It’s a town with just over 2,000 people. When you drive into Constantine, Mich., from the south, two large corn production plants greet you on each side of the road. The "Welcome" sign tips you off to a fact unknown to many. This little town is known as the "Corn Seed Capitol of the World."
Both DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto have their largest corn seed production sites in this small town with nearly every field loaded with detasseling crews during the summer. But last summer, the scorching heat impacted many seed corn acres.
In Constantine, however, sandy soils make pivot irrigation a must, which in turn, helped save a good portion of their crop.
"Last year (winter) we didn't have the need here for seed production," says Alan Spice, DuPont Pioneer Constantine, Mich., corn production site manager. "We had enough seed on hand to be worried about that."
This year, however, that’s not the case. Summer seed production in the U.S. wasn’t immune to the crippling drought last year. That forced some companies to rely more heavily on South American production, which is finally rolling into seed productions sites across the country just in time for planting.
"We’ve been getting good quality seed from South America," Spice says.
Good quality, but what about yields? While enough seed seems to be there, many farmers have told AgDay they aren’t able to get the exact hybrid or variety they want. We reached out to Monsanto Company, DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences. None of the companies would tell us if yields in South America were able to make up for what was lost during last summer’s drought. However, the only company that would go near the topic was Dow.
"South American production is currently comparable to the U.S. summer 2012 production," Chris Garvey, general manager of Mycogen Seeds told AgDay. "Right now we are projecting approximately 10% of our total supply to come from Chile and Argentina."
Both Mycogen and DuPont Pioneer told us they went into last year’s summer production with an aggressive production plan. So, while yields were lower than average, the increased acres helped companies remain in decent shape. But after harvest, focus quickly shifted to winter production in the Southern Hemisphere.
"Once harvested in South America, it’s dried and loaded into ocean freight containers," Spice explains. "Each container has a large bladder in it. And it's filled with seed that's put on ships."
Spice says the Constantine site gets its seed from a port in Philadelphia. Once off-loaded from the ship, it’s moved by rail to Chicago, then put on trucks to ship to Constantine. In total, that process takes between 10 days and two weeks.
Unlike last year, with cooler temperatures above and below ground, many farmers aren’t as anxious to get in the field right now. This is good news for those relying on seed from South America. Mycogen Seeds told us they are using a combination of air and boat to ensure seed gets to the U.S. in time for planting. And DuPont Pioneer says quick turnaround is key.
"Once the corn is received here at the plant, within 24 hours we’ll have it shipped," Spice told AgDay.
Despite winter production just starting to roll in, Spice says they plan to have all the seed shipped within a month.