Sunflowers may soon be the state flower for more reasons than one.
They’re not just pretty plants, but sunflowers also have potential to be a major crop in Kansas. Old timers get up in arms when the word sunflower is mentioned and argue because legislation designated it as the official state flower. “They are weeds,” many contend, and lots of farmers carry sharpened hoes to chop every one in sight.
One year, sunflowers took over a seven-acre field, and it was our job to mow them. We had a rattle-trap Allis Chalmers WD-45 and hooked it to a four-foot, wheel-driven, pull-type sickle mower that was supposed to be horse-powered. We did get them cut.
Sunflower plants don’t make good livestock feed, yet we’ve big baled some on occasion. Cows and horses will nibble them on snowy days. Wild sunflowers grow in cycles, evidently. Every year, there are a few in road ditches, but complete fields of the wild ones don’t occur annually. A county agent pointed that out to us, and he’s right.
Increasing numbers of farmers are growing tame sunflowers as a cash crop. Plenty of problems have arisen, with one being finding a market place. Expanded demand has solved that in some areas, as companies are contracting production at a guaranteed price.
Bulk of the tame crop goes for oil, used on potato chips and the like, while byproducts make livestock protein supplements. Other contracts are for confectionary sunflower seeds which people enjoy eating. Further demand comes from sales as bird feed.
Kansas sunflower harvest is underway, with moisture required to be under 12 percent to prevent spoilage. It looks to be a bumper crop. Sunflowers are to be harvested from 164,000 acres, 18 percent more than a year ago. Total production is forecast at 278.1 million pounds, a 65 percent increase. The 1,696 pounds per acre yield is up 40 percent.
Prices of sunflower seeds, for oil production, over the past quarter century have ranged from $6.89 per hundred in 2000, to this year’s high of $19.30, well above the $13.75 farmer contract. Some seeds yield 50 percent oil. Seeds meeting criteria for human consumption are higher priced.
Wild sunflowers are not unlike man as indicated in Psalms 103:15, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field so he flourisheth.” Likewise are tame sunflowers in Second Corinthians 9:6, “He which plant sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which seed bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
Farmers still dislike wild sunflowers, but more are appreciating the tame variety. Both really are beautiful as in Psalms 90:17, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish thou work of our hands upon us; the work of our hands establish thou it.”