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30 Years Ago - A Look Back

Thursday, January 3, 2019
filed under: Historical

       Western Dakota Growers React to ComplianceBy Tracy Sayler —“Southwestern North Dakota is known for its rolling plains, grassy hills and buttes from which you can see for miles.  It is land that is pretty to look at, but also land that can be highly erodible.
       “Frank Dilse farms near Scranton in southwestern North Dakota and has 1,800 acres of sunflower — of which a third is on land considered highly erodible. Dilse, who is also secretary-treasurer of the North Dakota Wheat Producers, says he doesn’t have erosion problems with cropland following sunflower, but has had problems with summer fallow after sunflower.
       “Dilse says leaving sunflower stalks stand over winter has helped him regain moisture that would have been lost if the stalks had been tilled under.  To further control erosion, he plans to use chemical fallow on his summer fallow following sunflower where erosion problems may occur. Dilse points out that 1988 was a good erosion test.  ‘We did not have problems with erosion on the standing stalks in the past year’s crop or on land that had fall-applied chemical.’
       “Although Dilse is satisfied with the moisture recharge and weed control that chem fallow gives him, he says he is not prepared to go to a no-till program. ‘No-till would be more feasible if the right chemicals became available — especially one that works with sunflower,’ he states.  ‘I don’t have a lot of room for experimenting.  In a year like 1988, profit margins were small.’ ”
       Sunflower on Both Sides of the FenceBy Larry Stalcup — “When Mike Bowman plants sunflower, his benefits can go far beyond what the crop may bring at the marketplaces in the fall.  His sunflower program helps hold down weeds for upcoming wheat crops.  And, as he has proven in the past, harvested sunflower can provide him with an on-farm supply of high-quality protein supplement for use in his family’s preconditioning feedyard.
       “Bowman lives in northeastern Colorado, near Wray.  He and his family grow irrigated corn and alfalfa for their massive cattle program, which includes a 3,000-head preconditioning yard and 14,000-acre ranch producing several thousand yearlings annually.
       “Dryland wheat and sunflower also play a major role in the Bowman operation, which is one of the best-known agricultural entities in the region.  Sunflower acreage normally totals from 1,200 to 1,500. ‘We started growing sunflower in 1983, the year of PIK,’ says Bowman.  ‘We had some free ground for a non-program crop.  I had seen sunflower while visiting my grandparents in Minnesota and thought the crop could fit into our operation.
       “ ‘We planted some and had beginner’s luck.  They crop turned out real well, and we’ve kept growing sunflower ever since. The crop is now a regular part of our operation.’ . . . .
       “When the sunflower market was low in 1986, Bowman opted to forget about the normal market chains, and, instead, fed sunflower in his livestock program.  He knew sunflower was high in protein and energy. Since he had storage bins full of low-priced sunflower, he decided to use the crop as a replacement for much of his normal protein source.
       “Due to the high content of oil, Bowman didn’t use sunflower as the total protein source.  ‘Our nutritionist was afraid that if we gave them sunflower to meet all their protein needs, they wouldn’t be able to digest all the oils.’
       “Sunflower was fed at a rate of three to four pounds per head per day.  It didn’t replace the normal corn ration; only a portion of the protein supplement.  Bowman’s average daily gain is 2.5 to 2.75 pounds.  When switched to the sunflower supplement, the gain rates didn’t drop.
       “ ‘The biggest savings we obtained was by not having to truck protein supplement to our preconditioning yard,’ Bowman notes.”
       Sunflower Is (Happily) for the BirdsBy Larry Kleingartner— “You don’t have to tell sunflower growers living in the pothole region of the Northern Plains that birds prefer sunflower.  Farmers spend thousands of dollars to keep blackbirds out of sunflower fields by using airplanes, boomers and tons of ammunition.
       “Simultaneously, there are many other Americans who are spending millions of dollars to attract birds into their backyards.  These Americans are part of a fast-growing community of ‘birders’ — people who set up feeders stocked with sunflower and other seeds to attract birds.
       “According to Don Stein, president of the Wild Bird Feeding Institute, bird feeding in this country is the second most popular outdoor hobby after gardening. The center of the ‘birders’ is still the New England states, but it has expanded throughout most of the country. More importantly, feeding birds has become a year-round hobby as opposed to just the fall and winter months. . . . 
       “In a landmark bird preference study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the results clearly point out that most bird species prefer sunflower.  And surprising to many bird feeders, the black oil-type sunflower is often preferred over the confection or striped variety.  White proso millet is also a popular feed source, especially among smaller birds. . . .
         “Of the total seed market for bird food, the sunflower share is estimated to be about 50 percent.  Millet would make up about 30 percent, with the remainder consisting of a wide assortment of seeds and seed byproducts.  Industry estimates of total annual sunflower utilization, both oil and confection, range from 150 to 200 million pounds.”
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