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Steps for a Successful Sunflower Year

Written by Mike Bretz

Hybrid Selection: Select High Oleic hybrids that are proven in your growing area. Talk with your local seed supplier for information regarding the highest yielding, highest oil content varieties they offer. Nine new HO numbers are available for 2022. Consult the December 2021 issue of the Sunflower Magazine for more details.

Think Through Crop Rotations: Sunflowers enhance other crops when placed in proper rotation. Make sure the previous crop's herbicide applications from the past 24 months will allow you to produce sunflowers on that certain field for 2022.

Have a Proven Herbicide Plan: Start with a clean field. Know what weeds you are targeting, and select the best Pre-Plant herbicide available for your target weeds.

Have a Proven Fertility Plan: Soil tests are key to a good fertilizer program. If you are following a crop that has had high Nitrogen rates it is possible that very little Nitrogen will need to be applied. Excess Nitrogen availability can actually reduce yields and oil content in sunflowers. Phosphorus applications should be around 30# to 40# per acre. Check with your consultant of your supplier for proper rates for your fields.

Proper Plant Populations and Planting Dates: High populations may result in plant lodging, lower yields, and lower oil content. Lower populations can result in lower test weight, and lower oil content. For High Plains production dry land, populations should range between 19,000 to 22,000 plants per acre, and irrigated populations between 23,000 to 24,000 plants. Planting dates for the High Plains range from early May to mid-June.

Good Seedbed Preparation and Seed Placement: Seeds need to be placed 1½ to 2½ inches in depth in good moisture with good seed to soil contact. More uniform emergence will be the result.

Post Emergence Weed Control: With the selection of Clearfield, Clearfield Plus, and Express Traits in selected varieties, post-emergent weed suppression is possible. Follow the recommendations of your seed and chemical supplier. Grass and volunteer corn in the growing crop can be controlled by using Clethodim products such as Select, Select Max, or Shadow 3EC.

Insect Control: Since sunflowers are native to the High Plains, there are several insects that can infest the crop. Scouting for Head Moth and Seed Weevil is recommended at the onset of bloom. Both pests are easily controlled by timely insecticide applications.

Irrigation: If your sunflower production is under irrigation, it is best to start with a good soil moisture profile. It is then best to wait until the late vegetative stage before applying any water. Sunflowers require considerably less irrigation than corn or other crops grown in the High Plains. Over-irrigation can lead to lower yields and lower oil content.

For further information or if you need any questions answered, you can call our office at (719) 336-8452 or email,, or


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