Department of Plant Science
Domestic sunflower culture was established in the United States after 1880 following introduction of improved varieties that had been developed in Europe before 1600. The Indians in Virginia were using native variety sunflowers for food in 1586, and in New England sunflower oil was being used as a hair dressing in 1615.
During the early 1900's sunflowers were grown in the Northern Great Plains states and prairie provinces of Canada as a silage crop. Sunflowers as an oilseed crop have been grown commercially in Canada since 1943 and in Minnesota since 1947. Commercial birdfeed production in Minnesota began in 1952. Since then, 70% of the harvest has been utilized as bird feed, while 30% has been used for human consumption. Production for oil gained new interest in 1966 when varieties from Russia were introduced which ranged from 40% to 50% oil in their small, black, thin-hulled seed.
Although sunflowers are adapted to most of the climates and cultivated soils of the United States and Canada, the risk of sunflower moth damage has limited the sunflower growing area to the Red River Valley and adjacent counties. However, the development of insecticides now permit the growing area to be expanded.
South Dakota sunflower growth
South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State University
Geise, H. A., "Sunflowers in South Dakota" (1974). Research Bulletins of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (1887-2011). 626.