The Many Paths Ahead For Seed

This fall growers and retailers have faced a unique combination of natural and man-made challenges that are making seed and planting decisions for the coming year more complex. Perhaps the biggest question of the season: Will there be enough seed for 2013 plantings, especially in light of the drought? Retailers we talked with have been keeping in close touch with suppliers to get the latest word. Fortunately, seed production acreage is under irrigation, so the crop was protected from some of the worse effects of the drought. But dealers are hearing quantities will be tight to “very tight,” at least on the corn side. “The challenge will be how many of the priority hybrids or varieties we can actually deliver,” says Rob Mitchell, director of national seed sales and marketing, J.R. Simplot, Boise, ID.

Indeed, Jeff Eggleston, general manager of Hintzsche Fertilizer, Maple Park, IL, says that because of supply problems the past few years, a majority of his customers’ orders have been altered at least once before seed ever gets delivered. Trying to place seed for a grower, then not have availability means going back to make substitutions, he says. It’s a time-consuming practice he dislikes intensely.

In addition to supply issues, some retailers were wondering about the quality of the seed, pointing to the impact of the summer’s excessive heat during pollination. “We’re anticipating a smaller seed size and hopefully we’re not going to see reduced germs of any kind,” says Mitchell.

And a startling trend emerged across the board as CropLife® talked with dealers: Growers are placing orders up to two months earlier than usual in order to get coveted varieties and quantities. In fact, customers might be over-ordering slightly this year as well, trying to get extra of what they really want because they know they’ll probably get cut, says Eggleston.

Product Watch

What products did growers go for in 2012 and how did crops do? Lane Mielke, sales manager at North Central Famers Elevator, Ipswich, SD, says customers particularly liked VT Double PRO seed — especially the Refuge-in-Bag product — and were willing to pay a premium for the convenience.

Mielke was surprised at how well the newer varieties performed in general this year. “We raised a heck of a good crop on limited rainfall,” he says. “Producers raised a good yield and are getting a good price for their commodity. Everybody has a smile on their face at this point.”

Kevin Mainord, sales manager for MRM Ag Services, East Prairie, MO, saw a big demand for LibertyLink (LL) products in his area this year due to glyphosate-resistant pigweed issues. The problem began six years ago and has progressively gotten worse across the state. When customers first started using LL soybeans two years ago, they were concerned about a yield drag, compared to Roundup Ready systems. But most are now seeing LL yields that are just as good, Mainord reports.

Many retailers, including Chris Klumpp, seed product line manager at Ag Partners, Albert City, IA, reported customers went for the new RoundUp Ready 2 Yield soybeans and said they got “very good performance.”

Several dealers we talked with are waiting for dicamba-tolerant soybeans as a means to combat glyphosate-tolerant weeds. But the possible volatility and off-target movement of dicamba products and subsequent damage to sensitive crops like cotton makes them cautious.

Michael Hensgens, business manager of G&H Seed Co., Crowley, LA, says dicamba and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans should raise the yield bar and increase weed control in the crop, aiding in stewardship and weed resistance prevention.

One eagerly awaited trait continues to be drought tolerance, and 2012 certainly was a good year to test the newly launched genetics. This season J.R. Simplot, which always faces plenty of water-challenged locations west of the Rockies, trialed and retailed some of the hybrids, created both by conventional breeding and genetic modifications. Mitchell says it’s too early to tell if the seed delivered. “The harvest is going on and data points are still coming in,” he says, though he adds that the company will also be watching other industry and university results as well.

5 Key Forces Driving The Seed Market5 Key Forces Driving The Seed Market
In this episode of Top Trends, CropLife Group Editor Paul Schrimpf discusses how weather, economic and political conditions are all playing a role in which direction the seed market will head in the future.

Planting Intentions

Several retailers reported that planting intentions for 2013 so far are similar to 2012, with many still “bullish” on corn acres. Mitchell projects the Gulf region may see some corn acres replace cotton. “I think it’s going to be another big year on corn, but let’s just hope we get some rainfall this fall and winter, get some recharge going.”

Dealers said they are hearing projections of 96 to 100 million acres of corn for 2013, but those impacted most by the drought in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa question the figure.

“I don’t know how we’re going to hit that,” says Dan Mogged, vice president of Van Horn, Cerro Gordo, IL. He reports dismal performance by some hybrids for the past two years in corn-on-corn fields in the region. Those kinds of results make it very difficult for his sales force to recommend one product over another to customers for 2013. He says growers have been “slammed” in these rotations, investing in pricey inputs only to get disappointing yields — 50 to 80 bushels per acre less than fields where corn followed soybeans. Mogged says he could see at least 5% of this year’s corn acres shift back to soybeans.

All Over The Road

Hintzsche’s Eggleston, also in Illinois, says planting intentions are “all over the board right now,” with some growers leaning toward more soybeans. “I would say if we don’t get some decent snowfall and rain this fall and next spring, growers may lean towards beans. Our subsoil moisture is pretty depleted.”

MRM’s Mainord thinks that if bean prices and fertilizer prices go up, “that will tend to trim the corn acres.”

Dealers are working to make seed sales a good experience for growers. A key is the value of their sales agronomists in building relationships with and conveying seed information to customers. Seed staff face a steep learning curve, especially considering the sheer number of new varieties hitting the market every year. The life cycle of a hybrid has gone down to two or three years, from five years a decade ago.

North Central Farmers Elevator has seen the benefits of ongoing customer communication. As word has spread about the company’s products and service, Mielke has had to add 18 new members to his sales force over just the past five years.

Part of seed management is pricing, including finding the rate that will bring acceptable margins. While customers may complain about seed costs, G&H Seed’s Hensgens emphasizes margins do mean value for the grower. “A farmer is the best judge of value,” he says. “If he trusts his crop advisor, he orders products with their appropriate margins providing the crop advisor service. If a grower uses a consultant, then he pays the consultant and shops price first, then compares the other services offered by the dealer. Custom application services greatly impact those decisions.”

Hensgens would say the value of traits was acceptable to growers until a “value shift” took place a few years ago — when the price of seed went up in exchange for lower herbicide prices caused by generic chemical introductions and patent expirations.

In Missouri, MRM’s Mainord sells to customers who still use public varieties. Many of the elevators in his area pay a 60-cent premium for non-GMO soybeans, which his growers have found perform very well. “In fact, most producers who grow traditional varieties will tell you they perform as well as anything that’s on the market,” he says. A sobering thought considering non-GMO seed costs $18 to $19 per bag, vs. $52 to $65 for traited seed.

A number of dealers commented that while agriculture continues to fare well compared to other industries in the current economy, they and their customers are uneasy. The latest Farm Bill has yet to be finalized, and at presstime dealers contemplated how the looming elections could greatly affect the bill’s outcome. “One year down the road, how will farm programs and crop insurance look?” asks Mogged.

Mainord thinks growers are being a little cautious in their buying decisions, even with high commodity prices. One reason in particular: How will tax structures look after the elections?

“They affect us tremendously,” he says. “Even though we handle a lot of money, sometimes we don’t get to keep a lot of it.”


Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Pioneer Corn Seed in warehouse
Seed/BiotechClimate Change In Seed Sales
November 8, 2015
Every year at this time, CropLife® tries to assess what compelling issues the seed industry and retailers are facing. Heading Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending Facility In Washington
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Latest News
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More