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Seed Suppliers Work On NuSun Hybrids

Thursday, January 1, 1998
filed under: Utilization/Trade: NuSun

For all its promise from a consumer and food industry vantage point, the NuSun development would be “dead in the water” if farmers prove unwilling to plant these mid-oleic hybrids. Obviously, seed companies believe the NuSun trend will be successful — and that farmers will participate by growing sufficient quantities for this market.

Virtually all major sunflower breeding programs are developing NuSun hybrids. Some will have commercial varieties available for the limited 1998 NuSun acreage; others will be in the marketplace by 1999. Though details are proprietary, most companies to-date likely have been using one “conventional” parent (with an oleic content in the area of 19-20 percent) and one parent with the oleic genes to create the mid-oleic (NuSun) hybrids with their 55- to 70-percent oleic content.

The new hybrids naturally must be tested extensively prior to commercial release. In 1997 university tests at Casselton, N.D., Brookings, S.D., and Colby, Kan., five elite NuSun hybrids averaged 2,422, 2,538 and 2,681 pounds per acre, respectively. The averages of four elite “traditional” hybrids in those tests were 2,243, 2,540 and 2,507 pounds, respectively. Oleic levels were quite stable across those three diverse environments.

“We’ll run this trial again in 1998,” notes Jerry Miller, USDA-ARS research geneticist. He adds that oil contents among NuSun varieties and traditional ones were quite similar, as were the levels of disease resistance, lodging percentage, heights and other key agronomic traits.

Cargill Hybrid Seeds has released the first of its Northern Lites™ line of NuSun hybrids for 1998 planting. The new hybrid performs on par with leading current varieties (e.g., SF270 and SF187), says Gene Kronberg, the firm’s Fargo, N.D.-based district sales manager. Cargill Hybrid Seeds also is offering an Act of God clause on NuSun plantings as an induce-ment to producers.

As of this winter, the Northern Sun processing facility at Enderlin, N.D., has been paying a premium (typically between 30 to 40 cents per hundredweight) for NuSun seeds. The Cargill multiseed plant at West Fargo has opted to increase the price for regular oil-type seeds and is paying on a parity basis for both NuSun and regular seeds. Cargill also offers a “no price established” (NPE) contract option, allowing the seller to settle at a chosen price anytime prior to shipment.

Keith Peltier, president of Proseed, Inc., says his company is among those who’ll be offering NuSun varieties for 1998 commercial planting. Proseed will also purchase farmers’ production, with those seeds planned for processing at the new AgGrow Oils facility at Carrington, N.D.

Peltier, Kronberg and other seedsmen emphasize that seed suppliers will be providing separate sets of oil sunflower hybrids for the foreseeable future: NuSun and traditional. The switchover to a NuSun-predominant industry obviously will not occur overnight, so companies will need to continue developing elite high-linoleic varieties along with the mid-oleic ones for at least the next several years.

The bottom line is that planting NuSun hybrids must be advantageous for the farmer. Along with very competitive yields, industry leaders are counting on an substantial expansion in overall demand for sunflower oil. That, they point out, translates back to an economically healthier oil sunflower industry for everyone concerned: processor, seed supplier and producer. — Don Lilleboe
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