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30 Years Ago

Sunday, January 1, 2023
filed under: Historical

High Plains Takes Closer Look at Sunflower Residue & Compliance / By Don Lilleboe — “Sunflower residue: Is there more there than meets the eye?  That’s a question High Plains university researchers are attempting to answer as the region’s growers, sunflower industry and Soil Conservation Service officials continue to investigate how sunflower fits into individual conservation compliance plans.
        “The stakes, of course, are high.  Come January 1, 1995, producers must have their approved compliance plans in full implementation or risk the loss of farm program participation and benefits.  For many High Plains producers, satisfying SCS should not be a problem.  Reduce tillage systems, strip cropping and other means of cutting soil erosion will fill the bill to SCS’s satisfaction.  For others, however, the scale still hangs in the balance, capable of tipping in either direction.
        “A critical soil conservation issue for any crop — sunflower included — is the amount of residue that crop leaves behind after harvest.  A corollary question is what percentage of that residue translates into ground cover — and, how standing residue (e.g., unworked stalks) figures into the entire erosion control equation.
        “University studies in northwestern Kansas, northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska may trigger a new spin to sunflower residue figures presently used by SCS in its calculations.
        “How much plant residue does a sunflower crop generate per pound of seed yield?  The Colorado office of SCS has been using a ratio of 1.2 pounds of residue for every pound of seed, while in Kansas the ratio has been placed at 1.5 pounds per pound of seed.  These figures refer to the actual amount of residue in the field after harvest — regardless of whether it is lying flat on the soil surface or in the form of standing stalks. . . .
        “Research initiated in 1992 by Kansas State University’s Northwest Research-Extension Center suggests the 1.2-1.5 range may be too low. . . .  Results for the dryland portion of the experiment ranged from 2.7 pounds of residue per pound of seed on the 26,100 population, up to 3.2 pounds of crop residue on the 10,500 pounds. . . . [KSU’s Merrill] Mikesell cautions that the above numbers are based on just one year’s data — and also points out that the area enjoyed above average moisture in 1992.  ‘But I would think the amount of residue produced per pound of grain would actually go up in a dry year, because you’d still have the vegetation but not necessarily the grain,’ he says.”
        ‘No Vacancy’ Sign Out for Blackbirds / By Don Lilleboe — “Some might say bearing ill will toward the seemingly innocent cattail is like nurturing a grudge against motherhood and the flag.  But if those cattails choke wetlands and eliminate waterfowl habitat while simultaneously serving as a launchpad for sunflower-bound hordes of marauding blackbirds — there are plenty others who would shout, ‘Take no prisoners!’
      “That was the position Richard Morken found himself in during 1989.  For years, the Pekin, N.D., producer had employed the traditional weapons (propane boomers, shotguns) in a minimally successful attempt to reduce blackbird depredation of his sunflower fields.  Having lost thousands of dollars’ worth of seed each season to the winged intruders, the Nelson County producer was eager for an effective ally in his battle with the birds.
      “That ally arrived when Dr. George Linz and his assistant, David Bergman, asked Morken if he would be willing to participate in a multi-year research project studying the feasibility of the herbicide ‘Rodeo’ (a product of the Monsanto Company) as a way of controlling cattails and thereby reducing blackbird roosting habitat.  Morken readily agreed, and under Linz’s supervision a cattail-plugged 20-acre marsh near the northeastern North Dakotan’s sunflower fields was sprayed with Rodeo in the fall of 1989.
      “The result?  As of 1989, the marsh had been home to roughly 15,000 blackbirds — but contained virtually no open water or waterfowl.  By 1992, it had a large area of open water and was hosting sizable duck populations — but very few roosting blackbirds.”
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