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Growing sunflowers in Nebraska

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 9:55 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 10:12 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Alan Koelling runs a business called “Simply Sunflower”, and he grows sunflowers near Ord to produce cooking oil.

Koelling says when it comes to growing sunflowers, he starts out just like he would with any other crop. “Particularly in this field, we disked it once to kill all of the weeds,” Koelling said. “We have been planting just with a regular 30-inch row planter. Sometimes we have to water the seed up to get it started.”

The sunflower is an unusual plant in that it adapts to the weather. “We can plant the same variety in either May or July,” Koelling said. “Harvest on the sunflower as a full-season crop would probably begin in November. If we use it as a double crop, which is neat, we would plant corn and soybeans. Then we would no-till wheat into the soybean stubble early. The next summer around July 4th, we would harvest the wheat, and then no-till a shorter season sunflower into that. Probably 2 out of 3 years, it will make a good crop.”

There are many phases of the sunflower. When you don’t see the flower, it’s in a late bud stage. You can also tell when they are fully pollinated. “From the late bud stage to where it’s fully pollinated, it will take about 7 to 9 days,” Koelling said. “At that point, the oil production begins from the outside ring. When the seed is mature, it will be black. As soon as that plant is mature, then the little bracts on the back of the flowers will become brown. That’s when the head is ready for harvest as soon as it dries down.”

The product, Simply Sunflower, is found in 120 grocery stores across Nebraska, and in 350 stores nationwide. You can learn all about the business by going to simplysunflower.com.

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