Sunflower University promotes sunflowers as beneficial crop
Sunflowers — a potentially successful crop that is often overlooked compared to soybeans and corn, some experts say.
Nuseed and Legend Seeds partnered to bring the third annual series of Sunflower University events to South Dakota. One event was held in Ft. Pierre.
Sunflower University is a seminar featuring representatives from multiple companies offering ways to assist in sunflower production. Sunflowers are one of the world’s five most-grown oilseeds.
“Everyone is focused on corn and beans, but we know there’s a need to know about sunflowers,” Alison Pokrzywinski, Nuseed sunflower product manager, said. “There’s not a lot specifically on sunflowers out there.”
She said Nuseed takes pride in their global sunflower breeding stations, which are located anywhere from here in the United States to Europe and Australia. Their partnership with Legend Seeds, the fourth largest seed dealer in the country, is for their resources in sales, IT support, and other necessaries for producers.
The speakers included a diversified look at sunflower production with topics ranging from sunflower market sustainability to markets to insecticide and pesticide usage on sunflowers.
Guy Christensen, oilseed marketing representative for Archer Daniels Midland, said one of sunflower oil’s greatest promotional aspects is that it’s non-GMO and has less trans fat. He also said TBHQ, a preservative, is not used in sunflower oil.
Recent legislation has pushed for trans fats to be out of food by June 2018, he said. That has created an opportunity for sunflower producers because high oleic sunflower oil can fill in for what’s currently being used.
Christensen said, compared to 2012, the sunflower market looked promising.
“Sunflowers competed for acres when there was seven-dollar corn and that made it difficult,” he said, but U.S. sunflower yields have gained a bushel a year over the last couple years, he said.
Christensen said about 2 billion pounds of sunflower oil is produced annually with a third of that being hydrogenated.
Christensen said he encouraged producers to participate in Field to Market (FTM), an organization made of large companies such as McDonald’s and Coca Cola to improve and sustain crop development. He said with agriculture under attack, FTM works for sustainability and gives agriculture a bigger stage to connect with consumers.
Joe Faustad, representative for Pierre-DuPont Crop Protection, spoke about appropriate pesticides for sunflower crops and when to spray.
“The earlier you spray, the less weeds,” he said, adding it’s best to spray when the plant is between the 2-leaf and the pre-bud phase of its development.
Faustad said sunflower hybrids, which had the DuPont ExpressSun herbicide tolerant trait, are tolerant to Express SG, which was is one of the best choices for spraying sunflowers. It dealt with thistle, northern canola, pigweed, and buckweed, which are common threats to sunflowers.
Prevathon is the new insecticide Faustad said was is recommended for sunflowers. Though it’s expensive, Faustad said it was is a “softer insecticide” that would not harm honeybees or other beneficial species.
The one insect Prevathon is known to control is the sunflower head moth. The sunflower moth is a threat to sunflower crops, but has not reached the South Dakota area yet, Faustad said.
“The problems will be coming to our area,” he said. “We need to be knowledgeable before it happens.”
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