Seed corn supply adequate despite difficult season

The story goes that an old gent walked into his own wake, smiled, and said, “The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.” True or not, it accurately describes the ups and downs of expectations on seed corn this year.

No one denies it was a tough season, with a late start, the coolest July on record, a wet fall and ear molds. Despite all those challenges, Curt Clausen feels good about where his company sits in both overall supply and quality of seed corn. Clausen is director of North American production operations for Pioneer Hi-Bred.

“We typically grow extra acres as insurance, and that’s helping this year,” Clausen says. “Plus, we can move seed to where it’s needed. Every acre grown in Indiana may not be planted in Indiana.”

What’s good advice any year is still good advice this year — stay in contact with your seedsman to make sure you get the hybrids you want. If supply runs short on a hot number, it will likely be a function of changes in demand, Clausen says. “We must predict what farmers want to buy a year in advance. Demand changes, so we don’t always guess right.”

Key Points

• Most believe there will be an ample supply of quality seed.

• Use of fungicides, harvesting early staved off disease.

• Sorting takes out kernels infected with diplodia.

Tough conditions

The ear molds that ravaged some commercial fields weren’t a big factor for Pioneer’s seed production because most fields were harvested before molds kicked into high gear, Clausen continues. The bigger obstacle was waiting on seed corn to dry.

“We follow strict standards on how wet we will harvest seed corn,” he says. “We’ve found that if we push too far and harvest real wet corn, we run into issues later.”

A few seed fields were frosted, Clausen acknowledges, but with extra planted acres, it won’t be a problem in overall supply, he adds.

“We’re in great shape on supply and quality for seed corn overall,” says Jim Herr, manager of seed processing for Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta. However, producing good seed isn’t cheap.

“We invested in a lot of fungicides this year,” he reports. “Disease in seed corn wasn’t an issue. Our germination numbers are good, and our supply is in great shape.”

Potholes for some

Not all seed growers were as fortunate, suggests Alan Galbraith, assistant manager of the Indiana Crop Improvement Association, Lafayette. He’s seen both diplodia and gibberella ear rot on samples sent for germination testing.

“Gibberella doesn’t affect germination much,” he notes. “You can tell it was there because we see a pinkish discoloration on testing towels. But it doesn’t kill seedlings.”

However, diplodia can kill seedlings. Fortunately, seedsmen have technology to remove most infected kernels. “Diplodia kernels tend to be lighter, so they can sort them off,” he says. “They’re also discolored. Many growers use color sorters today.”

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ESCAPED WORST: Some seed corn samples show signs of ear rots. Yet many acres harvested early or sprayed with fungicides escaped molds.

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.