Sunflower Week will examine varieties, fertility and pest management

South Dakota State University Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Sunflowers continue to be a staple in South Dakota crop production systems. Ranked second in the nation behind North Dakota, the state boasted a 40% increase in sunflower production, which can be attributed to a 20% increase in acres and improved average yields across acres in 2020. More than 610,000 acres were harvested, yielding an average 1,910 pounds per acre.

“Sunflowers are a popular crop in the semi-arid regions of central and western South Dakota,” says Ruth Beck, SDSU Extension agronomy field specialist. “They have a deep taproot that allows them to access soil moisture and nutrients from deep in the soil profile. This makes them more heat and drought tolerant, which in turn makes them a good fit for crop rotations in the western half of the state.”

Sunflowers are native to North America, which means there are also many native pests that can affect the crop. This makes it important for growers to have the best information on management practices, Beck says.

SDSU Extension will kick off the March virtual Crop Hour webinar series programming with the first week’s presentations dedicated to sunflower production. Attendees will have the opportunity to tune in each day from 10 to 11 a.m. CST to hear from local and regional experts on topics, such as variety selection and fertility as well as weed, disease and insect identification and management.

Sunflower Crop Hour dates and topics are:

  • March 2: “Weed Control Programs in Sunflowers,” Paul Johnson, SDSU Extension weed science coordinator; “Updating Sunflower Fertilization Recommendations,” Jason Clark, assistant professor and SDSU Extension soil fertility specialist and Chris Graham, SDSU Extension agronomist.
  • March 3: “Sunflower Varieties” and “Sunflower Diseases 1.0,” Febina Mathew, associate professor and SDSU field crops pathologist.
  • March 4: “Aboveground Sunflower Insect Pests” and “Belowground Sunflower Insect Pests,” Adam Varenhorst, assistant professor and SDSU Extension field crop entomologist, Patrick Wagner, SDSU Extension entomology field specialist and Philip Rozeboom, SDSU Extension integrated pest management coordinator.

March 5: “Pollinators of Sunflowers,” Adam Varenhorst, SDSU Extension, Philip Rozeboom, SDSU Extension and Amanda Bachmann, SDSU Extension pesticide education and urban entomology field specialist.

Each week SDSU Extension’s Crop Hour covers a different area of agronomic production, from field crops and forages to water and weather. The webinar series began Jan. 5 and will conclude March 26.

There is no fee to attend, but participants will need to register for the weekly webinars on the SDSU Extension Crops page at Confirmation Zoom links and reminders will be emailed to attendees.

Educational credits will be available for Certified Crop Advisers for each session.

For more information about the webinar series and to view the weekly topics and speakers, visit the Crops page at on the SDSU Extension site.

During Sunflower Week, SDSU Extension experts will discuss variety selection and fertility as well as weed, disease and insect management in sunflower production.