What a difference a year can make.
Seed company representatives say they are seeing good seed-corn quality and supply coming in from the field this harvest. For nearly all of the companies, that’s a huge change from last year, and for many, the last two years in a row.
Companies providing an initial corn-harvest status, including AgReliant Genetics, Burrus Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto, report their total yield projections for 2013 are at or slightly above target.
"Fall can either be the worst of times or best of times, and this one looks good; the combines and trucks are full," says Craig Newman, AgReliant Genetics president and chief executive officer.
Newman says he estimates the company is seeing overall yields results of about 10% above target. "It just depends on the hybrid and the geography; in some areas we have hybrids that are 30% above target and others that are 20% below," he notes.
Other companies report similar small peaks and valleys in their seed production, depending on where the seed was grown. Tom Burrus, president of Burrus Hybrids, says the hybrids he’s evaluated to date are of excellent quality and in sufficient quantity. "We do have some allocated new products that are coming to the market, because there weren’t adequate supplies of foundation seed to plant, but in most cases supply is very good," says Burrus, who adds that the company is about 10% above plan.
Cost-wise, company representatives say farmers can expect to see a price increase for 2014 seed corn of between 2% and 5%, depending on their final hybrid mix.
Seed quality and quantity are in good shape because of the weather conditions at pollination this summer, according to Dan Case, DuPont Pioneer supply planning manager, production operations.
"We saw abnormally cool temperatures during flowering, and that tends to bode well for yield," he says.
In reviewing the 2013 growing season across the U.S., Case says the spring started wet and planting was delayed in many areas, much like it was for the commercial corn crop. Those conditions slowed corn growth and development early on, yet the cool temperatures aligned well with pollination timing. Then, as temperatures spiked in August and early September, growth and maturity of the crop accelerated. Because the bulk of seed-corn acres is under irrigation, the dry conditions late-season did little to impede seed crop quality, Case adds.
"Unlike last year, we have no concerns about shortages or limited key hybrids; I’m feeling really good about where our inventory sits," Case says.
Company spokesmen say they do anticipate the warm, dry temperatures that occurred late-season will contribute to somewhat smaller and lighter seed for 2014. That’s probably welcome news for those growers who had more large round seed to deal with than usual at planting this season, says Matthew Brandt, corn product manager for Monsanto brands DeKalb and Channel. Brandt notes, "Seed size looks good and we’ll have a much better supply of the high-demand seed sizes this year."
Strong yields also mean the seed industry will not rely as much on winter seed production, as was the case in 2012.