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40 Years Ago - A Look Back

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
filed under: Historical

       Editor’s Note:  The Sunflower’s publishing schedule in 1989 did not include an issue in either October or November.  So our regular ’30 Years Ago’ page takes on a different chronology this month.  We are going back to October/November 1979.
       As noted in our previous issue, 1979 was the peak year for U.S. sunflower acreage and production, capping several years of significant expansion.  For 1979, USDA reported a harvested acreage of 5.4 million, with seed production totaling more than 3.4 million metric tons.  The 1980 levels were 3.7 million harvested acres and about 1.75 million metric tons.  At no time across the past 40 years have acreage and production come close to that 1979 level.
       Machine ‘Electrifies’ Volunteer FlowersBy Don Lilleboe —“Sunflower growers who wind up battling heavy volunteer infestations during the rest of a field’s rotation schedule may get a ‘charge’ out of a product manufactured by a Mississippi firm.
       “The firm is Lasco, Inc., a Vicksburg-based company whose stockholders are mostly farmers.  Lasco’s product is the EDS (for Electrical Discharge System) Lightning Weeder, a tractor-mounted cultivator which kills overhead weeds with electricity. . . Operated off a tractor’s power take-off, the Lightning Weeder utilizes a 50 kilowatt generator and transformer to treat 12 rows at a time.  It is designed for row crops such as sugarbeets, soybeans and pinto beans.
       “When Lasco began experimenting with the Lightning Weeder, they used an energized bar running the full length of the unit to kill those tall weeds.  Now, however, they employ steel wires over each row. Since this energized wire could damage the row crop as well as kill weeds, the Lightning Weeder is thus used only on weeds taller than the crop itself.
       “The ‘hot’ wires on the Lightning Weeder are insulated from the cultivator’s frame and the tractor, and insulated conductors carry the current to them. When the wire comes into contact with the weed, the electrical current travels through the plant and into the ground. The electricity in the plant in effect ‘boils’ the plant cell solution and ruptures the cell walls, breaking down the weed’s vascular system to produce the desired killing mechanism.”
       Two More Plants Announced —“Plans for two more oil sunflower processing plants in North Dakota have been announced.  That brings the total to five.
       “The I.S. Joseph Company, Minneapolis, said in early October that it would construct a $25 million facility, capable of processing 1,000 tons of sunflower seed daily.  While the company did not specify a site, the plant will likely be built in eastern North Dakota.  Construction is slated to begin in 1980, with processing startup projected for the fall of 1981.
       “The other plant proposal was announced by All Sun, Inc., a newly formed group of farmers and businessmen from southeastern North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota.  All Sun, Inc., is presently developing plans for a 500-ton-per-day facility at Hankinson, N.D.
       “Along with these two plant proposals, plants have previously been announced for Jamestown (North Dakota Sunflower Growers Cooperative in partnership with Pacific Vegetable Oils), Velva (Midwest Processing Company in conjunction with the Pillsbury Company) and Riverside (Cargill, Inc.).  Only the Riverside plant is currently under construction.”
       Editor’s Note:  Of the above, three came to fruition: Riverside (West Fargo), I.S. Joseph (Enderlin) and Velva. Two — Cargill in West Fargo and the now-ADM plant in Enderlin — have continued to process sunflower across the ensuing four decades.
       Sun Oil Shows Promise As Fuel / Economics a Big QuestionBy Mary Wallace Sandvik— “With the price of diesel fuel rising steadily, sunflower oil may one day be a viable alternative fuel for use in diesel engines.
       “At the present time, it is not economically feasible to use sun oil as a substitute for diesel as diesel costs about 95 cents per gallon and the cost of sun oil would probably be $2.00 to $2.25 per gallon, depending on the value of sunflower meal and the cost of processing.  However, tests have been run with sunflower oil using a diesel engine with very minor difficulties if any.
       “According to Vern Hofman, extension agricultural engineer at North Dakota State University, more research is necessary before any definite statements can be made regarding the use of sun oil in diesel engines.
         “Hofman and Ken Kaufman, assistant professor of agricultural engineering at NDSU, recently ran a test on industrial grade sun oil, mixing it with diesel fuel in varying percentages.  They ran a standard six-cylinder, 401 cubic-inch turbocharged engine rated at 135 horsepower on three different mixtures: 25 percent No. 2 diesel fuel and 75 percent sun oil, 50 percent sun oil and 50 percent No. 2 diesel fuel, and 25 percent sun oil and 75 percent diesel fuel.  They reported that all mixtures were able to fuel the engine and maintain horsepower.  The only problem they encountered was with a 75 percent sun oil-25 percent diesel fuel mixture that was probably too thick for the fuel system.  They found that the fuel consumption rate for sun oil compared favorably with that of diesel fuel.”
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