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2009 seed needs

Agriculture.com Staff 09/12/2008 @ 10:16am

Despite this spring's flooding, there should be plenty of soybean and corn seed for 2009. However, you may want to consider locking up next year's new stacked corn hybrids earlier than normal.

That's because if shortages occur, they're more likely to result in corn than in soybeans. Corn hybrids result when breeders cross a male plant with a female plant. (Females result when tassels are removed.) Seed companies separately plant females and males, with two or more plantings occurring for the male plants.

Multiple male plantings can extend pollination. Excessive rainfall, though, can stymie this process. Soybeans dodge this issue, since they are self-pollinated.

Typically, companies plan to produce around 50% more seed than anticipated seed volume, says Chuck Lee, who heads the corn product line for Syngenta Seeds. In normal years, the bulk of it never leaves warehouses. But in years of weather-induced shortfalls, this safety margin enables companies to meet customer needs.

Seed companies also head off production shortfalls by diversifying the range in which they grow seed.

"We have our seed production spread across several states," says Brad Mitchell, a Monsanto spokesman. "Company-wide, we can always pull in production from other parts of the world."

Typically, larger seed companies produce about five percent of their seed in winter South American production, says Lee. To make up weather shortfalls or to fill demand for hot hybrids, companies can step up production to 15% to 20%. This is more expensive, however, and it creates logistical challenges.

Seed corn supplies will also be influenced by 2009 planting intentions. "If we come in at 90 or 92 million acres, there will be less pressure on seed supplies," says Lee. Supplies will tighten, though, if 2009 corn plantings come in at 94 to 95 million acres, he believes.

Seed industry officials say if there is a shortage, it may be with corn hybrids with the latest technologies. If supplies of elite stacked hybrids are tight, this is the year early booking and prepay should pay. It's no guarantee you'll end up with the quantity of the seed you want. But coupling it with prepayment can help improve your odds.

It's also a two-way street, Lee says. There are cases where farmers order seed from several companies. When an order is confirmed from one, they'll cancel other orders. That hurts supplies and causes other farmers not to get what they want, says Lee. It helps all parties when both sides honor commitments.

At press time, seed companies haven't yet set prices for 2009. But if supplies are tight, increases may be higher than normal.

"In general, in tight supply years, the price usually increases," says Lee. "This year, other drivers like higher commodity prices will place pressure on pricing."

Despite this spring's flooding, there should be plenty of soybean and corn seed for 2009. However, you may want to consider locking up next year's new stacked corn hybrids earlier than normal.

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