Ultra-Early Sunflower Genetics Deliver Grower Options

Margins in production agriculture are slim, and as a farmers work to maximize the economic return of every acre, double cropping is often a consideration.


Sunflowers make an excellent double-crop choice with the right seed genetics and crop management. In many instances, sunflowers are even more advantageous than soybeans in a double-crop rotation. The crop can both withstand colder temperatures than soybeans, allowing for additional growth after the first frost, and withstand hot, dry conditions better than soybeans. The latter is an important consideration given the likeliness of the hot and dry conditions any double-crop will experience in the late summer months. These production management advantages, paired with the impressive growth every sector of the sunflower market is projected to see over the next five years, should see the crop add additional acres… and Nuseed is ready to deliver the sunflower genetics growers will need to both plant the additional acres and capitalize on those acres’ returns. 


Nuseed sunflower hybrids are born and bred in the U.S., positioning every hybrid to help growers find the value in the crop. And because Nuseed’s sunflower nursery is strategically located in the heart of sunflower country, Breckenridge, Minnesota, every hybrid is subjected and trialed against the same natural disease and pest pressures most U.S. sunflower growers face.  


Recently, Nuseed unveiled a new ultra-early sunflower hybrid, allowing growers to capitalize on double cropping opportunities, as well as introducing the crop into new geographies that previously struggled to grow sunflowers because of altitude and insufficient growing degree days.

Ultra-Early, Ultra Opportunity   

What is “ultra-early”? And “ultra-early compared to what?” Alison Pokrzywinski, Sunflower Product Manager, North America, says that there isn’t necessarily a definition of “ultra-early” outside of Nuseed. “We’re taking the earliest hybrids that we have, and we have some early products compared to our competitors, and making them even earlier,” she says. “And we aren’t talking about one or two days earlier, we’re talking about one or two weeks.”  


Pokrzywinski says one of the drivers behind the earlier hybrids is the scale of business Nuseed does in Canada — Manitoba, specifically — which necessitates a shorter growing season. The “early” she says, has been available in the Nuseed portfolio for several years now, however the ultra-early combined with impressive yield and hardiness, is a new addition.   


“The original product in our portfolio was two weeks earlier. The maturity was really great, but it came at the cost of yield. There was nearly always a sacrifice in yield, and we just couldn’t quite get those yields to be where we wanted them to be, until now,” she says. “Everything we do has to benefit the grower and, obviously, maintaining yield is a big part of that.”   


N4H161 CL is Nuseed’s answer. The new hybrid provides the ultra-early genetics growers need to meet the demands of a double-crop’s short growing season while also delivering outstanding yield potential.   


“It has taken a bit longer to develop the (N4H161 CL) genetics because we’re not only trying to develop the genetics and make sure that they’re the right fit for the environment, we are also trying to establish an environment that is the right fit for them. So typically, it would take around seven years to develop a new hybrid; we’ll be just short of 10 years by the time this hybrid hits the market,” says Nuseed Sunflower Breeder, Jeremy Klumper. “We have to have more than the data to back up what we’re presenting. We have to have good recommendations when it comes to how to grow and manage these ultra-early crops.”   


Klumper says that N4H161 CL is proving to be a top performer, opening opportunities for growers in different geographies and offering new double cropping rotations. The team at Nuseed has the collective knowledge and resources to ensure growers get the most out of the genetics.   


“We can’t just say, ‘This is how the industry handles this crop’ because it really is so much different,” he says of the hybrids uniqueness within the sunflower seed market. “To make all of our new and innovative hybrids available for growers, we have a very experienced production team who are responsible for managing large scale crops that produce high quality seed.”   


The new opportunities the hybrid is providing has growers excited. As a Nuseed Field Sales Lead, Jed Wall is hearing that excitement. “Nuseed sunflowers and canola, and the N4H161 CL hybrid offers two things, other than maturity, that growers are very excited about: plant height and the other is stalk and root structure.”   


The new ultra-early hybrid grows to approximately waist level, a significant height difference from traditional hybrids that reach more than head high; the advantages of a shorter plant are both environmental and economical.   


“Growers will be able to get over these sunflower plants with regular sprayers, rather than flying on fungicide, insecticide and, if they choose, desiccant,” says Klumper. “So, a huge advantage that will be afforded to these growers will be the elimination of the costs that come from having to fly on pesticides.”