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Top Dollar for Large In-Shell

Sunday, January 18, 2004
filed under: Hybrid Selection/Planting

“If you look at his return, he ended up netting over $100 an acre more with the confection sunflower contract than with the beans, on the same piece of ground grown at the same time.”

Confection sunflower buyers hope attractive contracts will prompt more interest in growing the crop in 2004.

“If we can get guys to look at the economics, the potential is there,” says Chris Bohn, purchasing manager of Cenex Harvest States Sunflower (formerly Agway), Grandin, N.D.

As an example of how confection sunflower can pencil out, he points to the experiences last year of a grower from Argusville, in the Red River Valley of N.D. The grower produced a quarter of confection sunflower under contract with CHS in 2003. He also grew a quarter of soybeans adjacent to the ‘flowers. The beans yielded about 28 bu/acre, and the sunflower 1,630 lbs/acre, with yield potential of both crops impacted by dry conditions.

“But if you look at his return, he ended up netting over $100 an acre more with the confection sunflower contract than with the beans, on the same piece of ground grown at the same time,” says Bohn. “Yes, beans can be easier to raise, but you also have to look at the profit potential. New crop beans versus these confection contract values, there’s no contest.”

Confection sunflower contracts for 2004 are similar to last year, with a base price exceeding $15/cwt, more with later delivery and large seed contract incentives. “The demand for 20s and 22s has been there, but there’s more attention being paid to it now, probably more than ever before,” says John Berthold, purchasing manager, Red River Commodities, Fargo, N.D. “Growers really need to be producing for the in-shell market, that’s what we’re after.”

Bohn agrees that processor demand clearly favors long types over rounds. With contract incentives for producing extra-long seed and later delivery, he says confection sunflower producers can earn $17 to $18/cwt or more. At $18/cwt, a confection crop that yields 1,630 lbs would gross nearly $300/acre. There are also incentives for writing contracts early, such as cash discounts and zero financing options on seed.

“The interest is there from tried and true growers, what we’re hoping is to get growers back who were producing confections two to three years ago,” says Bohn. “There’s a lot of advantages, and along with an ‘act of God’ clause, the numbers are there for guys to take a look at confections.”

Bohn says the fact that sunflower performs better under dry conditions may also prompt more interest, especially in marginal soybean-growing areas. “You’re spreading risk and offsetting drought potential by putting in some ‘flowers.”

Selecting confection hybrids

Field trials and confection company field representatives are two key sources for reviewing confection hybrid performance and receiving hybrid recommendations, advises Tim Petry, field production manager for Dahlgren, Crookston, Minn. “Find out what’s new and what’s proven. Look at hybrids that yield well, with large in-shell size and good in-shell appearance.”

Petry adds that in evaluating hybrids, pay close attention to insect and disease ratings, which can have just as much weight on profit as yield. “If you have insect pressure, consider hybrids with a shorter bloom period. Single crosses tend to bloom more uniformly then triple crosses, so that should be kept in mind when considering pest treatments.” Hybrids that mature uniformly makes for easier pest treatments, dry-down, and harvesting, he adds.

It’s best to be conservative when trying any new hybrid, he recommends. “Start it out on a small amount of acres. Take something that’s working for you and complement it with a new hybrid, whose performance remains to be proven on your farm.”

Selection is important for hulling varieties too. Processors accept certain oil-type hybrids as “hullers,” where the hulls are removed and kernels sold into the bakery trade both domestically and overseas. Producers like these varieties for their market versatility; the harvested crop can be sold to confection processors for dehull, to a crushing plant for oil, or to bird food processors, depending on crop quality and price. Don’t assume confection processors will accept just any hulling variety, however.

“I think you’ll find more attention to how certain varieties perform as far as hullability,” Petry says. “The last few years virtually any hulling variety would make grade for hulling, but processors have a preference as some hybrids are better for hulling than others. So if you’re looking for that premium market, look into what processors want and plant accordingly.” – Tracy Sayler

Confection processors on the Internet:

CHS Sunflower:

Dahlgrens and Company:

Red River Commodities:

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