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Sunflower Late Planting Considerations

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This page was adapted from the article, "Sunflower Late Planting Considerations" which appeared in Crop & Pest Report on June 9, 2022. 

Sunflower may be planted during a wide range of dates. In the northern Great Plains, planting extends from May into June. However, early maturing hybrids should be selected for late planting or replanting.

Growing conditions during the season will affect yield, oil content and fatty acid composition. High temperatures during seed formation have been identified as the main environmental factor affecting the ratio of linoleic and oleic acid content.

High yield may be obtained from May planting dates and may result in reduced bird damage and reduced late-season loss from Sclerotinia head rot due to early plant maturity.

Late June plantings often result in lower yields, lower oil content and possibly lower test weight. In addition, when harvest is delayed by weather or field conditions, mechanical drying of seed is required, thus adding to production expenses. Figure 1 provides the relative yield obtained at Carrington averaged over 4 seasons for six planting dates. The yield obtained when sunflower was planted on May 20th was set at 100%.  The June 10th planting date resulted in about 80% of the May 20th yield potential.

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Figure 1. Sunflower relative yield for six planting dates, averaged over 4 years, Carrington ND. Sunflower yield planted on May 20th was set at 100%.
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A few sunflower hybrids are available that mature a bit earlier than others, so earlier maturing hybrid selection would be a good strategy to consider when planting sunflower late. For data on maturity of hybrids see the NDSU sunflower hybrid trial results.

Sunflower growth and development is mostly driven by heat units, so as planting is delayed, the temperatures are going to be higher and crop development is quicker. The sunflower growing degree model will predict the growth stages when using the actual planting date to run the model, see https://ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu/sunflower-growing-degree-days.html.