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Business & Economics

South Dakota 2022 sunflower acres not following price increase

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As South Dakota farmers gear up for Planting Season 2022 they are looking at commodity market increases due to the ongoing war in the Ukraine. And because the Ukraine is the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil – sunflower farmers in South Dakota are looking at price increases of 60 percent over a year ago.

But this market spike does not mean there will be a rush to plant more acres of sunflowers. SDPB’s Lura Roti has this story.

Take a look at the agriculture crops produced in the Ukraine and it makes sense that the war would impact commodity markets for South Dakota’s farmers explained Agtegra’s Director of Commercial Risk Management Travis Antonsen (pronounced Antinson).

“You know, Ukraine is a lot like the Dakotas as far as climate and what they raise. Everything they raise is very similar to what we raise here…So, it’s definitely changed the landscape here for the growers in the Dakota’s big time from a price standpoint,” Antonsen says.

Most sunflowers raised in South Dakota are sold into the bird food market or crushed for oil. Harvest 2021 South Dakota farmers received approximately $30per hundred pounds of sunflower seeds at harvest time. A look ahead to harvest 2022 shows prices of more than $32 per hundred pounds. That’s an increase of nearly 7% percent.

Again Travis Antonsen.

“A huge part of supply is taken off the market, the market is getting very excited. [Travis Antonsen 5:00] “You know, half the world’s exports of sunoil come out of the Ukraine so a huge deal. We think we grow a fair amount of flowers in The Dakotas – and it’s really a drop in the bucket compared to what Ukraine means to the world,” Antonsen says.

On average 1.4 million acres of sunflowers are planted across the U.S. According to National Ag Statistics Service data, South Dakota farmers raise about 570,000 acres of sunflowers each year - ranking second in the nation to North Dakota for sunflower production.

But even with the current spike in sunflower markets, there are no indications that South Dakota farmers will plant more acres to sunflowers. In fact, the USDA Prospective Planting Report indicated 2022 sunflower acres are down slightly from the annual average.

This has to do largely with the science of crop rotations. To reduce weed and disease pressure farmers rotate the crops they plant in their fields each season, explains fourth-generation Roscoe farmer, Allen Beyers.

“On our farm, where we would plant wheat, we would follow wheat with corn, and then, corn with either sunflowers or soybeans. If we plant sunflowers, we would rotate sunflowers back to wheat. If we plant soybeans, we would rotate soybean ground back to either wheat or corn, but typically, we would never plant sunflowers on soybean ground or sunflowers on sunflower ground, just because it is not a sound agronomic practice. … It’s a fairly large thought process. I think that is the overwhelming issue. It is not just about this year, it’s about next year and the year after,” Beyers says.

Fourth generation Pollock farmer Jeremy Vander Vorst agrees with Beyers. It just so happens that increasing sunflower acres by 20 percent this growing season works with his current crop rotation.

He chose to plant sunflowers over soybeans because of the market and the fact that he has fertilizer left over in field planted to corn in 2021. Last summer’s drought stunted the corn. When the corn failed to mature, it quit absorbing nitrogen fertilizer from the soil.

“So, on a normal year, we would not expect to have fertilizer left over, if we’d taken an average crop off, but last year, the crop was below average and there’s plenty of fertilizer left over, more than we’ve seen for many, many years. So, that’s what makes them attractive, because if we plant beans on there, beans would not utilize the fertilizer to the magnitude that sunflowers will. Sunflowers are a deep-rooted crop that will go grab and use it,” Vander Vorst says.

In the week since visiting with Travis Antonsen about the 2022 price for sunflowers, the market has gone up an additional $1 per hundred pounds. Roscoe farmer Allen Beyers says that although the current markets make planting more acres to sunflowers a tempting proposition, he will stick with his original plan because it is the best plan for the health of his farmland.