State of the seed address
Seed and Chemical Feature 2008 Thanks to soaring commodity prices, farmers are revisiting a fundamental concept they probably learned in the third grade - supply and demand. Seed growers recently have been mailed a survey to see what's available,...
Seed and Chemical Feature 2008
Thanks to soaring commodity prices, farmers are revisiting a fundamental concept they probably learned in the third grade - supply and demand.
Seed growers recently have been mailed a survey to see what's available, said Ken Bertsch, North Dakota State Seed Department commissioner.
Minimal shortages are expected to result from the high commodity prices, but to get a better handle on the exact amount, the seed department is relying on detailed surveys.
"Some growers are marketing seed as grain, and they can do that," Bertsch said.
Though spring wheat prices were up last year ($5.45 per bushel calendar year high) compared to an average high of $4.22 per bushel during the last 10 years, prices have jumped considerably in 2008 to the $11 per bushel range.
"It takes a lot to hold grain at these prices," said Brian O'Toole, wheat conditioner and farmer.
O'Toole, Crystal, N.D., has been conditioning small grain for 31 years and is busy keeping up with demand because of an unusually early buying season.
"During January and February I could go somewhere and not be missed, but not this year," O'Toole said.
Thirteen growers contribute to O'Toole's seed business, which sells mainly to elevators, but some to farmers, too.
"Some have marketed out some of their grain to meet their contracts," O'Toole said.
If wheat prices remain high or continues to increase, seed prices likely will increase too, which affects farmers' input costs.
For farmers, the struggle of finding a preferred variety is coupled with the high market prices for seed.
The challenge of high commodity prices is that so many more dollars are involved, it strangles the buying power, O'Toole said.
"You can't purchase all in one shot, there's a lot of sticker shock.
"Let's say that wheat sold for $5 last year and now it's $11, you can expect seed to be $6 higher too," Bertsch explains. "Farmers will have to book early to get what they want; the preferred varieties will go first."
"We started with 12 varieties. We're down to eight and some others are getting slim," O'Toole said.
He expected to have only two varieties left at the end of January. By spring not many choices will be left, Bertsch and O'Toole said, and they agree that getting a preference is ideal.
But, there are many solid performing varieties out there; the industry has done a good job at developing for (Northern Plains) elements, Bertsch said.
For example, Faller, a new spring wheat variety, is generating a lot of excitement because of its yield production.
"It takes about a year for a new release; there should be plenty of that variety in 2009," Bertsch said.