Sunflowers have a long history in Missouri, dating back at the very least a thousand years to as soon as they were cultivated in fields by indigenous Americans. Although modern sunflower cultivars were not grown widely in the U.S. Until the 1970s, there were tests the sunflower oilseed processing by the southeast Missouri Sunflower Growers’ combination in Missouri in 1926.

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Sunflowers space well adjusted to Missouri conditions, even though their major production has lately been in the Northern and Western Plains. Sunflower acreage has actually been raising over the last few years in Missouri, with several thousand acres now produced.

New government policies space making it more economically favorable for sunflowers, mainly the access of oilseed loan deficiency payments (LDPs) for sunflower. The farming size of the sunflower market, both because that oilseed and also birdseed uses, is creating brand-new opportunity to add sunflowers to crop rotations in Missouri. Sunflowers can be planted indigenous April with July, including as a double crop after ~ wheat.

By adding sunflower to an existing chop rotation, pest problems such together corn borer or soybean cyst nematode deserve to be reduced. Sunflower is much shorter season than most crops, so can be planted later or harvested earlier, helping spread out work-related load. Sunflowers are efficient at extracting water from the floor profile, especially in sandy loam soils, and can often tolerate drier conditions better than other crops.

Production guide

expansion and breakthrough

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is a broadleaf plant that emerges native the soil through two large cotyledons. Appearance will take 4 to five days when planted an inch deep in warm soil, yet will take it a couple of days longer in cooler soils or when planted deeper. Floor crusting have the right to make it daunting for the large seedlings to press out the the soil.

Sunflowers prosper rapidly, developing large, rough leaves. If planted in beforehand June, sunflowers in Missouri will certainly be in full bloom after about two months in early on August, and be tires by so late September. Existing sunflower arrays in Missouri with an average of 6 feet in height, varying in between five and seven feet depending on planting date and soil conditions. After getting to their complete height and also blooming, heads on advertisement cultivars rotate downwards, designed to make it harder because that birds to eat the seed.

A ar of sunflowers in bloom is a striking sight, and many farmer remark around the satisfied they, and also people passing by, acquire from seeing the flowers. Every sunflower head, or inflorescence, is actually written of two types of flowers. What appears to it is in yellow petals about the edge of the head space actually individual beam flowers. The face of the head is comprised of thousands of disk flowers, i m sorry each type into a seed (achene). Commercial sunflowers have actually flowers that room self-compatible for pollination, meaning they perform not require a pollinating insect, back some research studies have presented bee pollinators providing a slight productivity boost. Sunflower heads revolve with, or track, the sun at an early stage in your development, yet later remain east-facing prior to facing downwards. Part farmers choose to plant their rows north and also south so the the heads can lean right into the row space, quite than bumping versus an surrounding plant, causing some seed to fall.


Of the approximately 3 million acres of sunflowers that room grown every year in the U.S., up to 90% room the oilseed type. A far-ranging fraction of the oilseed harvest goes because that birdseed production, yet most of the seeds are processed right into vegetable oil. The the seeds processed for oil, about equal thirds space dehulled, partially dehulled, or left through hulls on because that processing. Once hulls room removed, they become a an extremely low worth byproduct, most often burned for fuel.

Vegetable oil use use of the oil indigenous sunflower for cooking very first occurred in Russia in the 1800s. Despite sunflower is aboriginal to the U.S., it was not seen as a vegetable oil source here till the critical 50 years, and really only started to be significantly grown for this purpose about 25 year ago. Sunflower is lower in saturated fats than most vegetable oils. The advance of NuSun arrays that are mid-level in oleic acid has spurred more interest in utilizing sunflower oil in food preparation. NuSun oil has actually the primary benefit of being an ext stable than many vegetable oils and also not needing to it is in hydrogenated to enhance shelf life.

Livestock usage After the oil is extracted from the sunflower seed, (the oil is around 40 come 45% the the particle by weight), the continuing to be seed product (meal) is fed come livestock. The nutrient worth of sunflower enjoy the meal depends mainly on the form of handling it has gone through: (1) even if it is the oil to be mechanically pressed (expelled) indigenous the seed, or solvent extract (which removes an ext of the oil), and (2) the degree to i beg your pardon the hulls were removed prior to oil processing. If component or all of the hulls remained on the seed prior to oil extraction, then the meal will have greater fiber content but lower protein and fat. Solvent extract sunflower meal will have a protein percentage roughly 41% if dehulled, and around 28% if hulls room left ~ above the seed. Fat contents of solvent extracted enjoy the meal is about 1%, and roughly 9% in mechanically pressed particle meal. A good source of information on the various species of sunflower meal and also their feed worths for various animals is the publishing "Sunflower Meal usage in breed cub Rations," available from the national Sunflower association (phone 888-718-7033). Regardless of the technique of sunflower meal manufacture, the meal have the right to serve as the sole source of supplemental protein in diets because that beef or dairy products cattle.

Snack food usage Although entirety seed, or confectionery, use of sunflower in the U.S. Is only about 10-20% of the chop each year, that is a premium market. Prices because that confectionery sunflower to run significantly higher than oilseed sunflower. Most of the confectionery sunflower is sold for snack food. Apparently in Russia, sunflower seeds space such a popular snack food the people bring packets that them about in their pockets, making them even more popular than peanuts are in the U.S. Part confectionery sunflower finds its way into handle foods, such as granola bars, multigrain breads or various other baking uses. Confectionery sunflower varieties have seeds that room larger, much easier to dehull, reduced in fat and are commonly striped or white (oilseed varieties are practically always black, however can it is in white or striped).

Birdseed use No nationwide statistics are kept on sunflower birdseed usage, but it is specific that thousands of thousands of acre are provided for this purpose. Sunflower is thought about the premium component in many birdseed mixes, and also is priced greater than other usual birdseed components such together sorghum, millet, or cracked corn. Although confectionery sunflower the doesn’t fulfill food grade requirements is typically sold into the birdseed market, most of what is used for birdseed is the oilseed type. From a packagers perspective, the oilseed form is used because it is cheaper than confectionery. However, the factor birdseed feeding publications recommend use of the oilseed form is due to its diluent hulls and also smaller seeds size, make it easier for small songbirds come eat. Birds do not care if the sunflower seeds is stripe or black, but most buyers want black seed because that uniformity in what they package.

Marketing and also Economics

In Missouri, the easiest method to sector sunflower is to the birdseed market. Most sunflower producers sell to a regional birdseed packager, but some offer to a local retail store, or sell straight off your farm already packaged because that consumers. 3 of the bigger sunflower birdseed buyers are Pennington particle in southwest Missouri (phone 417-637-5979), Buchheit Corp. In south east Missouri (phone 573-547-4569) and Keller and Sons near northeast Missouri (Quincy, IL, phone 217-228-6700).

In theory, birdseed prices should be unaffected by what happens in the vegetables oil market, however unfortunately castle are, at least at the all level. Sunflower oilseed prices, including for birdseed, follow soybean prices. Farmer that directly sell their own packaged birdseed obviously have much more control over their pricing, yet still need to keep an eye ~ above competitors’ prices.

Confectionery sunflower prices carry out not track soybean prices fairly as closely, however will generally follow wide swings in the price of vegetables oils. Many current or potential sunflower producers are interested in confectionery sunflower prices due to the fact that of their higher price. Unfortunately, with this higher price comes an ext demanding production and handling needs to acquire a high quality, undamaged seed suitable for the human being food market. Although there is not currently an developed buyer’s network because that confectionery sunflowers in Missouri, this is a product that lends chin to direct marketing.

Whether offering wholesale or direct, sunflower growers should get experience by growing the oilseed kind before also considering cultivation the confectionery type. Many Missouri sunflower producers should setup to thrive the oilseed varieties.

With the emergence of NuSun and high oleic species of sunflowers, chance exists to grow one of these specialty oil sunflowers and receive a price premium, typically of 10-20% over continuous oilseed prices. Until markets construct further for these specialty oil types, Missouri growers will be compelled to ship them come out-of-state markets, but in a few cases there might be a price benefit to growing one of these types. Contact the Jefferson institute for details on buyers (phone 573-449-3518).

The business economics of farming sunflowers for birdseed are fairly similar to growing soybeans. Seed cost on sunflowers is around $15 per acre and also weed control costs need to be comparable to soybeans. Fertilizer will cost much more than soybeans, mainly due to the fact that some form of nitrogen is necessary with sunflowers. Most years, an insecticide will certainly not it is in needed, for this reason the various other production price is harvest, i beg your pardon is comparable to soybeans or corn. An extra price with sunflowers is created by the distance of moving them come market. In some cases this can price a penny a lb or more, relying on distance come market.

Recent Missouri sunflower prices have actually been $10-12/cwt., yet prices can vary considerably. Price from some birdseed buyers in Missouri have been 10 to 20% greater than in the plains states, because they have to generally pay to carry the sunflower from number of hundred mile away. V the loan deficiency payment, complete income in 1999 and also 2002 was about $12/cwt. In Missouri.

Past manufacturing studies have displayed average yields of around 2000 pounds every acre for complete season sunflower, and 1500 pounds per acre for dual crop sunflower. Productivity potential because that both species of manufacturing is as lot as 25-35% higher than this averages, when soils and rainfall space not limiting. Net revenue from full season sunflower appears to be equivalent to corn or soybeans in Missouri. Dual crop sunflowers frequently provide far better income than double crop soybeans in north Missouri. Reasons to thrive sunflowers include:

(1) to have actually a twin crop option in the north Missouri; (2) to have actually a dryness tolerant option, especially on sandy loam soils; (3) to mitigate pest pressures v rotations; (4) to spread out out labor or risk; (5) to have a chop that deserve to be direct marketed.

How to prosper Sunflower

Sunflowers job-related well together a complete season crop in rotation through corn, soybeans and/or sorghum. Together a twin crop ~ wheat, sunflowers room an equally great choice with soybeans because that the southern half of Missouri, and also are a very an excellent choice because that the northern part of the state. Regardless of whether they room grown together a solitary crop or dual crop, sunflowers need to not be planted in the same field an ext than as soon as every three to 4 years. Sunflowers, prefer soybeans, execute not leave really much residue, therefore on erosive fields take into consideration seeding a autumn cover chop after sunflowers. Sunflowers normally grow best on well drained soils, room tolerant of clay loam or silty clay loam soils and also perform comparatively fine on sandy loam soils. They have to not be grown on wet soils, but may it is in a an excellent choice for bottom ground that doesn’t dry out until at an early stage summer, because the sunflowers have the right to be planted reasonably late.

Variety choice

Most significant seed companies have several varieties of sunflower available. Practically all commercial varieties of sunflowers room hybrids, so new seed need to be purchased every year. Companies have been actively developing new hybrids that sunflowers with better disease resistance and greater yields. Special varieties with distinct seed oil characteristics have been developed through typical plant breeding (not biotech), including "NuSun" sunflowers, that are greater in oleic acid in their seed oil than room conventional oilseed sunflowers. Reflecting market demands, countless companies room releasing NuSun varieties, that are thought about mid-level in their oleic acid content (there are likewise "high-oleic" varieties easily accessible that are desired for details food and industrial uses). Variety test comparisons in Missouri have displayed a considerable difference in productivity of easily accessible varieties, but similarity in height and maturity. Because that the birdseed market, oil portion does no matter, however selecting a variety with high oil content might be worthwhile for a vegetable oil market. To get the latest information on variety performance in Missouri, and also for a perform of particle sources, describe the Jefferson Institute publication on sunflower varieties (phone 573-449-3518).


Sunflowers must be planted 1 come 1 1/2 inch deep. Heat spacing researches have displayed that sunflowers execute not yield better in narrow rows, whereas wide rows space preferable to enable cultivating for weeds or usage a row crop header. Sunflowers room not specifically sensitive come seeding rate, due to the fact that head size (and particle number) every plant will increase in a thinner stand. Seeding rates deserve to be native 15,000 to 25,000 plants every acre. Sunflower seeds differ in size, for this reason seeding rate based upon weight need to take right into account particle size, yet will be about 3 to 4 pounds every acre. Number 2 sunflower seeds are largest, if number 5 room smallest. Many sunflower seed easily accessible is sized together a 3 or 4. Dimension of the particle can influence what type of planter modifications are necessary, such as buying new seed bowl or finger pickups.

Planting sunflower can begin anytime ~ soils have actually warmed to 50 degrees F. (April) with mid-July. It’s not a negative idea to plant sunflower ~ above a couple of different dates to minimize risk and spread the end labor load. Planting early on can enable sunflower to it is in harvested prior to corn and soybeans, and will likely avoid any type of bird damage. Planting so late can allow planting after other plants are done, and also is less likely come have damage from sunflower moth. Double crop planting after wheat works well through sunflower, and also can be excellent in the northern component of Missouri since sunflower is much more frost tolerant 보다 soybeans in the fall.


Sunflower has actually modest fertility needs, however does respond to nitrogen. When adhering to soybeans in the rotation, roughly 50 to 70 lbs. N/acre is appropriate. Complying with a non-legume, around 80 to 100 lbs. N/acre is suitable. Animal manure or a legume cover crop can alleviate or get rid of need for N fertilizer. One alternative is to feather plant a legume cover, such together Austrian winter peas in early on April, permit the legume grow for 2 months, then incorporate the legume and plant the sunflower in early June. This method can eliminate the require for N fertilizer if good legume development occurs. For sunflower planted twin crop after wheat, apply about 60 lbs. N/acre if the wheat stubble is tillage incorporated, or around 80 lbs. N/acre if the sunflower is grown no-till in the residue. P and also K should be used based on soil test recommendation; for twin cropping, extra P and K for the sunflower deserve to be used to the wheat the previous fall. ~ above sandy soils, sunflower is often responsive come extra potassium fertilizer. Sunflower shows up tolerant that soils through a pH down to 5.5, yet consider liming if the pH is below 6.0, to boost nutrient accessibility in the soil. Starter fertilizer for sunflower will commonly be useful only in cool soils of at an early stage spring, and should no be placed in direct contact with the seed.

Pest Management

Weed control among the real advantages of sunflower is the its vigorous growth and robust dimension make it an extremely competitive with most weeds. However, weeds need to not be permitted to obtain a head begin on sunflower. Weeds deserve to be controlled either through herbicides or tillage, but most sunflower producer in Missouri exploit both, applying a preplant herbicide and also then heat cultivating at the very least once ~ the sunflower seedlings space established. Several of the preemergence herbicides* obtainable for sunflower are Treflan, Prowl, Sonalan, and Eptam, all of which are primarily grass herbicides with control of some broadleafs. For 2002, a broadleaf herbicide called Spartan was given a temporary ar 18 registration for conservation or minimum tillage usage in Missouri. A ar 18 application has actually been submitted because that Spartan for usage on sunflowers again in 2003. Because that grass manage after sunflowers have actually emerged, Poast and also Select room available. Before planting, Roundup or paraquat deserve to be used as a burn-down, and in the rare situation where a harvest aide (dessicant) is needed, paraquat or sodium chlorate deserve to be used. Rather of herbicides, two alternate methods of weed control are to use cover plants (such together rye or winter annual legumes), or to usage a stale seedbed an approach (till the floor 7-10 days prior to planting to stimulate weed seeds germination, climate till again just prior to planting to death those weed seeds).

Insects Sunflower is comparable to corn in the a most insects favor to eat it. Some are occasionally a problem, and also a couple of are precious scouting for, probably needing treatment once in awhile. At the seedling stage, over there is hardly ever a trouble unless a hefty infestation that cutworms room present. As the plant grows, countless insects feed on sunflower foliage, including grasshoppers and also caterpillars, however seldom carry out they reason economic damage. The real stage to it is in scouting for insect pests is as soon as the flower bud has started to develop. Head clipper insects which attack the stem right below the head can reason the whole head to loss off, but are not too common. The main threat come sunflower in Missouri is sunflower moth or banded sunflower moth. Ideally, the adult moths must be determined through scouting, and if current in enough numbers, have to be sprayed prior to larvae become established. Once the eggs have hatched and larvae have actually moved within the head and also seeds, insecticide regulate is an extremely difficult. Later on planting (June or July) can assist avoid sunflower moth in many years. A variety of broad spectrum insecticides are labeled* for sunflower, including Asana, Baythroid, Furadan, Endosulfan, Lorsban, Parathion, Permethrin, Stryker, and Warrior. Certain organic insecticides may also be used, consisting of Bt products and pyrethrin. That is best to prevent spraying one insecticide once honey punishment pollinators room present.

Diseases back a number of diseases have been figured out for sunflowers, just similar to other crops, relatively couple of diseases have been viewed in Missouri. In cool wet soils, seed or seedlings may be fastened by fungi, so seed are typically treated with fungicide. Assorted leaf and also foliar illness will reason surface spots or yellow patches, however do not influence yield. Probably the greatest condition threat to sunflower is sclerotinia (white mold), i beg your pardon is likewise found in soybeans, canola, and specific other broadleaf plants. Using an excellent rotation practices, including not planting sunflower in a field much more than every three to four years, deserve to reduce likelihood the disease. *Pesticide commodities are mentioned in this guide only together a starting reference point for product use, and also are not a guarantee the a brand for the product is applicable to Missouri. Because that latest info on usage of a pesticide, above the product brand or a company representative.


Sunflower seed are usually physiologically mature as soon as the back of the flower head is yellow. As soon as the head transforms brown on the back, seeds space usually all set for harvest. In part cases, harvesting at high moisture might be beneficial to protect against bird damages or reduce loss from lodging or seed shatter. Communication (wheat), row-crop, and also corn heads have actually all to be used effectively with sunflower. Row-crop top are possibly the best an option because they have the right to be used without modification. Corn heads have to be modified v a stationary cutting knife before use v sunflower. Platform heads deserve to be offered without modification, yet often have actually a greater amount the seed and also head loss 보다 a row head. Adding pans to the front of the platform, and/or modififying the reel can improve efficiency. Combine settings have to be adjusted for sunflower versus various other crops. Airspeed must be lower, because of the lighter load of sunflowers. The concave should normally be run broad open (on a rotary combine, a rotor-to-concave setup of 3/4 come 1 customs is appropriate). A bottom display screen of 3/8 inch, and also a top display screen of 1/2 come 5/8 inch is typical. Cylinder speed should usually be in the selection of 250 to 400 rpm. The in its entirety goal the the threshing procedure should it is in passing the head through almost intact v the combine, or in a few large pieces, v all arisen seed eliminated from the head. If the head is being ground up into little pieces, there will certainly be extreme trash in the grain.


During chillier periods, sunflower have the right to be for sure stored at 10% moisture or less, but during warmer months the storage moisture have to be in ~ 8% or less. Once taking a moisture analysis on sunflower seed that room being dried in a bin, store in mind the the hull dries much faster than the kernel. Thus, a moisture analysis taken top top sunflower gift dried may be artificially low; to acquire a more accurate reading, place some seed in an airtight jar overnight and take moisture reading the next day, ~ the hull and also kernel moisture have actually equalized.

Bins with perforated floors work far better for drying sunflower than those through ducts. If aeration is no available, sunflower must be rotated in between bins to avoid warm spots emerging in the save on computer grain. When too much trash is present in the harvested grain, cleaning prior to storage can substantially reduce incidence of warehouse problems. Ambient air can be offered to cool and dry sunflower. If heated air is used, normally a 10 degree F. Boost in temperature end ambient is sufficient to rise rate that drying. Be mindful that sunflower dries much more rapidly than corn or soybeans, and should be monitored to avoid overdying.

Sunflower drying has actually a greater risk of fire hazard than some crops. The primary problem is that tiny fibers rub off the sunflower hulls and also float in the air, and also these fibers readily burn. A couple of tiny yarn burning will not necessarily begin a fire, however if merged with overdried grain, may cause a bin fire. Avoiding use that propane warm with an open up flame will eliminate this risk, but if heat must be used details precautions deserve to be taken. The wait intake because that the dryer blower have the right to be turned into the wind, allowing clean wait to pass over the burner quite than air v sunflower fibers. Monitoring the bin throughout hot wait drying, and also avoiding overdrying, can substantially reduce the hazard of a bin fire.

Other vital steps in storage include cleaning the bin and also grain handling equipment before storage, and also monitoring the bin for insects. Avoid producing a optimal or cone the grain in ~ the optimal of the bin, because moisture, and also possibly insects, will tend to congregate in the spot. Sunflower grown for the snack food (confectionery) sector must be handled with extra care, cleaned well, and be cost-free of insect damage to fulfill food grade standards.

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Test weight (pounds of seed per bushel) the sunflower will vary since of different seed sizes, but typical test weights for oilseed sunflowers room 28-32 lbs./bu. (U.S. Grade conventional is just 25 lbs./bu.). Because of the low test weight, high sided semi-trailers are regularly used when sunflower is hauled long distance in order come carry more grain and also reduce transportation cost.

For further Information

A number of print and web-based products are accessible for complimentary or in ~ low expense from assorted cg-tower.com and non-profit organization offices. For Missouri producers, the Jefferson Institute has a cost-free sunflower info kit that goes into information on several aspects of producing and also marketing sunflowers (call 573-449-3518). The national Sunflower Association has some good information on their website (www.sunflowernsa.com) and print bulletins and brochures.