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Snug Seed Supply

October 28, 2011
snug seed supply
Seed quantity might be limited in 2012, but quality issues aren’t expected.  

Hot weather yields tight supply of hot hybrids

The yearly warning to book seed early appears not to be a cry of "wolf" for 2012. Many seed corn fields suffered the same or worse production woes as commodity fields during the past growing season.

While winter production can take up some of the slack on the supply side, seed companies admit that it is costly and hard to deliver for early planting. Add more demand for corn acres and the challenge of producing new refuge-in-a-bag (RIB) products, and supplies of your favorite varieties could be snug.

"This year, more than ever, growers need to communicate with their seedsman," says Tom Burrus of Burrus Seed Company in Arenzville, Ill. "On top of the supply challenges, situations such as rootworm resistance, Goss’s wilt and other diseases came along in 2011 that make it imperative for growers to choose hybrids wisely."

Pat Steiner, Syngenta corn portfolio head, says his company, and the seed industry in general, builds weather scenarios into its production plans. "We plant more acres than needed and spread risk by planting in a wide variety of locations," Steiner says. "This year was unusual in that almost every region suffered some sort of a challenge and, often, a combination of challenges, such as drought, high heat and straight-line winds."

Disaster early in the season actually panned out for AgriGold Hybrids, says Philip McCutchan,

AgriGold marketing manager. "Flooding eliminated some of our acres early and we were able to replant those," he explains. "That ended up being a blessing because those fields missed the heat that caused pollination problems in many of the fields in the Midwest."

McCutchan says the company had production spread across several Midwestern states, with nearly 90% of the seed fields irrigated. "Water helped, but it doesn’t remove the impacts of heat during pollination," he adds. "I don’t think we’re any different than the rest of the industry—there will be some tight supplies of certain hybrids, and grade sizing may be challenging." Seed size availability is often impacted in dry years, with more large seeds and more small seeds being the norm.

Seedsmen report that inbreds are not as tough as commodity corn when it comes to unfavorable weather, particularly long spells of 90°F-plus temperatures. "If commercial corn yield is off by 15%, you can expect seed corn to be off by at least twice that amount," Burrus says.

"Our methods of yield estimating paid off big this summer, as we have a good handle on what we need out of South America to meet customer demand," he adds.

"Our plan is to condition and deliver our summer-produced seed corn and soybeans by early March—meaning two-thirds of our customers’ needs will be met, ready to plant whenever they want. Starting in mid-March, we will focus on conditioning, treating, blending and delivery of the winter crop."

Winter wrap-up. Chris Garvey, general manager of Mycogen Seeds, notes that all the uncertainties seed companies deal with in summer are also true for winter. "Cool, wet, delayed planting conditions; overall growing conditions; harvest timing and transportation logistics are all variables," Garvey says. "One of the biggest challenges of winter production is timing and getting the product to the grower in time."

Beyond offsetting some summer production issues, winter product is also used to accelerate new product introductions. That option takes on added importance in 2012 as companies get ready to launch RIB products.

RIB products comprise two separate hybrids blended into one bag.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - November 2011
RELATED TOPICS: Corn, Soybeans, Crops, Production, Seed

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