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US Weather's Impact on 2013 Seed Production

US Weather's Impact on 2013 Seed Production

15 August 2012

ANALYSIS - In 2011, hot weather forced many seed companies to head to South America to supplement their 2012 seed production and this year will no different, writes Sarah Mikesell, TheCropSite senior editor.

As a regional corn seed company based in Geneseo, Illinois, USA, Wyffels Hybrids' seed production is produced in northern Illinois and 75 per cent of it is under center pivot.

Bill Wyffels Jr., President of Wyffels Hybrids

"In Illinois, we are not limited on water usage and I will tell you that every one of our seed fields that's got an irrigation system is muddy," said Bill Wyffels Jr., president of Wyffels Hybrids. "Water is running whenever possible to keep that environment as cool and those plants as healthy as possible. We use insecticides and fungicides to control any kind of pest or disease that may appear. We are doing everything in our power to maximize and ensure that our seed is in its most lush state."

He said this summer's daytime temperatures have been concerning, but their seed production areas have also caught some of the spotty rains. Despite the heat, rain and irrigation, Wyffels is already reserving production areas in South America to take advantage of their second season corn crop.

"We have produced seed there since 1988 and you'll remember that year was another drought year," Wyffels said. "We have been raising seed in South America ever since that time at some level and some magnitude. Last year we raised a larger portion of our seed production than normal in Chile, South America due to the extremely high night time temperatures here in Illinois which reduced yields."

Will Drought-tolerance Drive Demand?

Given the Midwest weather, drought-tolerant hybrids are certainly expected to be on farmers' minds more this year than they have been in the last 20+ years.

As seed companies and trait providers bring these products to market, Wyffels expects they will not make a big splash in the "I" states - Illinois, Indiana and Iowa - of the central Midwest. Rather, he expects them to be positioned in the western Corn Belt in states like western Nebraska and Kansas - in general, west of the Missouri River.

"Whenever you put another option in a bag, there is more expense added to the producer's cost," he said. "I don't think that Illinois and Iowa will initially be as big of a draw as some of the western Corn Belt. We haven't seen a drought like this in at least 25 years. In some parts in Illinois, there might be some demand but today it's still a year or two from market and I think commercialization will probably occur more in the west."

Corn rootworm larvae. Photo courtesy Marlin Rice, Iowa State University

Wyffels believes that product demand will stem from Wyffels RIB (Refuge in Bag) hybrids, with Genuity® SmartStax® technology, that have below-ground and above-ground protection for insects - in particular rootworm.

"In a dry year like we have had, rootworm damage is more significant in areas where corn has been planted 7-15 years in continuous corn," he said. "That technology is superior and can deal with just about any insect situation thrown its way plus only 5 per cent of the seed in the bag is refuge. And that's the only bag a farmer has to plant."

Is Corn Worth It?

In 2013, will farmers think twice about investing so many acres into corn? Wyffels expects corn to remain king because of its profitability and strong market demand.

"Commercial producers are managing their risks with crop insurance," he said. "There are some who don't use crop insurance. But I think the majority of producers who have taken adequate insurance, even though they are frustrated by a poor crop, are going to be in a position where they can survive. They just may not gain as much as the producer who had a better crop because they caught some good rains."

Wyffels said farmers are a tough lot and they are pretty quiet and keep a lot of things to themselves.

"In many respects you never know how people have marketed their crop, but I think farmers are really holding tight right now, because it is very difficult to know what really is out there in the field," he said.

Wyffels Hybrids is one of the nation's largest independent seed corn companies who is focused strictly on developing and marketing elite corn hybrids.

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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