The sunflower market has been close to invisible for the past few months, but as September dawned, the market was showing signs of life.

“After being very quiet for several weeks, nearby NuSun and high-oleic prices at the crush plants moved higher, up 5 cents this week,” according to John Sandbakken, NSA executive director, commenting in the National Sunflower Association (NSA) Aug. 31 newsletter.

Looking at regional prices at the crush plants, as of Aug. 31, NuSun sunflower was listed at $16.65 per hundredweight for delivery in September and October at ADM in Enderlin, N.D., and $16.60 at Cargill in West Fargo, N.D., for delivery in those two months.

High-oleic prices were $16.85 at Enderlin for delivery in September and October, while at West Fargo the price was $16.80.

Elsewhere in North Dakota, October high-oleic prices at Pingree were $16.35, while at Hebron the price was $15.65.

After a slow start this spring, Sandbakken explained that this year’s sunflower crop in the U.S. has continued to progress at a faster pace.

“Very warm-to-hot temperatures, along with drier soil conditions, are pushing the crop toward maturity in the Dakotas and Minnesota,” Sandbakken said. “Some of the crop could be desiccated in early September for harvest.”

According to the most recent USDA crop progress report, most of the crop in these states is considered to be in good-to-excellent condition. In Minnesota, 75 percent of the crop is rated good-to-excellent with 18 percent fair and 7 percent poor-to-very poor. The condition of the crop in North Dakota is rated 65 percent good-to-excellent with 27 percent fair and 8 percent poor-to-very poor.

Further proof that this year’s crop is progressing at a good pace is the fact that sunflowers in North Dakota are done blooming and 65 percent of the crop is reported in the petals dry state. That compares to the five-year average of 59 percent. Also, bracts yellow is at 29 percent, also ahead of the five-year average of 25 percent.

“This should mean that yields will be above trend assuming normal weather through the rest of this fall and the lack of an early freeze,” Sandbakken said. “Crop conditions in Colorado have improved slightly in the past few weeks, however drought is still affecting the crop with most of it in only fair condition.”

Sandbakken pointed out that mid-August through September is the critical time frame for sunflower development.

“Buyers will be anxiously watching crop production prospects before making longer-term purchases,” he said, adding that 2020 U.S. sunflower production is still undetermined and will not be known until this fall.

“Initial estimates of total oil and non-oil sunflower production is in a range of 2.2-2.4 billion pounds, which is about 25 percent higher than last year’s crop,” he said.

“In October, USDA will provide its first estimate for oil and non-oil sunflower production. These reports and demand news will set the tone for new crop sunflower price direction in the near term,” he concluded.