Cooler weather slows Man. sunflower development

Manitoba’s sunflower crop is developing at a slower-than-average pace due to recent cooler temperatures seen across the province.

“Planting was a little bit later than what we were hoping as well, so compounding the cooler weather, we’re like a week and a half, two weeks later than average,” said Mike Durand, sales and purchasing manager Nestibo Agra at Deloraine, Man., adding that some crops in the province are just starting to flower.

If temperatures continue to stay below average, sunflower yields and production could suffer.

“If we get a frost in September, we’ll still have a crop, but it just won’t be as good as otherwise,” said Durand.

But things could improve if there are some warmer temperatures seen between now and harvest, though the crop won’t see yields as strong as were seen in 2012.

“Last year we had lots of heat and good subsoil moisture. I mean, farmers who grew sunflowers last year were very, very happy that they did,” said Durand. “We can’t expect another year like last year.”

There haven’t been any reports of insects causing damage to sunflower crops this year, as farmers are good at controlling those issues.

It’s too early to tell if head rot will be an issue for crops, because they haven’t reached the stage in development where it starts to show.

As for other diseases, Durand said he hasn’t seen many problems with sclerotinia and stalk rot yet.

At this point, it’s hard to predict whether harvest will begin on time or not, but Durand is expecting it to be about two weeks later than normal.

Oilseed weakness

The market has been generally flat and isn’t reacting much to new-crop fundamentals. Durand said confectionary sunflower prices remain strong, supported by tight old-crop supplies.

There’s good demand for confectionary sunflowers, he added, and because of smaller acreage last year, he expects that supplies will run out.

But it’s a different story for oil-type sunflowers: Prices are weaker because of large supplies, caused by strong yields and higher acreage last year.

Recent weakness in other oilseed markets was also putting some downward pressure on prices.

“We are in a way competing against the crushers in the U.S., and they have been dropping their bids and we’ve been following suit,” said Durand.

Cash bids for oil-type sunflowers were at 20 cents per pound as of Wednesday, with confectionary prices ranging from 30 to 31 cents per pound, Prairie Ag Hotwire said.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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