Article Archives
2023 Crop Survey Summary

Thursday, February 1, 2024
filed under: Research and Development

By Leo Bortolon*

Photo courtesy Leo Bortolon
       The National Sunflower Association coordinates the biennial U.S. Sunflower Crop Survey.  Dating back to 2001, the survey plays a crucial role in providing on-farm data across the main production areas to better understand sunflower production issues.  By collecting comprehensive data on crop yield components, agronomic practices, weeds, disease occurrence and severity, and insect and bird damage, the survey helps policymakers, farmers and researchers make better-informed decisions about agricultural practices. This information likewise contributes to the sustainability of the sunflower industry and aids in addressing challenges in sunflower crop production.
        An extensive network team of surveyors exists, including university and area extension agents, USDA, industry agronomists, entomologists and plant pathologists.  For the 2023 survey, we examined a total of 220 fields in North Dakota (127), South Dakota (52), Minnesota (11), Nebraska (6), Kansas (6), Colorado (9) and Manitoba, Canada (9).  
        The evaluations made by the respective teams in the field included crop management such as sunflower type, previous crop, row spacing and tillage management.  We also collected data on plant stand, yield potential, disease presence and severity, insect and bird damage, and weeds for each field.
        A yield evaluation was calculated upon consideration of the plant stand, head diameter, seed size, percent of filled seeds, filling of the center of the head, and percent loss due to bird feeding.
        The most common sunflower type found was oil (86%). Corn and small grains were the most common previous crops.  No-till was observed in 59% of the fields, followed by 30% of conventional and 12% of minimum-till.  The most common row spacing was higher than 20 inches (83%), and a 30-inch row spacing was found in 72% of the fields.
        The average sunflower yield in 2023 was 1,924 lbs/ac — 350 lbs/ac above that in the 2021 survey.  The increase in the yield was probably due to the lack of extensive drought that occurred in 2021.
        Plant stand averaged 17,141 plants/ac across all surveyed fields.  North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba showed the highest average yields in the survey.   North Dakota sunflower yield ranged from 151 to 4,627 lbs/ac — the lowest and the highest yields in the survey — with an average of 2,004 lbs/ac.  South Dakota yield ranged from 775 to 2,822 lbs/ac with an average of 2,018 lbs. The Manitoba yields ranged from 778 to 2,661 lbs/ac with an average of 1,912 lbs.  
plant population bar chart
Plant population and yield, by state and province, across 220 surveyed fields in the 2023 crop survey.  Numbers in the boxes at top represent the average of all 220 fields: plant population — 17,141/ac; seed yield — 1,924 lbs/ac.

Yield-Limiting Factors
        In every survey, the teams are requested to rate the #1 and #2 yield-limiting factors in each field. In contrast with 2021 in which drought was the major issue (51%), in 2023 disease was the major issue that impacted sunflower yield (18%), followed by birds (10%), insects (10%), weeds (10%), and plant spacing (10%). The combination of those factors represented 68% of the issues found in the fields. The number #2 yield-limiting factor was disease (15%), plant spacing in row (15%) and insects (13%), which corresponded to almost 50% of the yield-limiting factors.
        Although weeds are always an enormous concern among farmers, mostly because of the chemical resistance, many of the 2023 surveyed fields showed very light or no presence of weeds.  Kochia was the most common weed found in the fields with an incidence of 46%, followed by redroot pigweed (20%), green foxtail (20%), volunteer grains (19%), Canada thistle (15%), barnyardgrass (10%) and yellow foxtail (9%).  In Kansas, Palmer amaranth was present in 100% of the fields in light to moderate incidence. 
        The most common yield-limiting factor in 2023 was diseases.  Phoma incidence was reported in 80% of the surveyed fields, followed by rust (60%), Sclerotinia (48%), Phomopsis (34%), rhizopus (33%), Verticillium wilt (11%) and charcoal rot (5%).


*Leo Bortolon is research agronomist with North Dakota State University’s North Central Research Extension Center, Minot.  His project co-leaders for the 2023 crop survey were:  Febina Mathew, NDSU associate professor of plant pathology; Jarrad Prasifka, USDA-ARS research entomologist; and Patrick Wagner, South Dakota State University entomology field specialist.
return to top of page

   More about Sunflower ►