Sunflower yields third highest on record in 2017

Despite the drought in the Dakotas last year, sunflower yields in the United States were the third highest on record. The USDA report on 2017 sunflower crop production, released today, shows the United States average yield per acre of 1,613 pounds, down 118 pounds from 2016. But in North Dakota, where many growers saw severe drought, the average yield declined only 80 pounds from 2016, to 1,636 pounds per acre.

“A dry year like we just had really showcases the drought tolerance of sunflower,” says John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association. “Today’s estimate for North Dakota’s production was forecast to be 51 percent higher than the October estimate.”

South Dakota, the leading sunflower-producing state during 2017, produced 1.04 billion pounds, a decrease of 2 percent from 2016. Compared with 2016, planted area in South Dakota increased 11 percent but yield decreased 208 pounds to 1,750 pounds per acre. South Dakota sunflower production was expected to be 879 million pounds back in October.

“A lot of producers thought they might need to work the crop down but I am sure they are glad that they didn’t after harvesting a much better than expected sunflower crop,” adds Sandbakken.

United States production of non-oil sunflower varieties was estimated at 312 million pounds, an increase of 10 percent from 2016. Area harvested, at 172,700 acres, was up 6 percent from 2016. The average yield increased by 75 pounds from 2016 to 1,804 pounds per acre. That’s the second highest yield on record for non-oil varieties. Production of oil-type sunflower varieties, at 1.86 billion pounds, decreased 22 percent from 2016. Compared with the previous year, harvested acres were down 14 percent and the average yield decreased by 146 pounds to 1,585 pounds per acre.

For more on the USDA numbers, visit