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You Are Here Sunflower Magazine > Top Net Returner

Sunflower Magazine

Top Net Returner
April 2001

Sunflower Top Net Return Performer in Southwest SD Rotation Study

Sunflower is a top performer in net return per acre, according to results of an ongoing reduced tillage crop rotation study being conducted by the South Dakota State University West River Ag Center, Rapid City.

Under the study, 11 different crop rotations were established in the spring of 1994 near Wall, SD. The rotations are two to six years in duration, and at least one full cycle in all of the rotation sequences has been completed. Reduced and no-till production practices are used to grow the crops in the rotations, which are replicated four times. Cost of production and economic return for each crop in the rotations has been calculated each year of the study.

Clair Stymiest, SDSU extension agronomist, says winter wheat yields have been highest when a broadleaf crop is included in the rotation. Sunflower, Peas, and safflower are three broadleaf crops suitable for production in western SD included in the study. Of the three, sunflower has offered the best economic return. “Peas have been about breakeven. Safflower is easier to raise than sunflower; you can use conventional equipment and a straight header at harvest, just like wheat. And you harvest it earlier than sunflower. But safflower doesn’t offer the same economic return as sunflower,” says Stymiest.

Following is a breakdown of last year’s crop yields and total economic return per acre for the different cropping systems in the rotation study:

1) Winter Wheat/Fallow

Crop Yield Income Expense Net income/acre

Winter Wheat 58.3 bu $176.06 $105.12 $70.94

Fallow $ 0.00 $ 61.35 $-61.35

$176.06 $166.47 $ 9.59 2=$4.79

2) Winter Wheat/Sunflower/Millet/Winter Wheat/Corn/Fallow

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat-a 66.9 bu $202.70 $149.14 $ 53.56

Sunflower 2602 lbs $244.06 $169.90 $74.16

Millet 1,300 lbs $117.00 $112.63 $4.37

Winter Wheat-b 46 bu $134.32 $115.15 $ 19.17

Corn 65.8 bu $125.02 $150.10 $-25.08

Fallow $ 0.00 $0.00* $0.00*

$823.10 $653.97 $169.13 6= $28.19

*Expense of the fallow ($52.47) was split 80% to the winter wheat-a and 20% to the sunflowers.

3) Winter Wheat/Safflower/Millet

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat 45.4 bu $129.84 $114.99 $14.85

Safflower 1,391 lbs $166.92 $149.00 $17.92

Millet 1,266 lbs $113.94 $102.93 $11.01

$410.70 $366.92 $43.78 3=$14.59

4) Winter Wheat/Millet

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat 32.6 bu $98.45 $107.75 $-9.30

Millet 1,370 lbs $123.30 $114.03 $ 9.27

$221.75 $221.78 $ -.03 2=$-.01

5) Winter Wheat/Corn/Sunflower/Spring Wheat

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat 47.6 bu $129.47 $126.13 $3.34

Corn 50.2 bu $ 95.38 $145.81 $-50.43

Sunflower 1,958 lbs $183.66 $135.49 $48.17

Spring Wheat 31.8 bu $97.61 $116.31 $-18.70

$506.12 $523.74 $ -17.62 4=$-4.40

6) Winter Wheat/Sunflower/Pea-fallow/Winter Wheat

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat-b 48.9 bu $133.00 $141.74 $-8.74

Sunflower 2,468 lbs $231.49 $158.37 $73.12

Pea-fallow $0.00 $0.00* $0.00*

Winter Wheat-a 60.8 bu $181.79 $168.80 $12.99

$546.28 $468.91 $77.37 4=19.34

*Expense of the fallow ($76.53) was split 80% to the winter wheat-a and 20% to the winter wheat-b.

7) Winter Wheat/Safflower/Pea-fallow/Winter Wheat

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat-b 43 bu $127.28 $136.16 $ -8.88

Safflower 1,546 lbs $185.52 $149.94 $35.58

Pea-fallow $0.00 $0.00* $0.00*

Winter Wheat-a 57.1 bu $171.30 $167.92 $3.38

$484.10 $454.02 $30.08 4=$7.52

*Expense of the fallow (76.53) was split 80% to the winter wheat-a and 20% to the winter wheat-b.

8) Winter Wheat/Yellow Dry Peas/Millet

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat 48.9 bu $138.38 $118.19 $20.19

Yellow Dry Peas (edible) 1,074 lbs $62.30 $124.84 $-62.54

Millet 1,524 lbs $137.16 $99.43 $37.73

$337.84 $342.46 $ -4.62 3=$1.54

9) Winter Wheat/Corn/Millet

Crop Yield Income Expenses Net Income/acre

Winter Wheat 37.8 bu $111.88 $113.17 $ -1.29

Corn 60.2 bu $114.38 $148.76 $-34.38

Millet 1,300 lbs $117.00 $103.40 $ 13.60

$343.26 $365.33 $-22.07 3=$-7.35

Notes on the crop rotations that include sunflower:

2) This rotation provides a high level of diversity and intensity of crop production. The idea was to develop a six-year rotation with as much diversity as possible to reduce effects from diseases and moisture use. The corn had a big loss in 2000 (-$25.08 per acre) but in 1999 the corn made $36.30 per acre. The corn is the most weather dependent crop in the rotation. The price of millet has not always made it a profitable crop, but it provides a good transition from sunflower to winter wheat. Sunflower net income was $74.16/acre, sunflower cost of production was 6.5 cents/lb, and a yield of 1,811 lbs/acre was needed to breakeven. This rotation does provide some excellent weed control and disease protection for the crops grown. The plots were free of weeds and disease, and the crop diversity of this rotation also spreads out the workload for the producer. The big disadvantage would be the need for different types of equipment to produce the row crops and the small grains.

5) The sunflowers in this rotation had good yields even though they were grown after a high moisture use crop like corn. The sunflowers were about the only money makers in this rotation. Sunflower net income was $48.17/acre, cost of production was 6.9 cents, and a yield of 1,444 lbs/acre was needed to breakeven. This rotation may be too high in moisture use for western SD. The use of fallow or millet would help to replenish the soil moisture.

6) The pea/fallow in this rotation is a new concept and is not fully tested yet. The peas were planted to be grown in the fallow plots until early bloom. At this stage, they were killed by a herbicide spray, having produced by this time most of the organic nitrogen they will assimilate during the growing season. It is yet to be determined if the use of early season moisture during the fallow period will reduce yields of the following wheat crop. The sunflower yields were excellent and the crop was profitable with a net return of $73.12 per acre. Cost of production was 6.4 cents/lb, and the breakeven sunflower yield was 1,688 lbs/acre. The cost of the fallow includes the cost of growing the peas and the crops have not been able to benefit from the release of organic N yet. This rotation is less intense and includes the pea/fallow, which could reduce the problem of how to fallow the land after sunflower.

The sunflower yields in the test plots (with sunflower planted in 20-inch rows) may be better than producers are getting in the field, because the heads were harvested by hand and there was no harvest loss. Complete details on the study are available on the SDSU West River Ag Center web site,, beginning on page 41 of the 2000 Annual Progress Report. —Tracy Sayler

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