Sunflowers blooming interest for South Plains' farmers - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/15/09

Sunflowers blooming interest for South Plains' farmers

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By Ben Lawson  - bio | email

O'DONNELL, TX (KCBD) - We're learning more about the emerging sunflower crop in west Texas. Some farmers have planted them for years, but now price and demand are blooming more interest.

Cotton is still king on the South Plains, but we spoke with one long-time sunflower producer who says he's changed his thinking. "We all started to realize we had to come up with some different crops besides just cotton, cotton, cotton," Dewey Clark said.

Clark tells us he planted sunflowers one time in the 1980's, but cotton was still his main crop. Then, in 2004 they were going to have to go back with late cotton. Cotton prices were down, but sunflowers were up, so he took a shot, and now he continues to plant the colorful crop. "We have made better on some of our sunflowers than we have bail-plus cotton in the last two to three years," Clark said. 

"People have commented, I see more fields in bloom, Tahoka, O'Donnell area. If you're up in Bailey, Lamb Counties, you'll see field after field in some areas," Calvin Trostle with Texas Agrilife Extension Service in Lubbock said.  He says sunflower acres are up. "A lot of acres that we see in some of these areas this year have been planted when we've had cotton failure," Trostle said. 

Trostle also says more farmers are looking to sunflowers as a profitable rotation crop. "Historically in the Texas High Plains, we've been mostly confectionary, the type of seed that you put in the little package and salt down and chew, but also the oil seed for two different reasons. One is we have a company here in Lubbock, Red River Commodities, has had a bird feed plant for about seven to eight years, and then in the oil seed market, some of the types of oil that sunflowers produce have had some changes through breeding, and so there are some markets where sunflower oil is very desirable," Trostle said.  Trostle says locations in Brownfield and Olton contract for oil seed.

"When I first started this, you just saw one every once in a while, and now you're starting to see more and more," Clark said.  He says the popularity has become apparent, and besides price, he says there's another good side to sunflowers. "I don't think you need as much moisture once you have them up and established as you do cotton," Clark said. 

Clark also tells us it takes less time to plant and harvest sunflowers, so who knows, we could see more and more sunflowers moving into the area, but experts predict cotton will remain number one.

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