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‘40’ Years Ago - A Look Back

Tuesday, October 20, 2020
filed under: Historical

         Editor’s Note:  The Sunflower’s publishing schedule in 1990 did not include an issue in either October or November.  So our regular ’30 Years Ago’ page takes on a different chronology again this month, as we delve back 40 years into the October/November 1980 issue.
       As noted in our recent August/September magazine, sunflower acreage declined dramatically in 1980 compared to 1979 — which was, historically, the peak year for U.S. sunflower acreage and production.  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 four decades have U.S. sunflower acreage and production levels neared that 1979 experience.
       Baseball Goes for Sunflower Seeds — “The in-shell confectionery sunflower trade has some real friends in major league baseball, according to Sports Illustrated magazine.  In a lengthy article in the publication’s October 6 issue, it’s noted that sunflower seeds have replaced chewing tobacco and gum in the bulging cheeks of a number of major leaguers.  One team indicated it went through about 200 cases of seeds during the 1980 season.  Stadium grounds keepers are not very enthusiastic, however, about having to clean up all the split shells off of their finely manicured fields.”
       South African Scientists Key on Sun Oil as Fuel / By Dorothea McCullough, NDSU Ag Communications — ‘Sunflower oil as a tractor fuel is also a hot topic in places other than the United States, and one of those places is the Republic of South Africa.
       “J.J. Bruwer, director of the Department of Agricultural Technical Services in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa, recently toured the United States to exchange technical information with other researchers of sunflower oil.
       “Because South Africa has even fewer oil resources than the United States, it is very aware of the world oil supply situation and has been looking at alternate fuels.  ‘And simply because agriculture is committed to the diesel engine, an alternative for liquid fuel must be found,’ states Bruwer.
       “South African studies have shown that sunflower seed oil has substantial potential as an extender for diesel fuel.  Although they have not solved all the problems of using sunflower oil in diesel engines, nor are ready to recommend using sun oil in farm tractors, they have had some results that show a high degree of promise. . . .
       “They have used nine models and five makes of tractors, including three commonly used U.S. makes.  They have also tested sun oil alone and in blends of various percentages with gasoline, diesel fuel and two petroleum products not commonly used here — power paraffin and illuminating paraffin.  Sunflower seed oil blended readily with any of the conventional fuels.”
       We’ll See Continued Expansion / By Mary Wallace Sandvik — “In a region where sunflower has been under considerable attack by the head moth and where available markets are often geographically inconvenient and economically disadvantageous, why does Lawrence Wieser, president of Interstate Distributors, Leoti, Kan., have such an optimistic attitude about the crop’s future?
. . . .
       “One advantage, Wieser explains, is sunflower’s relatively low water usage.  ‘Particularly because of its ability to survive in arid country, we think sunflower has a very definite places in our crop program here,’ he says, adding that sunflower will fit in especially well in a rotation if the land is irrigated.  Growing sunflower in an irrigated rotation will help the producer control grassy volunteer crops in corn or milo because of the herbicides used on the previously planted sunflower, he remarks.
       “For the dryland farmer, Wieser believes sunflower grown on summer fallow land will on the average net the producer more dollars than any other crop in the High Plains region.  Dryland yields of 1,800-plus pounds per acre are not unusual in the area, he notes, nor is 2,500 pounds on irrigated.  ‘We try to reach 3,000 pounds per acre on the irrigated,’ Wieser says.”
       Cargill Plant Opens / By Gary Grinaker — “Golden drops of sunflower oil and mounds of sunflower meal are now flowing from the United States’ first major processing plant built exclusively to crush sunflower seed.  And this plant’s need for 1,200 tons of sunflower seed daily is giving northern sunflower growers an alternate outlet for their crop.
      “Cargill, Inc.’s new plant at Riverside, N.D. (just west of Fargo) actually started crushing seed on October 6.  The $20 million-plus facility is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to convert the 1,200 tons of seed daily into crude oil and meal.  Plans calls for future expansion to 1,500 tons a day. 
      “ ‘We want to buy enough sunflower to fully replace our crush every day,’ says Steve Huemoller, plant manager.  Cargill is purchasing seed for the plant through local elevators and directly from farmers.  Buying and storage of seed began in November of 1979, and by the start of processing this fall, the plant’s 3.5-million-bushel storage capacity had about been reached.
      “Sunflower seed has been purchased from across the Northern Plains.”    
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