The early bird gets the worm—and the best seed genetics. While it might be hard to think about next year’s seed needs before you harvest this year’s crop, doing so will pay.
“The minute the companies have their new product list, you want to start familiarizing yourself with the new genetics,” says Chris Barron, director of operations and president of Carson and Barron Farms in Rowley, Iowa.
1. Make smarter choices and ensure availability. Each year, 30% to 50% of seed catalogs highlight new products, says Barron, also a financial consultant for Ag View Solutions and Top Producer columnist. How can you sort through the noise to pick the best options for your farm? Start early and ask good questions.
“Salesmen will talk about features of a product, like strong roots and good dry down,” Barron says. “What I want to understand is the benefit of each feature, such as a variety with good standability will give me a more efficient harvest. Ask questions about benefits versus features.”
Also, ask your suppliers to explain the challenges a variety might have.
Pay attention to how varieties performed this year, but don’t get recency bias, says Ryan Bristle, a partner at Bristle Farms in Ogden, Iowa, and an associate at Russel Consulting Group. “Plan more for what the average year will look like on your farm.”
Multiyear yield data can also be a good negotiation tool. “If one seed company didn’t do as well this year, but they have in the past, use a little data to try to leverage the sales rep when you are negotiating prices or quantities,” Bristle says.
2. See new varieties in action. Visit company test plots a couple times to gauge emergence, growth and how the varieties handle any weather issues, Barron says.
“If you get a windstorm or downpour, go look at the plot. Take notes and pictures. Hopefully your seed supplier is doing that, too, and will share updates,” he adds.
Analyze yield data from the plot, Barron says. After harvest, ask to see samples from each variety so you can ensure strong test weights and handling qualities.
3. Save some dollars. Many seed companies offer early payment discounts. “We’ve seen up to 8% to 10% discounts by paying before the end of the year,” Bristle says. “If you need to spend money to defer income, pay for some of your inputs before year-end. Even if you’re borrowing money, if you save 10% and borrow it at 4% or 5%, you can come out ahead.”
4. Capture premium opportunities. Certain grain buyers require specific production practices or traits. “Know your end user and match up your agronomic needs with their needs to cash in on premiums,” Barron says. “You want to work out those agreements now, so it’s easier to implement at planting and harvest.”
5. Lay the foundation of your business and marketing plans. What will your acreage mix be for next year? Think through your rotation needs and profitability opportunities of each crop, Bristle says. Then you can make an inputs plan now and not when you’re busy at harvest.
This rough plan will allow you to start penciling in overall expenses, which is the first step to develop your marketing plan, Barron says.
“Once you have a rotation plan and specific acres assigned by crop, it’s easier to calculate production totals,” he says. “With accurate production and expense plans, you can compare this information to your marketing opportunities to set sales targets.”