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Damage to Dakotas sunflower crop being determined

A blizzard flattened many sunflower fields in North and South Dakota, but the extent of the damage won't be known until the harvest is over.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The sunflower industry is working to determine the amount of damage to this year’s crop in the nation’s two top-producing states.

An early October blizzard flattened all or part of many sunflower fields in North Dakota and South Dakota, and there are some areas that farmers won’t be able to harvest, National Sunflower Association Executive Director John Sandbakken told Agweek.

“Most areas will be able to be combined to some extent. They’ll have to go slower and put headers down lower to pick up (sunflower) heads,” Sandbakken said. “There’s still a lot of crop that can be salvaged.”

He’s reluctant to estimate how much the storm will cut into production. The 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended Oct. 16 eliminated U.S. Department of Agriculture production reports and contributed to the uncertainty.

Sunflowers are used to make cooking oil, snacks and bird seed. North Dakota produces about half of the nation’s crop, and South Dakota’s production is not far behind.

The blizzard came at a time when farmers were talking about the possibility of a bumper crop because a frost-free September had given the sunflowers more time to develop.

“The heads are just huge. The seed sizes are just huge,” Sandbakken said.

A long stretch of warm, dry weather now would help the crop, he said.



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