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2022’s sunflowers withstood Mother Nature

tortoon/Getty Images Asphalt road with 2023 on it
LOOKING FORWARD: Planting delays in spring 2022 led to a sunflower crop lagging behind the five-year-average. Still, yields were well above average with excellent quality.
Sunflower Extra: Growing the crop in 2023 could lead to a profitable year.

Before we look ahead to 2023, let’s look at how the 2022 growing season turned out. The past growing season was delayed by two blizzards that hit the Dakotas and Minnesota in April.

A late start to planting had crop development behind the five-year average. In July, Mother Nature cranked up the heat and turned off the water spigot, quickly leaving most areas in abnormally dry to drought conditions.

The silver lining to April’s moisture was helping sunflowers reach their top yield potential before running out of gas. Yield for the most part was well above average, with excellent quality seeds going into the bin.

In USDA’s October sunflower production report, 2022 production was forecast at 2.91 billion pounds, up 53% from the revised 2021 production of 1.91 billion pounds. USDA added 2.3 million pounds to 2021 oil sunflower production but left non-oil type production unchanged from last year.

Area planted, at 1.69 million acres, is up 1% from the June estimate and up 31% from last year. Sunflower growers expect to harvest 1.63 million acres, up 2% from the June forecast and up 31% from 2021.

No estimates are out yet on 2023 oil-type sunflower acres, but industry analysts believe that acres will increase given the interest they are hearing from producers. Based on historical usage, an increase in acres of 10% to 15% in 2023 can easily be added given current demand without impacting present prices to a great degree.

Sunflower oil consumption in the U.S. has increased 50% in the past five years. With that trend showing no sign of slowing down, the sunflower market should be aggressive in 2023 to get acres to meet growing demand.

Contract offers

As of this writing, crushers in the Northern Plains are offering both 2023 cash and Act of God contracts for NuSun and high-oleic sunflower. Cash NuSun contracts are at $26.25 and AOG contracts at $25.75. High-oleic cash contracts are from $27.25 to $27.50, with AOG contracts at $26.75. In the High Plains, high-oleic AOG contracts are at $26.50.

Something else to consider is the oil premium that crush plants pay on sunflower, the only oilseed that gets a premium for oil content above 40%.

A 2% price premium for each 1% of oil above 40% pushes a contract with 45% oil content gross return 10% higher per cwt. Thus, the AOG contract at $25.75 increases to $28.30, and the cash contract at $27.50 moves up to $30.25. Oil premiums can give your bottom line a serious boost come delivery time.

If you have not considered growing sunflowers for a few years, take another look and you’ll be surprised how this crop’s genetics have changed.

As you prepare your crop budgets for this year, take another look at sunflowers. You might be looking at your most profitable crop in 2023. To learn about contracting opportunities, visit sunflowernsa.com to find information on confection and oil sunflower buyers.

Sandbakken is the executive director of the National Sunflower Association. He writes from Mandan, N.D.
TAGS: Crops
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