Sunflowers are one of the best alternative crop options available to Missouri producers. In-state markets are available for sunflowers, primarily for birdseed packaging. Loan deficiency payments are also available for sunflowers, which boosts their profitability. Sunflowers can be grown as a late planted double crop after wheat, or planted as early as April. As a double crop, sunflowers compare favorably with soybeans for many parts of the state. Sunflowers are shorter season than soybeans, and are more frost tolerant, allowing them to be double cropped further north than soybeans can.
Sunflower varieties have improved greatly over the last 20 years. Currently available hybrids have better disease resistance and higher yields than the cultivars available in the 1980's or early 1990's. The newest development in the sunflower market is the release of "NuSun" varieties, which are higher in oleic acid than conventional hybrids. The industry is moving in the direction of having most oilseed sunflowers be the NuSun type, because of the better stability and cooking performance of NuSun vegetable oil. For the birdseed market, there is no advantage to the NuSun type over regular hybrids; however, the 2001 variety test focused on NuSun hybrids, since the seed industry is moving all their varieties to have the NuSun trait. Hybrids developed for the confectionery (snack) market were not part of this field comparison.
In 2000 twenty-three sunflower varieties were compared in side-by- side, replicated trials in Missouri. The 2001 trial focused on Nu- Sun varieties, and expanded the planting location to include Arkansas. There is interest by the industry and researchers on how, or if, the seed oil content and oleic acid level is influenced by a more southern climate, especially in conjunction with a double crop planting. To have an objective evaluation of the newest sunflower hybrids, the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute1 , the University of Missouri, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff2, and the USDA-ARS Northern Crop Science Lab4 cooperated in scientific field comparisons of these hybrids during the 2001 growing season. Results of this trial are provided in this report, with data tables prepared by the University of Missouri Variety Test Program.
Acknowledgements. The seed companies donated the seed. Plots in Missouri were planted, maintained and harvested by the University of Missouri Variety Test Program and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff did the same for Arkansas plots. The Jefferson Institute supported the field and labor expenses in Missouri; Planter Oil Cotton Mill3 supported the field and labor expenses in Arkansas. The USDA- ARS Northern Crop Science Lab performed the analysis for seed oil content and composition.
1 The Jefferson Institute is a not-for-profit organization based in Columbia, MO, which provides assistance on production and marketing of alternative crops. The Jefferson Institute is funded through grants and private donations, and provides assistance to farmers at no-cost, in cooperation with University extension and state agriculture department programs. For more information on producing or marketing sunflowers, contact the Jefferson Institute at 573-449-3518, or write to Jefferson Institute, 601 W. Nifong, Suite 1d, Columbia, MO 65203.
2 The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff location was planted, maintained, and harvested by Dr. Owen Porter, Dept. of Agriculture, 1200 North University Drive, Pine Bluff, AR 71601.
3 Planter Oil Cotton Mill, P.O. 7427, Pine Bluff, AR 71611.
4 USDA- ARS, Dr. Jerry Miller, Northern Crop Science Lab, 1307 N. 18th St., Fargo, ND 58105-5677.
Agricultural Experiment Station