Dakota farmers have a nice cropping option that most other producers don’t -- sunflower.
New crop sunflower prices are competitive with corn and soybeans this year. Native to the Great Plains, sunflower does better than most other crops when it is dry. Best of all, you can grow sunflower under contract and most contracts include Act of God clauses.
“Act of God clauses basically mean the producer doesn't have a production risk,” says John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association. “Should drought, hail, insects, disease, etc., result in a yield loss and you don't have enough production per acre to cover your sale, the Act of God clause kicks in. You are only obligated to deliver what you produced not what you contracted.”
Demand for sunflower is strong in the U.S. Sunflower oil and seeds are considered a healthy food. Unlike corn, the crop has a reputation of being environmentally friendly. Why that is I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s all image. After all, what can be bad about a crop that millions of people feed to songbirds?
Sunflowers aren’t genetically modified, which might be a good hedge against the effort to label GMO foods in the U.S.
“Whole Foods Market recently announced that by 2018, all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms. Whole Foods is the first grocer to set a deadline for full GMO labeling. The company will be working with suppliers as they transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources, or clearly label products containing GMOs by the five-year deadline. The impact on non-GMO products like sunflower would be positive if food companies look for non-GMO substitutes,” Sandbakken says.
Tom Young, Onida, S.D., says sunflower is one of his best cash crops. The former National Sunflower Association president got interested in sunflowers when his father began growing them in 1974. Today, Young grows sunflowers in a four-year rotation with corn, grain sorghum, winter and spring wheat. Young no-tills and uses cover crops.For tips on how Young produces high sunflower yields, see the article, “Key to a successful sunflower crop” on page 28 of the February issue of Dakota Farmer. You can find it online here.