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Drying Sunflower in Kansas

Thursday, September 15, 2005
filed under: Harvest/Storage

Bill Hoffman of Hays, Kans. has been growing sunflower for 15 years, and has never had a problem with crop dry-down at harvest. “Usually in our neck of the woods if you cut a sample and moisture’s 16%, two days later it’ll be 6%.”

But last year he ended up planting his NuSuns late, early to mid July. “And they just didn’t want to dry down. There were days when it was so foggy out I couldn’t see 100 yards in front of me,” he says. “I had a lot of dollars worth of crop out there, so I figured I’m going to get a dryer and then I’ll have it if I ever need it again.”

So Hoffman bought a 500-bushel re-circulating batch dryer from GT Manufacturing in Clay Center, Kans. to help dry down his ‘flowers. He didn’t finish harvesting until the first week of December. Still, yield and quality turned out excellent: he planted mostly Triumph short-stature 665s, which ran about 2,000-2,200 lbs/ac with oil in the low to mid 40s.

“The only problem we had is the very last batch we overdried a bit, and the weather conditions were such that the fines were blowing back in and it got hot. So I shut the burner off and let it circulate – it continuously circulates like a grinder-mixer – we didn’t have any damage and I didn’t have to dump any ‘flowers.”

Hoffman figures he’ll use the dryer on an “as-need” basis. He sees where drying sunflower could offer advantages at times, even in Kansas growing seasons where sunflower all too often becomes too dry naturally on its own. A dryer could help dry down sunflower doublecropped with winter wheat, or allow the sunflower crop to be harvested at a higher moisture to avoid blackbird pressure or lodging related to stem weevil damage.

“And if you harvest wetter it’s a cleaner crop. I didn’t have troubles with fines on the combine, and you’re hauling pure ‘flowers, with less foreign material and trash.”

Hoffman usually grows oil sunflower in rotation with winter wheat, and some irrigated sorghum. He’s growing some Clearfield sunflower this year to help clean up weed problems (devil’s claw has been a problem on some of his sunflower ground).

He grows dryland sunflower and has been “experimenting” with growing some of his sunflower under limited center-pivot irrigation the last three years. This year he pre-watered so the irrigated ‘flowers would have moisture early, “then again when they started pushing buds, until pedal drop, when we’ll probably switch the water to other crops.”

As of mid August, Hoffman was pleased with the way this year’s crop was shaping up. “We caught a few rains, and it’s looking a lot better than in the past. I think we’re going to raise some ‘flowers this year,” he says. “They’ll come through better than anything.” – Tracy Sayler

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