Business: Flower Power On the Plains

The hottest new cash crop

For years the autumn landscape in the fertile Red River valley of North Dakota and Minnesota was unchanging: acres of wheat extended to a flat skyline broken only by the lonely silhouettes of grain elevators. Now the amber waves are interrupted by broad patches of dark brown, and the horizon is punctuated by tall processing towers. These are signs of the region's hot new cash crop, which is also becoming an important export: the sunflower.

The enormous Helianthus plant is familiar as the source of those light gray seeds...

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