Weather Woes in Seed Production

July 24, 2015 06:00 AM
Weather Woes in Seed Production

Mother Nature’s impact on the seed industry—both this year and next

The wild weather this spring and summer has turned many regular fields soggy and sideswiped yields. The same can be said for some seed production fields in the central and eastern Corn Belt, which recorded more than 200% normal precipitation.

“Even in good growing conditions, you lose pockets,” says Brian Barker, U.S. seeds general manager, Dow AgroSciences. “Production will be up for some seed and down for others.”

Excess rain, hail and wind can wallop seed production fields and lead to fewer seed choices for the next growing season.

Seed companies start planning two years in advance to meet projected demand—and make sure they spread production acres across the Corn Belt to protect against weather woes.  

“We research the best places to grow seed and spread our acres across a wide footprint to mitigate weather issues,” explains Dan Case, senior planning manager for field manufacturing, DuPont Pioneer. 

One way companies plan ahead is by producing more than what they project farmers will need. This allows for wiggle room in years such as 2012 and 2015. 

“Fields experiencing ponding from excessive rainfall are monitored closely as wet conditions can cause uneven growth,” says Greg Bomleny, U.S. corn production lead, Monsanto Company. “If fields are not uniform it can result in additional work for detasseling crews to ensure all unwanted tassels from the female plants are removed.”

This year’s wet weather amps up the risk for disease and fungus pressure.

“We are looking for gray leaf spot, Northern corn leaf blight and other problems in corn,” Barker explains.

Proactive scouting and management will save some North American acres. Barker says he is waiting to see what happens, but he believes yield losses won’t be as severe as many fear.

With new products or in seed supply rescue situations, companies turn to South American production. 

“Every year, we plan on doing some winter production in Argentina or Chile—usually less than 5%. We can use it to deliver the newest products to the market,” Case says. “Seed product yields are very comparable.”

Even so, less overall production can lead to fewer seed choices. Get started early to nail down what you’d like to buy for 2016.

What Happens to Unused Seed

Mother Nature forced many last-minute crop changes and left thousands of acres unplanted. Both situations lead to plenty of unused seed in 2015. Many companies allow farmers to return the seed, depending on the seed type and treatment.

Untreated soybeans can be returned to your dealer, who then sells them as a commodity bean. Treated soybeans can’t be returned to the company, but they can be planted the following year (but germination might suffer). 

Corn seed has a stronger coat to protect it, which makes it easier to hold over to the following year. Returned seed is quality tested with a special emphasis on germination. That’s because improper storage during the season can lead to decreased germination, and companies must be able to support the germination claim on the bag.

If corn meets quality standards, it is re-bagged and placed into climate-controlled storage at 50°F and 50% humidity.


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