More Specialty Crops than Ever to Choose from this Growing Season

In the post-tobacco era there’s been a growing interest in specialty crops, and that interest seems to be more than ever. Jeff Riddle, Contract Administrator for Technology Crops international based in Winston-Salem says that in addition to the rape seed contracts they offered in 2011, in 2012 Technology Crops will also be contracting for a limited number of sunflower acres:

Riddle: “We’ve done trial work already in western North Carolina this past year, did 130 acres of commercial trails, very successful. These were high oleic sunflowers had above average yield, above average oil quantities, above average oleics. We’re going to continue this year contracting in the western part of the state, anybody that wants to grow in the eastern part of the state we’re going to do commercial trials.

SFN: Now, are you finding sunflowers to be particularly suited for a particular soil type, or possibly problem area, or anything like that?

Riddle: “I think that sunflowers will grow on a wide variety of soil types, and pretty wide variety of pHs. But, the bigger concern here in North Carolina is the high heat and the high humidity. They like the high heat, but the high humidity is a concern. So, you need to plant and get those sunflowers harvested before the combination. Our research has shown that planting after the high heat and humidity, so, we’re recommending that you fit it in behind winter wheat.”

SFN: Oh, that’s outstanding. Have you had any experience with planting in areas where they may have resistant weed problems?

Riddle: “Well, our primary growing region…we do a couple hundred thousand acres up in that North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota area, and being that sunflowers are fairly new down here, I think we’ll sort of determine the weed and pest issues as we go along. I think our biggest concern is going to be the humidity creating issues with scleratinia and head rot, and to combat that, we’re recommending a fungicide program.”

SFN: That’s one of the things that sorghum’s really being sold for is areas with a resistant pig weed program.

Riddle: “Pig weed’s an issue, and that’s not only for our potential new sunflower program, but also for our rape seed program, and my understanding is that there has been some tolerance development to Roundup and some of the other herbicides, so I think that will be one that we learn as we go.”

SFN: So, as far as contracting acres is concerned, what is your goal?

Riddle: “This year for the rape seed program, probably 20 to 30 thousand acres, for sunflower 2,000 acres. This is our first year for the sunflowers. The thing I think is important for the growers to know; not only do they get a premium price to grow these crops because they are specialty crops, but we’ve also tried to address the issues that are also important to them.

For example, on logistics and having convenient delivery points, we’ve partnered with Perdue in the eastern part of the state, in the western part of the state we’re partnered with McLane Farms to crush our seed. We’ve given our growers convenient delivery points, a premium price, and then the other thing we’re doing is that we’re working hard to minimize their risk.”

The goal of Tech Crops is to have 50 thousand acres of rapeseed and 50 thousand acres of sunflower seed in the next three years. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.