Sunflowers, canola and dry edible bean crops have banner year

Optimal weather conditions during the 2022 growing season appear to have yielded many farmers across the northern Plains and Montana canola, dry edible beans and sunflower yields that are at the least better-than-average and at the best, bumper crops.

Thanks to a long growing season Randy and Roger Carignan, who farm near Walhalla, North Dakota, harvested a better-than-average pinto bean crop. Photo taken Oct. 18, 2022, south of Walhalla.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Optimal weather conditions during the 2022 growing season appear to have yielded many farmers across the northern Plains and Montana canola, dry edible beans and sunflower yields that are at the least better-than-average and at the best, bumper crops.

In North Dakota, the No. 1 producer of canola in the United States, 2022 yields are estimated to be a record 3.4 billion pounds, nearly 50% higher than last year's drought impacted crop, the U.S. Agriculture Department National Agricultural Statistics said in its Oct. 12, 2022, crop production report.

The state’s farmers this year planted 1.78 million acres of canola, 3% more than in 2022, NASS said.

Average North Dakota yields are pegged at 1,920 pounds per acre, 580 pounds more than last year and the second highest average yields on record. In 2020, yields averaged 1,960 pounds per acre, said Barry Coleman, Northern Canola Growers Association executive director.

“To see a record yields on record acres — you couldn’t ask for more than that,” Coleman said.


While the overall average yields were bin busters, there were some pockets, such as eastern Rolette County, in North Dakota, where yields were lower than farmers had expected, he said. Similar to other farmers, growers in Rolette County were delayed planting their canola because of the cold, wet conditions this spring.

Some of the state’s highest yields were in counties in north-central and northwest North Dakota counties, including Bottineau, Ward, Renville and Burke counties, and in the south-central part of the state near the city of Hazen. Many growers in those counties had average yields of more than 3,000 pounds per acre, Coleman said.

Across the western border of North Dakota, Montana’s estimated 2022 canola production of 159.6 million pounds is a 14.7 million pound increase over last year. Montana yields are estimated to average 950 pounds per acre, 50 pounds higher than in 2021.

In Minnesota, farmers harvested an average of 1,800 pounds of canola per acre, 180 pounds more than last year. Minnesota production was 127.8 million pounds in 2022, 23.2 million pounds higher than the previous year.

Total 2022 U.S. canola production is 3.9 billion pounds, 1.2 billion more than 2021 production, NASS said.

Cavalier County, North Dakota, leads the United States in canola production. This photo was taken at the Langdon (North Dakota) Research Extension Center in Cavalier County.
Contributed/ North Dakota State University

Canola fields in Cavalier County, North Dakota, which often leads the United States in production of the crop, benefited from timely rains and a long growing season. Though farmers' crops looked good throughout the 2022 growing season, the season was a stressful one because canola and other crops were planted a few weeks later than normal and there was concern that they wouldn't ripen before the first frost.

"Usually when the crops look good, you're sitting back and being comfortable. This kind of is one of those years where everything is turning out pretty good, but it was one of the most stressful years,” said Randy Mehlhoff, Langdon (North Dakota) Research Extension Center director.

The frost held off, though, and the crops produced good yields.


“Mother Nature cooperated and gave us the long growing degree days until harvest,” Mehlhoff said.

Edible beans are another crop that yielded much higher than anticipated in a difficult growing year. After planting was delayed by a cold, wet spring, wind conditions in June blew young plants out of the ground in some eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota counties, resulting in replanting, which delayed it even further, Mitch Coulter, Northarvest Bean Growers Association executive vice president noted.

“Most of our guys were at least 30 days late,” he said.

A combination of warm temperatures that boosted the growing degree days and timely rains resulted in good and — for some farmers — even record yields, with some as high as 3,000 pounds per acre.

"Some areas were exceptional,” Coulter said.

USDA-NASS estimates North Dakota production at 9.96 million hundredweight, 56% higher than last year, despite an 11% — 550,000 acre — reduction in harvested acres. The state’s average yields are estimated at 1,810 pounds per acre, 780 pounds more than last year.

In Minnesota, dry edible bean production is estimated at 4.7 million hundredweight, an increase of 2% over last year, NASS said. The agency pegs average yields at 2,280 pounds per acre, a 320 pound acre increase over 2021. The state’s farmers are expected to harvest 206,000 acres of edible beans, 28,000 more than last year.


Pinto beans fill a truck box.
Pinto beans fill Roger and Randy Carignan's semi-tractor-trailer in a field south of Walhalla, North Dakota. Photo taken Oct. 18, 2022
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We’re happy, considering the lateness of the crop,” said Coulter.

On Oct. 18, 2022, Roger and Randy Carignan were harvesting pinto beans south of Walhalla, in northern North Dakota's Pembina County. Though the Carignan brothers didn't plan until early June, warm temperatures during the growing season contributed to yields that were several hundred pounds above average.

“They got pushed throughout the summer,” Roger Carignan said. The long growing season also helped. The first killing frost wasn’t until early October.

“If we had had an August frost, there wouldn’t have been a lot of combining this year,” he said.

However, in other areas, where temperatures were cooler and timely rains didn’t fall, yields were lower than normal.

Total 2022 U.S. dry edible bean production was estimated at 25.3 million hundredweight, 2.6 million hundredweight higher than last year, according to NASS.

North Dakota’s sunflower crop was another that benefited from an increase in acreage, a late frost and timely rains during the summer of 2022.

Farmers increased their acreage this spring by 40% over last year to 702,000. Oil sunflower acres made up 92.6% — or 650,000 acres — and the remaining 52,000 acres were non-oil sunflowers, NASS said.

North Dakota’s sunflower acreage increase likely was a combination of attractive prices and a cold, wet spring that made it too late for some farmers to plant crops they had originally planned for their acreage, said Hans Kandel, North Dakota State University Extension agronomist.

“If you had to shift the crops, and couldn't plant corn or wheat, it would have been a very good option," he said.

Sunflower field
Sunflower acres in the United States increased in 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

NASS estimated that the state’s farmers produced 1.3 billion pounds of sunflowers, a whopping 70% more than last year, to lead the United States in production. The agency also estimated North Dakota average yields at 1,846 pounds per acre, a 265 pounds per acre increase over 2022.

South Dakota’s anticipated 2022 sunflower production of 1.2 billion pounds increased 47% over last year and was the second highest in the United States. South Dakota yields, which NASS estimates will average 1,912 pounds per acre, are 280 pounds per acre higher than last year.

South Dakota farmers will harvest 629,000 acres of sunflowers this year, 128,000 more than in 2021. Oil sunflowers, estimated at 590,000 acres, are the bulk of the acreage, and 39,000 acres of non-oil sunflowers make up the remainder.

In Minnesota, sunflower acreage increased by 19,200 over last year to 75,000 in 2022, NASS said. Sunflower production totaled 151.8 million pounds, 60% higher than last year. The agency estimated average per acre yields at 2,023, 334 pounds per acre higher than last year.

“From what I hear, the USDA numbers are right on,” said Sandbakken, National Sunflower Association executive director.

 A ripe sunflower head in a field.
Sunflowers yielded well in 2022, which was a dry growing season. Photo taken Oct. 18, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We’re very pleased,” he said. Though April blizzards weren’t welcomed at the time, the moisture they left behind helped the crop through when rains became sparse in July.

“The crop did really well,” Sandbakken said.

Farmers are reporting yields of 2,000 to 3,200 pounds per acre, he said. One farmers’ sunflowers contained 51% oil, 11% higher than average, he said.

“It’s just a very, very good crop,” Sandbakken said. “The way this year is turning out, sunflowers are really showing how well they can do in dry conditions,” he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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