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Tips to help with the sunflower harvest

It might sound a little out of place talking about planting techniques for sunflowers at the time when harvest is just around the corner, but Syngenta agronomy service representative Nathan Popiel claimed that planting is the time to cut down on harvest problems.

“An uneven stand with different sized heads and other things associated with not having a uniform stand can really cause a lot of problems when it comes to harvest time,” Popiel said. “The time you really need to think about your harvest trouble is at planting – keeping the planting speeds down to around 4 miles-per-hour and set your planter to plant the flowers as uniformly as possible. If that’s not done right, your harvest will probably be a pain, no matter what we do.”

Popiel is also a big proponent of desiccation, which allows the producer to get the sunflowers out of the field as soon as possible and thus avoid the two biggest threats to harvest loss – stalk lodging and bird damage.

Uniform planting is a big factor in stalk lodging, he noted. When stands are uneven, some sunflower heads get very large where there is a wide seed spacing and some heads get small when the spacing is close. Those large heads weigh more than what the stalk is designed to hold and during days of high winds, the force of the head swaying back and forth in the wind can break the stalk off.

Stalk lodge can also result if the plant has some Sclerotinia infection issues, which usually results in a weak stalk, according to Popiel. In both cases, the longer the crop is in the field, the greater the chance of crop loss from stalk lodging and the same can be said of bird damage.

“As soon as we hit 35 percent moisture on that sunflower seed we should start to desiccate and kill off those flowers,” he said.

He mentioned three products that do a good desiccation job on sunflowers: Gramoxone, which is a Syngenta product; Sharpen, a BASF herbicide; and glyphosate. He stressed that no matter what product is used, it’s important to follow label directions, including such things as adjuvant suggestions and the amount of water recommended for application.

“All of the products that are used for desiccation are going to need some level of heat and/or decent growing conditions to work,” he explained. “You are going to want some decent growing conditions the day and the day after that you spray for both Gramoxone and Sharpen. If you go to Roundup you don’t need as good a conditions on the day that you spray, but you will need a longer period of decent growing conditions, like 10 days to two weeks, for the Roundup to really take effect.”

It’s also important to use the amount of water the label recommends, since both Sharpen and Gramoxone work by contact and require good coverage of the plants.

And it’s also important to use the labeled adjuvant which will be a crop oil and an ammonium sulfate. Since uniform coverage is important, Popiel recommends using a flat fan or cone nozzle. Most growers during the growing season are using an air-injection type nozzle in their sprayers, but changing those to a flat fan or cone nozzle will be well worth the time taken to switch nozzles.

As a way of getting the flowers off the field at an earlier date, he also recommends to start harvesting when the seed moisture is in the teens. This not only lessens the time the crop stands at risk in the field, but can actually increase the oil content of the harvested crop.

“We have found that you get a little better oil content if you harvest in the teens than waiting until they dry down to nine or eight percent moisture,” he said. “However, if we harvest in the 13 to 15 percent moisture range we actually see better oil content.”

As far as combine adjustment, Popiel said growers know their individual machines better than he does, but the one thing he would suggest at harvest is using a row-crop header if at all possible. Those using sunflower pans or a flex-header usually have a lot higher field loss than those with row-crop header at the front of their combine.

Harvesting speed is also important, he noted. Avoid running through the crop too fast, since that will increase field losses as well.

His final recommendation for the sunflower harvest is for the farmers to be careful. This applies to any time they are out in the field, he noted.

“Again, that comes back to slowing down and taking things easy. If we get in a hurry, we make mistakes and people get hurt,” he said. “Slow down, take your time and everyone is going to be a lot safer and happier at the end of the day.”

Sunflower harvest can be much safer, and happier, for producers if they slow down and take safety precautions.

(Source – http://www.farmandranchguide.com/news/crop/tips-to-help-with-the-sunflower-harvest/article_62d8151a-3102-11e3-9675-001a4bcf887a.html)

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