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Seeds, seedbed preparations, fertilizing and controlling weeds in sunflowers are among the topics covered here.
Sunflowers are native to Nebraska. Cultivated for centuries by native American Indians as a food crop, sunflowers were taken to Europe in the mid-16th century. Oilseed sunflowers have been a U.S. crop since 1986.
Sunflower production is divided into two market classes, oil and confectionery. The oil type is by far the most commonly grown market class. Recent health trends have brought sunflower cooking oil into prominence because the oil is low in saturated fats.
Confectionery types are grown for the edible roasted sunflower seed market, and are produced under strict contract guidelines. Seed size is critical, with small seeds designated for bird seed market channels. Growing the confectionery type without a contract is risky.
Sunflower production of both market classes is currently around 30,000 acres in Nebraska. Recently a third market class has started to develop based on high oleic acid content, which gives products better shelf life.