Winter nurseries for breeding programs and even winter production fields in South America have been an important part of supplying enough seed of the right hybrids to farmers for many companies. It may be an especially important tool this year since production was off in certain parts of the Midwest, perhaps nowhere more so than in Indiana. Where most companies report harvesting 60 to 70% of the crop they intended to harvest.
Planting more than they anticipated needing and corn still in cold storage in the warehouse from last year will help many of these companies provide enough, if not more than enough, seed for farmers to plant. However, some will decide to grow certain hybrids in winter nurseries. The decision to go forward with certain new hybrids often isn’t made until after harvest. If a hybrid looks hot or if production of it was down in the U.S., the only option to have enough of it to sell for the 2012 season is to turn to winter production in South America.
Dave Nanda has been studying and breeding corn in the U.S. for some 50 years. The director of agronomy and technology for Seed Consultants, Ind., says this is the toughest year for seed production he has seen in his fifty years. However, he’s not a big fan of making up the difference by growing hybrids in South America during their summer and our winter.
“My experiences have been that seed grown in South America in winter nurseries isn’t always of the best quality,” he notes.
Even if other companies are satisfied with the performance and quality they get form growing in South America, there is another issue that makes winter production tenuous. Can the seed be produced and delivered in time for planting next spring. During the past two springs, companies sweating out whether they would get seed here in time have had a reprieve. Wet weather kept many farmers out of the field early, especially in 2011.
Phil De Villez, director of the Purdue corn hybrid testing program, says he’s literally had seed shipped to the farm where he was ready to plant a trial that morning, and brought to the field and dumped into the planter just in time. The seed came from winter production, and was slow in arriving.
The bottom line is winter production is a tool for supplementing low supplies or trying to get more quantities of the elite hybrids, but it’s not a panacea that will solve every need.