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A Look Back: 30 Years Ago

Saturday, January 6, 2018
filed under: Historical

        Can You Afford Fertilizing Sunflower When Prices Are Low? / By Joe Caroline, SIGCO Research — “Can you afford to fertilize six-cent sunflower?  You can bet top sunflower producers will, and their decision to do so is based on experience and available research data. 
       “There is no denying that current sunflower prices are not the most lucrative, but that does not diminish the need for sound production practices.  At lower price levels, cost:benefit ratios of production techniques must be evaluated and changed as dictated by the anticipated returns.  Mediocre management never does justice to any crop.  Astute management practices are a must given the current state of agriculture.
       “Fertilizer application is a wise production practice only if it is needed.  Excessive fertility levels do little for the ‘bottom-line’ of economic sunflower production.
       “Soil sampling is often looked upon as a drudgery and a task of secondary importance in crop management.  But on the contrary, a good job of soil sampling and test interpretation can be one of the most cost-effective practices involved in crop production. . . .
       “[North Dakota State University research] data confirm the need to adequately assess the nutrient requirements of the sunflower crop and manage the fertility program accordingly.  Management is based on cropping history, stored soil moisture, anticipated rainfall and realistic yield goals.  If a drought should occur, the nutrients should not be lost; but the producer would incur the interest expense on the fertilizer that was not used.
       “Fertility management will continue to be a key to successful sunflower production in 1988.”
       Maximum Yields Need Accurate Planting / By Vern Hofman, NDSU extension ag engineer — “For maximum yield and minimum cost for sunflower producers, one of he main things to do is hit the seeding rate exactly right.  Too low a seeding rate may result in an inadequate stand, while too high a seeding rate produces excessive stands and won’t produce maximum yield.  A uniform seed spacing is necessary to reduce competition for light, nutrients and moisture, all of which are essential for crop growth.
       “A North Dakota State University study was conducted to determine the planting accuracy of several row crop planters commonly used for seeding sunflower.  The study was designed to determine seeding accuracy with a change in speed and to develop a seed spacing index value which could be used to compare all planters tested. . . .
       “Tests were completed on four different types of seed types of seed metering units.  These include the plate type (John Deere), pressure pneumatic type (IH Cyclo), vacuum type (Heath) and the finger pickup (John Deere).  All units were mounted on a test stand in the laboratory.  The drive unit contained a variable speed motor that could be operated at the selected travel speeds of three, five and seven miles per hour. . . .  The units were set to meter seeds on a 12-inch spacing.  This is approximately equal to 18,000 seeds per acre on a 30-inch row spacing.
       “The effect of speed on the accuracy of sunflower seeding units shows that as speed increases, seeding accuracy usually decreases. . . . The only planter showing an exception was the finger planter.  Depending on the finger length and seed size, the seeding index improved or got worse.
       “Some metering systems could handle speed increases better than others.  The plate type planter was the least tolerant to a speed increase.  This is due to the fast travel speed of the plate and too little time available for seed to fall into the openings.”
       Double Cropping: How Far North Can You Go? / By Joe Isakson – “Double cropping sunflower and other late season crops in the High Plains of Texas, Kansas or Nebraska is a fairly common occurrence.  But double cropping in northeast South Dakota is about as rare as a January rain. . . .
       “Double cropping is something that Milton Lakness and his sons of Hayti, S.D., have always wanted to try.  In 1987 the opportunity came.  They planted and harvested a bumper crop of barley, then planted and harvested a sunflower crop — all from the same 100-acre piece of land.
       “The sunflower was harvested in early November after a later-than-normal frost.  It netted a respectable yield of 1,500 pounds an acre, but quality was poor, and the crop will have value only as birdfeed. . . .
       “It was barley harvesttime when the idea of planting sunflower began to grow in their minds.  Why not quickly disk up the barley stubble and plant sunflower?  That was all the incentive they needed. . . .  But as soon as they harvested the barley, a heavy rain fell.  As soon as the soil dried, they headed for the 100-acre field with the disc. 
       “They disced it once.  Then it rained again.  They disced it again, and then planted it on July 13.  The acreage was planted with two early varieties, one an experimental variety.  Plant population was 21,000 seeds per acre. . . .
       “The Lakness family felt they had roughly $20 an acre invested in the sunflower crop.  This included seed, fertilizer and tillage.
       “They considered the time spent planting, discing, cultivating and spraying.  No extra labor was hired.  And, should the crop fail, they would have some N stored for next year’s crop.
       “Another plus: Their fall tillage was basically completed and the sunflower roots would hold the soil down to prevent erosion.
         “ ‘One thing we need to realize is that double cropping won’t work every year,’ adds Nathan.  ‘But I’m surprised more people haven’t tried it.’ ”          
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