HANNOVER — With the start of the sunflower harvest about two weeks away many farmers are gearing up for the start of that harvest, but with some locations like Oliver County receiving over a foot of snow, Mother Nature may have thrown a wrinkle in those plans.
They’re bright and colorful most of the year, but the vibrant yellows and greens have been replaced with a dull brown, and the flowers are now drooping and sagging — a sad sign that winter is near.
But this year, the harvest proves to be a little more challenging thanks to the blizzard we had last week.
Lonnie Henke has 250 acres of sunflowers near Hannover in Oliver County, and they’ve all been impacted by the storm. Some are buried under 4-foot drifts while others were toppled under the weight of the heavy wet snow.
“They’re almost ready to harvest, they’re a little green yet, we’ll wait until the temperature drops really low so we can combine them a little easier, right we’ll be happy with what we get in the condition they’re in, if they would have gotten knocked down. Combining sunflowers is a nightmare,” said Henke.
He told KX News the sunflower harvest is especially important this year because of the poor quality of the wheat. What he didn’t make in wheat profits he hopes to make up with sunflowers.
“The wheat crop yielded well, but the quality was so low in the spring wheat. It’s going to be a wash, so we were hoping that the row crows make up the difference and we get a little profit out of them,” said Henke
But that won’t be easy with all this snow, and he estimates around 10 percent of these sunflowers are now on the ground.
And it’s just not bad for him, KX News sat down with John Sandbakken who heads the National Sunflower Association and he said harvest conditions are poor all across the state.
“We haven’t had a situation like this in many years where we’ve had record amounts of snow in the month of October. Hopefully, it’s going to warm up here and we’re gonna see a good melt and then hopefully the ground will freeze up so they can get a combine out there,” said Sanbakken.
And for Henke it’s not just sunflowers, his soybeans are in need of harvesting before they become buried, and a large section of his corn is not only dealing with mold issues but with high snowdrifts.
KX News saw some ears poking out of the snow like groundhogs, checking if spring has arrived.
Sandbakken said sunflowers have been behind schedule all year by around seven to 10 days, but whatever happens, this year won’t come close to the summer of 2004 which was one of the worst sunflowers years ever.
Warmer temperatures are expected later in the week which should aid in melting some of that snow.