About 30 people attended a meeting last week at the University of Wyoming Powell Research and Extension Center to find out more about raising the crop. Lyle Evelo and Fred Hopkin are among local growers who have already tried growing …
Minnesota-based Dahlgren and Co. produces snacks and bird seedMore fields of sunflowers will raise their heads to the sun around Powell and the Big Horn Basin this year.Dahlgren and Co., a Minnesota-based company, has written contracts with 17 growers to produce confection sunflowers for the company this year.
About 30 people attended a meeting last week at the University of Wyoming Powell Research and Extension Center to find out more about raising the crop. Lyle Evelo and Fred Hopkin are among local growers who have already tried growing sunflowers.
Dahlgren and Co. representatives are still working out the details of how seed will be delivered to growers for planting at the end of April or first of May and how the harvested crop will be collected in the fall. The company has receiving stations in North Dakota and South Dakota, the newest in Ipswich, S.D., in addition to its facilities in Crookston, Minn., and the Big Horn Basin seed will be delivered to one of those sites.
The company will accept seed to be processed for human consumption, including as packaged snacks, and may use smaller or broken seeds for bird seed.
Typically low humidity levels across the Big Horn Basin are one key to successfully raising sunflowers, said Ron Meyer, a Colorado State University extension agronomist who spoke at the meeting. High humidity levels can foster the spread of diseases.
Meyer cited a 2002 CSU field trial on irrigated ground. It rained 4 inches that year, the driest year recorded in 111 years, he said.Sunflowers thrived in the heat and produced 3,000 pounds of seed per acre, Meyer said.
And they resist wind despite their top-heavy appearance.
Evelo, who has grown sunflowers on Heart Mountain since 2002, said he's never lost plants to wind. He believes the stalks of the hybrid plants have improved strength over the past 30 years.
Meyer detailed problems sunflower growers may encounter, insects such as stem weevil, long-horned beetles and sunflower moth. The moths can be found by scouting in the evening, Meyer said. Scouting for tiny stem weevils is harder, since they often live on the underside of leaves or drop to the soil, where they blend in. Pesticides are available to treat these insects and pheromone traps can also be effective.
It's important to monitor the sunflower crop carefully from planting in May through harvest, Meyer said.
“This is not a miracle crop,” Meyer said. “You've got to take care of all the little things along the way.”
Meyer said sunflower seeds should be harvested above or “as close to 10 percent (moisture) as you can,” since they become brittle at about 8 percent and shatter more easily. Also, if the seeds and seed heads are too dry, it increases the chance of combine fires caused by chaff smoldering on hot spots on the equipment.