Sunflower prices haven’t changed much in recent weeks, but the crop is certainly changing.

“Sunflower prices were unchanged this week at the crush plants with old and new crop remaining at levels set in August,” commented John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, writing in NSA’s weekly newsletter on Sept. 14. “Nearby bird food prices also have remained firm since last month.”

Looking at prices at the region’s crush plants, as of Sept. 14, NuSun sunflower was listed at $16.60 per hundredweight at Cargill in West Fargo, N.D., for delivery in September, October and November. The price at ADM in Enderlin, N.D., was $16.75, also for delivery in September, October and November.

High-oleic sunflower prices were $16.80 at West Fargo, and $16.95 at Enderlin for delivery in September, October and November.

Elsewhere in North Dakota, the price for high-oleic sunflower was listed at $15.75 at Hebron for delivery in October and November. The price was $16.45 at Pingree, also for delivery in October and November.

Meanwhile the crop is progressing, but a hard freeze around Sept. 7-8 hit most of the sunflower growing area of the Dakotas and Minnesota.

“Sunflower is most susceptible to freeze damage at bud and flowering,” Sandbakken said. “After pollination and petal drop, sunflower can withstand temperatures as low as 25 degrees with only minor damage. Several weather reporting stations reported lows at or below 25 degrees for two nights.”

Prior to the freeze, about 82 percent of the North Dakota crop was at the petal drop stage, 48 percent was with yellow bracts and only 10 percent was fully mature, according to a USDA report.

“This left a large portion of the crop that might have sustained some type of damage,” he said. “Yield, oil content and test weight often are reduced to some degree when sunflower is damaged by frost before it is fully mature. The extent of the damage will not be fully known until farmers harvest their crop this fall.”

According to the September crop acreage report released by the USDA Farm Service Agency, area planted to sunflower in 2020 totals 1.65 million acres, an increase of 22 percent from the year before. Planted area of oil type varieties, at 1.46 million acres, is also up 22 percent from 2019. Planted acreage of non-oil varieties is up 25 percent from last year and is estimated at 192,800 acres.

“U.S. sunflower production in 2020 is still undetermined and will not be known until this fall,” Sandbakken said. “The freeze that occurred in the Dakotas and Minnesota could affect yields in the most important production states. Initial estimates of total oil and non-oil sunflower production before the freeze occurred was in a range of 2.2-2.4 billion pounds, which is about 25 percent higher than last year’s crop.”

In October, Sandbakken noted that USDA will provide its first estimate for oil and non-oil sunflower production.

“Traders will be keen to see how USDA factors in any potential effect of the freeze into the production numbers,” he said. “This report, along with actual harvest reports, will set the tone for new crop sunflower price direction in the near term.”

Lastly, Sandbakken pointed out that getting the crop harvested several weeks early can result in lower drying costs, plus reduce late season crop and blackbird damage.