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2017 Sunflower Planting (05/25/17)

Sunflower planting is progressing rapidly in North Dakota (Figure 1). As of May 21st, about 1/3 of North Dakota sunflower acres were planted. The percent planted sunflower acres is behind last year’s percent, but planting is ahead of the 10 year average.

2017 Sunflower Planting

Sunflower planting is progressing rapidly in North Dakota (Figure 1). As of May 21st, about 1/3 of North Dakota sunflower acres were planted. The percent planted sunflower acres is behind last year’s percent, but planting is ahead of the 10 year average.

kandel

The National Sunflower Association sponsors a sunflower field survey every other year. During field visits, a team identifies the most yield limiting factor observed in the field. Plant spacing within the row was identified as the most limiting factor with 18, 17, 26 and 10 percent of the observed fields in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, respectively.

             The end of the season survey found gaps in plant spacing, consisting of large skips within the row, or areas where plants grew too close together. Yield reduction is likely if the gaps within rows are too large for neighboring plants to adequately utilize the empty space. On the other hand, if plants are too close together, they will compete for resources. Competition may result in one of the plants having a reduced head size, which will not contribute to the sunflower yield. Equal distribution of plants is crucial to obtain high sunflower seed yield. Irregular plant distribution may have been caused by: poor seeding conditions, failure to adjust the planter, driving too fast, low germination percent of the sunflower hybrid seed, no seed treatment, seedling disease, insect damage, or other factors.

 Producers are encouraged to pay attention to the plant spacing issue. Planter calibration may be the first step to reducing skips and achieving more uniform plant spacing. Producers should also pay attention to the seeding rate. On average, the number of plants per acre, observed in the survey, was below plant densities needed to reach optimum yield. Producers should increase the seeding rate based on the germination percent indicated on the seed lot. In addition, seeding rate may have to be adjusted upwards to get the desired plant population, as not all live seeds will make it into an established plant. Between 5 to 15 percent of live seeds do not develop into an established plant. Reasons for seedling mortality can include: two seeds too close together, disease, insects, excessive fertilizer too close to the seed, improper seeding depth, no moisture to germinate, too much moisture, frost and drought after germination. Seedling mortality can vary greatly from season to season, and from field to field. Attention to details during the planting process is recommended, as sunflower has a relatively low plant population per acre.

Hans Kandel

Extension Agronomist Broadleaf Crops

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