A Look Back - 30 Years Ago
NSA Proposes Blackbird Program – “The National Sunflower Association has proposed that Congress appropriate $25 million over a 10-year period to develop methods of reducing blackbird populations. The proposal would encompass projects leading to the development of chemosterilants and lethal controls. If such monies were appropriated, they would go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would be responsible for developing and implementing the blackbird population reduction program. The proposal also calls for the simultaneous appointment of a citizens’ advisory committee from various affected groups for program monitoring and input purposes.
“In making the proposal, the NSA noted that there are a minimum of 500 million blackbirds on the North American continent, the majority of which congregate in southeastern U.S. roosts during winter months. A recent Fish and Wildlife Service estimate placed annual damage to U.S. food crops and feed grains by blackbirds at $80 million. Corn is most affected in dollar terms, while cherries, rice and sunflower follows. The figures do not take into account expenditures by farmers and others to control bird damage.”
Double Cropping Viable in Several U.S. Regions / By Don Lilleboe – “Though it constitutes a very minor portion of total U.S. sunflower acreage, double cropping is, geographically, a wide-ranging practice. From Florida to southern South Dakota, from South Carolina to Kansas, many states’ climatic conditions allow farmers the option of following wheat or other early harvested crops with sunflower in the same season.
“A major drawback to double-cropped sunflower in many of these areas is apparently not agronomic, but rather one of marketing. Local elevators are often not interested in handling the crop, and that frequently leaves the grower with some hefty freight bills to distant handlers and buyers.
“Yet there are pockets around the country where double cropping with sunflower can be a paying proposition. It’s a system where input costs are relatively modest and yields often quite respectable.
“Neil Carter, farming near Carrollton, Ill. (about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis), will be planting double-cropped sunflower for the fourth year this summer. ‘I never did feel that a wheat/soybean double-crop program was very profitable,’ he says. ‘Sunflower was a new crop, so we tried it. And it’s worked well for us.’ Carter pulled down close to 1,700 pounds per acre on his 1982 sunflower. The 1983 drought-plagued crop yield just under 1,000 pounds; but because of higher market prices and an average oil content of about 45 percent, his net return was near that of ’82.”
Furrow Diking: Saving the Rainfall / By Don Lilleboe – “ ‘Furrow diking’ is a practice used on probably a couple million cotton and sorghum acres, both dryland and irrigated. It’s a method of keeping rainfall where it falls on sloping fields by building dikes across furrows at consistent intervals (anywhere from two to three feet on up to 10 or 12, depending on the system used). Several manufacturers supply various models and size of dikers, and these will be attached to cultivators, or, in some instances, on a tool bar.
“While the number of furrow-diked sunflower fields is minute compared to cotton or sorghum, the practice can be equally effective on sunflower ground.
“Ralls, Texas, farmer David Prewitt dikes all his furrow-irrigated fields, including sunflower. The hard, fast rains his area sometimes receives are a major reason why. ‘We might get a half inch or an inch within just a few minutes, and a lot of it can run down the furrow and out before it soaks in,’ he says. “That’s the primary reason we dike: even distribution of rainfall. And believe me, it does make a difference.’
“Prewitt has also found the dikes to be a real asset when he is irrigating. He dikes only every other furrow and waters only alternate furrows (those not diked). ‘At times we have cracking in our soils here,’ he explains. ‘When we’re furrow irrigating, the water – if it hits a severe enough crack (in the furrow wall) – will break over into the adjoining row. If that row is diked, the water will go just a little ways, become diked up and then continue back on down the furrow in which it was supposed to.”
No-Till Sunflower Production / By Bob Nowatzki, Langdon, N.D. (Excerpts from a presentation at the 1984 National Sunflower Association Convention) – “Within the last eight years, I have grown 11 different crops using a no-till system, including sunflower, spring wheat, durum and winter wheat, flax, soybeans, navy beans and barley, oats, tame mustard and hybrid sorghum Sudan grass. The system has worked. Any system of farming – whether it’s conventional tillage or all the way down to no-till – will respond to management. However, one has to assign different management techniques to the different systems if you want to make those systems work.
“I think sunflower has been the most difficult crop to master using no-till, for one major reason: a lack of good postemergent herbicides, particularly for broadleaf weed control. We do have some herbicides coming that should change this, but at present they are only experimental. . . .
“One basic factor essential for top yields in any production system is good, uniform plant stands at emergence. Good plant stands depend on achieving adequate seed-to-soil contact during the planting operation. With no-till, the challenge is to adapt the newer equipment to plant through the old crop residues to achieve that desired and necessary seed-soil contact.”
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