With the poor weather conditions for planting spring wheat in the northern states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, some farmers might almost be forced to plant some sunflowers. 

If they aren’t old hands at sunflower production or conditions aren’t ideal for sunflowers, ag retailers and crop consultants have potential to step forward and help with the seed, fertilization and pest control options.

Corn and spring wheat planting are well behind the normal pace in all three states, but especially in North Dakota. As of May 29, 3.8 million acres of cropland intended for corn or spring wheat in North Dakota had not been planted and 3.2 million of that was in spring wheat growing areas. Sunflowers can be planted well into June in the Northern Plains states while the recommended last day for corn and spring wheat planting is June 3.

Sunflower acreage in the U.S. could significantly exceed 2 million acres this year, depending in large part on the planting progress yet to occur, noted Doanes Advisory Services as of June 3. The Department of Agriculture March Prospective Plantings report had sunflower acreage pegged at 1.8 million acres total before the poor weather interferred.

After falling in 2009/10 and 2010/11, world sunflower production in 2011/12 is expected to increase to potentially record-high levels. There has been a rally in sunflower prices. This will encourage plantings, most notably in Russia and Ukraine, as well as several other countries, with the U.S. not jumping on the band wagon unless forced to by the weather situation, Doane’s economist suggest. About three-quarters of the nation’s sunflowers are grown in the three northern states.

There are estimates that world production could climb close to 35.0 million metric ton, which would break the previous record of 34.7 mmt in 2008/09.  Russia’s drought in 2010 was a significant factor in the lower world production and supplies, forcing Russia to switch from a net exporter to a net importer of sunflower oil. Area in Russia is expected to rebound this year, reaching a record 7.5 million to 8.0 million hectares.

There are estimates that Ukraine’s sunflower production could reach 5.3 million hectares with harvest being a record high of 8.3 mmt. Although a major player, Ukraine’s sunflower production is small compared to Russia, production has increased sharply during the last two years compared to the previous five-years.