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Despite wicked year, seed companies confident in supply

YANKTON, S.D. — Regional and national seed companies are fairly optimistic about seed supply for 2020, despite the challenges and disastrous 2019 planting season.

National companies like Bayer Crop Science that produce both Asgrow soybeans and Dekalb seed corn are well positioned with seed production for 2020. Bjorn Nelson, field sales representative with Bayer Crop Science in Brandon, S.D., says they're very diversified and spread their risk.

"Our production is widely spread," he says. "So while it's more difficult in South Dakota, other areas that we have that we produce the seed crop in are in good shape. So we feel pretty good about where we're at right now."

Nelson says the only shortfall could be earlier corn hybrids, which were more in demand this spring as farmers switched to earlier maturities with the late planting season. "What happens is that early corn moves south to get planted and so that puts a little bit of pressure on our early products, so 95-day and earlier," he says.

BASF recently acquired seed lines including Credenz soybeans, but representatives of the company are also confident in their ability to deliver seed to growers next year. Jason Fiddelke, BASF seed advisor in South Dakota says this year most of their breeding programs were in Iowa and Nebraska so supply looks solid, even the shorter soybean varieties.

"The company is saying that everything that we've put in is in and it looks really good," he says. BASF also has spread its risk through cooperators. "We have growers growing in different areas, we spread it that way. Maturity, we might go north or south. So we spread it all over," Fiddelke says.

Hefty Seeds Inc. headquartered in Baltic, S.D., is a regional seed and agronomy company focused on the Upper Midwest. Many of those states had record prevented planting acres this spring, including South Dakota which led the nation with an unprecedented 4 million-plus acres of unplanted crops in 2019. However, Brian Hefty says supply won't be a concern.

"We ended up getting everything in, everything is looking pretty good at this point," Hefty says. Plus, with all the different traits on the market today, he says they don't know exactly what farmers are going to plant from year to year. "So there is more production out there by far, at least planned production, than you would normally see 15 or 20 years ago when it was pretty much all conventional seed."

Mustang Seeds of Madison, S.D., also is a regional seed company covering a five-state area. Production Manager Dale Nelson says their breeding program is in good shape for 2020. The one caveat is the late maturity of the crop.

"You know one thing about seed corn production, it is taken at a lot higher moisture," Nelson says. "There's some things that can be done if we're concerned about a frost coming or moving in. So if we get a normal frost, I think we'll have an average production year."

Nelson also says some farmers that didn't plant acres this spring are carrying seed over. "We've had some growers that have elected to just keep their seed corn and be prepared for next year," he says. "They wanted that particular hybrid."

He says seed corn carries over well, but they will retest it before the 2020 season to make sure it is viable.

Regardless of the size of the company, if seed shortages are anticipated, they can draw on winter production in places like South America to make up the difference. However, they generally try to avoid that measure as it can be very expensive.