Sunflowers look good overall, bumper crops for some

CNS Canada — Luc Remillard expects to be one happy farmer next week.

He’s expecting to get into sunflower fields on land he farms with his father in Manitoba’s southern Red River Valley.

“It’s right up there with any bumper crop that we’ve had the valley here,” he said.

Remillard, who farms near St. Joseph, Man., about 50 km east of Winkler, said his yields are looking to be as good or better than last year’s crop, when they attained 2,600-2,700 pounds per acre.

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The normal average for the area is about 1,400 to 1,700 lbs./ac., he said, depending on variety and whether they are confection or oilseed types.

Sunflowers are well suited to overcome low moisture conditions that plagued many areas this year, he said.

“It’s going to be a crop that will have done well through the drought and sporadic rain, just because of the characteristics that it has,” said Remillard, who also sits on the board of directors for the National Sunflower Association of Canada.

Also, “because of the taproot system, it was able to find the moisture to finish it off.”

Plants with taproots typically possess thicker and more-vertical roots, with feeder roots branching off from the main stems. The thicker roots penetrate deeper into the soil to better scavenge water compared to other root systems.

For prices, Remillard said growers are now seeing them in the range of 22 to 25 cents/lb., although lower soybean prices are keeping sunflower oilseed prices down.

Sunflowers compete with soybeans in oilseed markets, and heavy soybean supplies in the U.S. are currently keeping a lid on prices.

“But depending on how strong the bird (seed) market is, you’re looking at 23, 24 (cents/lb.) maybe, possibly 25 kind of prices right now,” he said.

Returns for oil content will come on top of that, he said. Once seeds are hauled in and analyzed for oil content, growers can receive bonuses of two per cent for every point of oil content above 40 per cent.

“Some of the oils (varieties) that we’re growing now, the high-oleics, can get up to 46, 47 per cent oil. So you’re topping up 10 per cent on the base price, which is significant,” Remillard said.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that this year’s sunflower crop is expected to increase by 1.4 per cent compared to 2016-17, for total production of 58,400 tonnes. Canadian farmers grew 57,600 tonnes last year.

Manitoba is forecast to account for 50,200 tonnes of this year’s crop, followed by Alberta with 3,600 tonnes and Saskatchewan with 3,500.

Manitoba sunflower growers last year produced 57,600 tonnes — the entire national crop.

— Terry Fries writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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