Canadian Sunflower Rebound
Sunflower production in Canada has been rebounding over the past decade; in fact, growers in Manitoba are investing in future improvements to the crop, approving a sunflower checkoff starting with the crop coming off this fall.
Manitoba is by far the largest sunflower-producing province in Canada: Manitoba farmers grow about 80% of all sunflower in the country, and Saskatchewan, about15%. The remaining 5% is spread out in pockets in southern Alberta, south central Ontario and the Maritime provinces.
Sunflower actually isn’t a new crop to Manitoba, as farmers there have been growing the crop since the early 1940s. Production zoomed from 65,000 acres in 1970 to a peak of 380,000 acres in 1979. Lower prices and production problems dropped acreage to about 60,000 acres in the mid 1980s.
Production picked up again into the early 1990s, but declined again, with the closer in 1995 of the oil crushing plant in Altona, MB. The closure was prompted because a large part of the sunflower acreage had shifted to confection types that were promoted by processors located in various parts of Manitoba's Red River Valley and southern Alberta. Confections have since spearheaded Manitoba’s sunflower acreage increase trend (see graphic).
Prices and improved hybrids are making sunflower a viable alternative to grains in the southern part of the province. Manitoba farmers planted over 150,000 acres of confection sunflower this year. That rivals N.D. confection sunflower, which is projected at about 180,000 planted acres this year. Total U.S. confection sunflower acreage in 2003 is projected at about 348,000 acres, down from 460,000 planted acres last year.
About 65% of producers in Manitoba voted this past spring to establish a sunflower checkoff, which goes into effect this year, according to the National Sunflower Association of Canada, which was organized in 1996.
Dean Fraser, president of the NSAC, Souris, MB, says the checkoff will “finally give sunflower producers a direct involvement in Canadian research programs to search out answers to reduce disease pressures from Sclerotinia root, stem and head rot.” He adds that it will also enable producers to work more actively with companies to register and market new weed control products.
On-farm hybrid trials and other Canadian sunflower production information can be found at the NSAC’s web site, www.canadasunflower.com. – Tracy Sayler
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