dry a flower. 10 degree F is the temperature if heated air is used. The increase in temperature over ambient is enough to increase the rate of drying. To avoid overdying, be aware that sunflower dries more quickly than corn or soybeans.

Some crops have a lower risk of fire hazard than sunflowers. The primary problem is that small fibers rub off the sunflower hull and float in the air. A few tiny fibers burning will not necessarily start a fire, but if combined with overdried grain, may lead to a bin fire. If heat must be used, certain precautions can be taken, but avoiding propane heat with an open flame will eliminate this risk. It is possible to turn the air intake for the dryer blower into the wind. Monitoring the bin during hot air drying can greatly reduce the risk of a bin fire.

Cleaning the bin and grain handling equipment is one of the key steps in storage. If you want to avoid creating a peak or cone of grain at the top of the bin, you should. Sunflower grown for snack food must be cleaned and free of insect damage to meet food grade standards.

The average test weight for oilseed sunflowers is 28-32 lbs. The grade standard is 25 lbs. Due to the low test weight, high sided semi-trailers are often used in order to carry more grain and reduce transportation costs.

Further information can be found.

A number of print and web-based materials are available for free or low cost from various extension and non-profit organization offices. For Missouri producers, the Jefferson Institute has a free sunflower information kit that goes into detail on several aspects of producing and marketing. There is some good information on the website of the National Sunflower Association. The oil is called sunflowernsa. There are also print bulletins and brochures.

Category: Flower

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