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Winter Wheat: Act Fast to Secure Seed

Bill Spiegel 06/24/2014 @ 9:15pm I grew up in north-central Kansas, and am the Fourth Generation to maintain and manage our farm; we grow wheat, soybeans and grain sorghum. I'm a 1993 graduate of Kansas State University in ag communications.

Before the 2014 wheat harvest has finished for farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas, the 2015 crop is already off to a rough start.

Supplies of certified seed in these states are limited, thanks to multiple years of drought, plus this year’s late freeze and recent hailstorms. Farmers are encouraged to line up certified seed needs as quickly as possible in order to ensure they procure an adequate supply of the varieties they want.

“I think Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are all feeling the same pain. We all have a little tighter seed supplies. We’re telling growers to be proactive, and call your seed supplier, and you’ll be able to get seed,” says Roger Osburn, director of Oklahoma Pedigreed Seed Services, which handles the seed certification process for varieties from Oklahoma Genetics, Inc. “If you wait until the last minute, you might be out of luck,” he adds.

In Oklahoma, about 75,000 acres of seed were planted with the intention of being certified, up from 32,000 acres in 2006. However, only about two-thirds of that acreage will be harvested, due to inclement weather.

In Kansas, 110,000 acres were planted and intended to be certified, according to Daryl Strouts, president of the Kansas Wheat Alliance in Manhattan. Not all of those acres will be harvested, yet Strouts anticipates the certified seed crop will total about 3.5 million bushels.

“In Kansas, only about 2.5 million bushels of certified seed are sold. There will be ample supply, but farmers may not get their first choice of seed,” he warns. “New and popular varieties typically sell out quickly. If there is a variety a farmer wants, order it early.”

In Texas, drought and freeze took a toll on certified seed production fields, according to Steve Brown, program director of the Texas Foundation Seed Service, who says there will be enough good-quality seed to meet growers’ needs.

“The last several years where we’ve had drought, we’ve been able to find enough certified seed in central and western Kansas. But farmers there are in as tough of shape as we are this year,” Brown says.

Texas farmers plant about 6 million acres of wheat each year, with about half taken to harvest (the rest is either grazed or put up for hay). Like in the other states, Brown encourages farmers to talk to their seed dealers early. “Certain areas may be in short supply, but there should be no problem finding enough seed,” Brown says. “They may not be able to find the exact variety and quantity they want, but there will be enough quality seed.”

Farmers can keep seed they raise on their farm for seed production, unless they have signed a contract prohibiting them from that practice.

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