Seed Corn Options Could Be Limited

9/15/2012 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

The 2012 drought could have a lingering effect into the 2013 season — the availability of corn seed for 2013.

Seed company representatives say there is no need for alarm, but depending on how the rest of the harvest season plays out, some preferred hybrid varieties might be in limited supply.

For many seed companies, the bulk of their supply comes from the U.S. Corn Belt, which this year has been within the grips of a catastrophic drought. The result has yet to play out as the harvesting of seed corn is just beginning.

Monsanto’s Dan Gard said it’s important that farmers not panic, but start researching what their needs are and when ready place their orders. Farmers may not get their preferred seed choice, so they should have a second option selected.

“Like when your favorite running back gets hurt, you have to have a replacement,” he said. “Let’s do the right thing instead of panicking and you not being happy with the seed you purchased,” he said.

The other thing producers might have to do is to get new plates for the planter so they can use a different size corn seed.

Jared Bruckhart, Chemgro agronomist, said early indications show hybrid availability might be dependent on where it was produced.

“In general, seed supply would be shorter this year than last year in respect to the grower might not get the hybrid and trait combination he wanted,” he said.

While most seed is grown in the Corn Belt, it is done over a wide region, Bruckhart said. And in a year like this, that spread helps to manage risk.

“This is going to be a year where this is a positive,” he said. “Some growers got moisture that others did not.”

Pioneer account manager Tim Markovits said irrigation was a big key to his company’s seed production this year. Irrigation helped to deal with the dry weather in the seed production fields.

Markovits said it is early for seed orders; however, some farmers are starting to place their orders for 2013 based on company order incentives running through mid-October. He said he feels that Pioneer is ready to meet needs based on early reports. The expectation is to complete seed corn harvest later this month.

Many companies offer different incentives depending on the timing of the order. The earlier farmers order, the higher the chance of receiving their hybrid choices.

Gard said the seed supply squeeze could be harder on regional seed production companies compared with national companies. Most national companies have seed production fields abroad, giving them the chance to procure more seeds from a winter crop.

Markovits reminds producers to stick with the value proposition when selecting hybrid seeds.

“If they can produce the most tonnage with the most digestible crop per acre (with a particular hybrid), they should not look at the upfront cost of the seed,” he said. “Because the return is going to be greater for them (at harvest) in many instances.”

Gard said farmers should look at marketing some corn for the 2013 year, although the crop is not planted yet. Prices on the futures market for corn and soybeans are at record highs.

Harvest is going strong in the Mid-Atlantic. Several said the crop is sporadic because of untimely weather at critical times.

The two weeks before and after pollination are the most critical, Markovits said. And the summer heat wave affected corn yields. If the crop escaped these stressors, farmers are seeing strong yields.

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