Don Tanka says the staff at the USDA Northern Great Plains Research Lab at Mandan, N.D., usually take the following four steps to get their John Deere vacuum planter ready for seeding sunflower:
1) They make sure the right vacuum plates in the planter.
2) They check out the seed tubes. Are any tubes broke? Are the Keaton seed firmers working well? Are the electronics hooked up in the cab and functioning properly?.
3) They check to make sure the have the proper sprockets in the planter for their target plant population.
4) They look at all the mechanical parts – particularly, the residue managers, seed closing wheels and seed depth wheels – to make sure they are working correctly.
Seed size matters
Tanka says the research team at the USDA ag research station also makes sure they buy seed that's size 3 or 4. They seem to work best for their vacuum planter. They get more singles and fewer doubles in the row.
If you have an air seeder you might want to go with a seed that is plumper than size 3 or 4, and spherical in shape – usually size 1 or 2, Tanka says.
Most sunflower acres are usually planted in the last week of May and the first 15 days of June, says Larry Kleingartner, National Sunflower Association executive director.
"The time frame will likely be extended this year, especially in the Dakotas," he says.
As with other crops, planting is well behind last year and the five-year average..
But more acres of sunflowers will likely be planted as it gets too late in the season for other crops.
"Some areas in north central North Dakota are not likely to dry out in time for planting of any crop," he says. "That region has typically been a key sunflower production area."