Yields keep sunflowers in Man. crop mix for 2013

Manitoba farmers saw very good sunflower yields in 2012, which are expected to keep farmers interested in growing the crop, especially if prices remain competitive with other options.

Average provincial yields for sunflowers hit their highest level on record in 2012 at 1,955 pounds per acre, according to Statistics Canada data. That compares with the previous five-year average of 1,354 pounds per acre.

Total planted acres, at about 100,000 in 2012, came in well above the 35,000 planted in 2011.

"We’ll certainly have an audience with farmers this year," said Mike Durand of Nestibo Agra at Deloraine, Man., about 110 km southwest of Brandon, on the likelihood of another acreage increase.

"Excellent yields" in 2012 were causing more farmers to look at planting the crop, he said.

Sunflowers fared well with the hot and dry conditions seen in 2012. The crop has deep roots and was able to use moisture in the ground from previous years, as well as nitrogen that had leached deeper into the soil, he said.

At current pricing of about 24 cents per pound for oilseed and 27 for confectionary seed, sunflowers were looking competitive with canola and soybeans, said Durand.

However, an increase in acres will depend on "how hungry the market is" closer to spring seeding. New-crop pricing for black oilseed sunflowers, at 24 cents/lb., can currently be found as well, although confectionary varieties were not yet being posted.

"At these prices, it’s easier to compete with $12 canola compared with $14 canola," said Durand.

While confectionary prices are firm, more and more interest in the province is turning towards growing oilseed varieties, he said.

– Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.