When is the best time to buy the next year's seed?
It's difficult to think too far ahead during the hectic harvest season.
Yet some farmers say their seed dealers are doing just that: asking them to make 2007 seed decisions earlier in the year, sometimes even before the 2006 crop is out of the field. Other growers have an "early bird gets the worm" mindset when it comes to seed purchases, as buying early can sometimes mean grower benefits like price discounts and nailing down varieties in short supply.
But, when is too early to make these purchase decisions?
"Last year, I had seed dealers riding the combine with me and this year they are at it before I even roll the combine out," says Houston, Texas, area farmer Jackie Dean. "They are just trying to get their market share ahead of the other guy and get their money from us sooner."
An earlier window for seed decisions and sales is actually necessary in terms of seed production logistics, according to Fremont, Iowa, farmer Brent Perry.
"How are they supposed to know what to size, treat and package if every farmer waits until January to make their decision?" Perry says. "It's unrealistic to think they can get everything done they need to from Jan. 1 and shipped to you by April 1. This is part of the reason they're out there shaking the bushes early, so they can get their late-November and early-December orders in place."
The prospect of losing out on a new or popular variety because of short supply has growers like Robert Stewart of Fishers, Indiana, placing seed orders earlier in the year. Stewart says, however, he shares Dean's frustration with dealers pushing for seed sales in late summer and early fall.
"I didn't get one hybrid I wanted a couple years ago because I waited only one day. I will order early when I am assued of getting the hybrids I want," Stewart says. "Early orders go a long way to help the seed companies plan for their production of the next year's seed production."
With flexibility in seed orders, growers like Matt Hintz of Bancroft, Wisconsin, can place orders early but change them altogether before the seed is delivered in the spring, if so inclined. In ordering early, Hintz says he's able to take advantage of timing-based discounts and still meet in-field hybrid needs even if they change after the order has been placed.
"I don't know of any seed company that, if you order 50 bags of one variety and change your mind later to a different variey from the same company, that won't honor the discount," Hintz says. "I early-ordered in August. The amount will be the same, but 90% of my order will change by the time I plant. I saved myself a few hundred bucks by ordering early."
From the dealer's perspective, early sales don't always mean better crop output. The educated dealer, according to Bill Moyer, a former seed dealer from Coldwater, Michigan, takes the time to see what type of results the previous year's hybrids yielded before presenting the current year's offerings.
"I think it is legitimate to ride with the grower in the combine to see how the crop might be performing," Moyer says. "If he has been selling you seed, it gives him a possible check on his products' performance. If he hasn't been selling to you, it gives him a chance to see what he has to stack up against."