Crookston grower wants to raise crop's profile, says yield is top priority.

    Sunflowers sometime seems like the best kept secret, and the newly-elected National Sunflower Association President, Kevin Capistran would like to change that.

    The National Sunflower Association recently met in Bismarck to set the coming year’s budget and elect officers where the Crookston-area farmer was chosen to serve as president for 2012/13. He takes over for South Dakota farmer Tom Young who had served as the association’s president for the past two years. Capistran had previously served as first vice-president.

    Capistran, who joined the NSA board of directors three years ago, moved quickly into the executive ranks looking to make an impact. At the first meeting in 2010, he took part in the association’s vote to designate $100,000 toward what is called the SNP project, giving sunflower breeders the funding and tools they need to develop gene sequencing and DNA markers to find solutions to disease and insects as well as increase yield potential.         

    “Through the SNP Consortium we have the ability to equip sunflower breeders with the latest genetic tools.  It is an ongoing investment that we expect to bring results that growers will see.”

    With that vote and commitment to further development, Capistran is confident the industry and the association are on the right track. “It may take a little longer to get there using traditional methods of breeding versus GMO crops, but it’s obvious that our current hybrids have come a long ways.”

     Sunflowers have been a part of the Capistran operation since the late 1970s, but they farm in an area (northwestern Minn.) where there currently aren’t as many acres devoted to the crop as there used to be.

    “We have to find ways to stay competitive with other crops other than just looking for higher prices, so yield has to be the number one priority,” he says. “The challenge is that different areas of the country have different limiting factors.  We need to find the right solutions for the right areas. Where I farm, controlling diseases is the key.  Other areas that don’t have much disease concern may be battling blackbirds or insects though.”

    In the near future Capistran sees sunflower production expanding to new areas such as Wyoming and Montana with the need for the association to spur that growth.  Another top agenda item is to communicate with the customer to make sure sunflower isn’t the best kept secret. “We need to be receptive to what consumers want, but at the same time make sure they hear our message about sunflower and get the right information.  Our association needs to make sure we’re continually promoting our products.”

    The NSA board of directors also voted to advance Dickinson-area farmer Art Ridl to the position of first vice president. Ridl also serves as chairman of the North Dakota Oilseeds Council. Kansas farmer Karl Esping was elected to the position of second vice president. Esping has been a member of the NSA board since 2010. Elected to the position of secretary-treasurer was Tyler Schultz, of Cargill, Inc. in West Fargo.