For many growers in Southern Minnesota and the surrounding areas, the seed they use tends to come from Albert Lea Seed, Albert Lea, MN. Originally founded in 1923 by Lou Ehrhardt, Albert Lea Seed continues to operate as a now-third generation family-owned company with brothers Mac and Tom Ehrhardt running the show. “Growers appreciate our prices and respect our simple, fair approach to farm seed that doesn’t involve hidden deals,” says Owner/Manager Mac Ehrhardt. “Over the years, we have expanded our genetic options, increased access to traits and seed treatments, and offer other services as well.”
In recent years, says Ehrhardt, much of Albert Lea Seed’s business has moved into the certified organic seed arena, which he estimates comprises approximately 30% of the company’s total business as of the end of 2015. In fact, Albert Lea Seed recently announced that it was transitioning its own branded seed line for corn and soybeans, Viking Seed, to a 100% non-traited model (i.e., non-genetically-modified). “For those customers still looking for traited options, we are becoming a distributor of seed from NorthStar Genetics,” says Ehrhardt.
Organic Seed Driven
In addition, Ehrhardt credits Albert Lea Seed’s organic seed customers with how his company has adopted its current seed treatment options into the business. “When we first started looking at seed treatment in 1996, part of the reason was to help our organic farming customers find new ways to improve their plant stands,” he says. “This is what led to the first organic coating we offered on corn seed.”
A few years later, Albert Lea Seed started looking for seed treatment options that could be certified for use on organic seed, so the company began working with Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM). The first ABM seed treatment product used by Albert Lea Seed was a root inoculant for wheat seed called SabrEx. “After our customers found this helped improve their wheat seed yields, we quickly expanded into using SabrEx root inoculant for our corn seed customers as well,” says Ehrhardt. “On average, our growers were seeing anywhere from a two to 12 bushel per acre yield increase when they used SabrEx as an option on their seed.”
More recently, Albert Lea Seed has added another ABM seed treatment product to its line-up called Excalibre SA. Designed to be applied on soybean seeds, Excalibre SA is a trichoderma-based product that helps plants produce larger root systems. This can help them fight off diseases and offer a measure of drought resistance while improving nutrient uptake, says ABM Regional Sales and Tech Services Manager Vince Wertman.
“Overall, using ABM products in our seed treatment operations has been a real difference maker for our customers, and that’s what we as a good supplier are interested in accomplishing,” says Albert Lea Seed’s Ehrhardt.
ABM’s Wertman agrees. “When we first started our relationship with Albert Lea Seed, we were looking to help them increase the benefits to their growers anyway we could using our products,” he says. “We’ve both heard from customers about the positive results and are glad to be a part of their overall success.”