Dakota Farmer

Sunflowers acres down across U.S.

North Dakota has the largest decrease, with planted area losing 193,000 acres compared with 2020.

John Sandbakken

August 6, 2021

3 Min Read
Farm road through a field of sunflowers
ACREAGE DOWN: With North and South Dakota sunflower acreage down over 300,000 acres in 2021, what will markets hold for the upcoming season? Grant Faint/Getty Images

According to USDA, area planted to sunflowers in 2021 decreased 20% from 2020 and totals 1.38 million acres. Harvested area for all types is expected to decrease 21% from last year to 1.31 million acres.

Planted area of oil-type varieties, at 1.25 million acres, is down 16% from 2020. Harvested area for oil types is expected to decrease 17% from last year to 1.19 million acres.

Planted acreage of non-oil varieties, estimated at 130,000 acres, is down 43% from last year. Harvested area is expected to decrease 43% from last year to 120,500 acres.

Compared with last year, acreage decreased in four of the eight major sunflower-producing states. The state with the largest decrease from last year is North Dakota, where planted area decreased 193,000 acres compared with last year. South Dakota also had a large decrease compared with last year, with planted area down 127,000 acres from the previous year.

Initial estimates using trend yields peg oil-type sunflower production at 2.1 billion pounds, down 23% from last year, with confection sunflower production at 206 million pounds, down 43% from 2020.

Moving forward

So, what does this mean in terms of prices for the rest of this marketing year heading into harvest? After this news hit the market, sunflower prices trended higher as the industry digested the numbers, making sure to cover nearby needs. This was the first report of planted acres, and these reports can change from month to month.

Planting was still going on in some states when the survey was taken so changes to planted acres will most likely occur. In the past five years, USDA has changed final planted and harvested sunflower acres significantly by the time the final crop production numbers were released at the end of the year.

In March, USDA reported stocks of oil-type sunflower seed were at 888 million pounds, up 36% from last year at the same time. Non-oil sunflower stocks totaled 186 million pounds, up 58% from last year. This level of stocks gives crushers, confection and bird food plants some cushion before new crop arrival at the company plants. However, given the current excellent bird food and oil demand, sunflower seed stocks will be extremely tight by this summer. This should keep old-crop prices trending higher, and there is a good likelihood that price premiums will be in place to encourage growers to desiccate and harvest early.

Now that the USDA report is factored into the market, buyers will anxiously watch crop production prospects before making longer-term purchases. Mid-August through September is the critical time frame for sunflowers. Severe to exceptional drought conditions are prevalent throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota, which might impact sunflower production to some degree.

In October, USDA will provide an updated estimate for oil and non-oil sunflower production. This report and demand news will set the tone for new crop sunflower price direction. To keep up with market news and prices, go to sunflowernsa.com.

Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association. He writes from Bismarck, N.D.

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