August 01, 2018
Seasoned growers find success and peace of mind
To save seed or not to save seed? It’s a tough question farmers face at the end of each season. With all the inputs that go into your farm, the lure of saving seed is strong. After all — saved seed equals saved money, right?
According to Alec Horton, a grower and certified seed supplier in southwestern Kansas who can be contacted at hortonseedservices.com, it’s a question he gets every year. He’s only two years out of college but has been active on his family’s farm for over 10 years. Alec credits both his father and grandfather for his love and knowledge of wheat, and each year shares the lessons he’s learned with his customers.
Invest in Bigger Yields
It’s easy to see why growers, especially ones who have always used farm-saved seed, would be hesitant to invest in something new — particularly when that something new is expensive. However, Alec sees the benefits of this investment. With certified seed, the perks can be spotted almost immediately. “Whenever you're going out there and planting it, the berries are all uniform so you have a nice, more uniform stand,” explains Alec.
Alec stresses the importance of analyzing yield performance as a deciding factor for purchasing certified seed. “It is just being able to go out and capture the data, and actually analyze it and see that certified seed is a potential boost for your farm,” he said.
And that data shows just that. In fact, studies have shown certified seed offers an average yield increase of 5 bushels an acre,* and farmers are seeing that yield boost all across wheat country.
Marc Arnusch of Colorado has seen yield increases of 8 to 10 bushels an acre on an irrigated operation when planting certified seed. Marc’s experience spans over 20 years and wheat remains at the core of his operation. “My favorite part about growing wheat is that it's constantly a challenge,” he said. “There's a lot of genetic opportunity there, and there's certainly some untapped yield that we're finding.”
Hidden Cost of Saving Seed
“Convincing farmers that they're better off planting certified seed is a challenge, especially in these tough market conditions that we're in right now,” said Lance Embree, WestBred regional commercial manager.
“I think that if a farmer stops and thinks about the process they're going through to save that seed, and they think about all the possibilities that it opens up, they would definitely see the benefit of certified seed,” said Lance.
Brandon Friesen, a farmer in southwest Kansas and winner of 2017 National Wheat Yield Contest, echoes this same urge for certified seed consideration. While it’s easy to stick to what may have worked in the past, Brandon says farmers doing this can lose out. “Some things [farmers] might not be considering would be the new technology — new breeds of seeds that have come out recently. The yield potential in these new varieties are a lot better than some of the old seed that you saved,” said Brandon.
This new technology is what sets certified seed apart from bin-run seed. The yield boost is driven by the genetic purity of the certified seed, and the risk of any foreign materials (most importantly, leftover harvested weed seed) being mixed in your seed is mitigated. According to Brandon, this is one of the top benefits of certified seed. “You could have a lot of weed seed in your seed if you save your own seed that later down the road could be a problem, a costly problem, that you're not considering,” said Brandon. “Whereas if you buy the certified seed and you have a clean crop going in, you don't have to worry about the weeds.”
Marc also highlights the hidden cost that farmers may not consider when choosing to save their seed. With saved seed, you never know what to expect. “You don't have that emergence that's even and consistent. You always have the potential of your drill maybe not running quite as well as if you had a cleaned and conditioned seed product,” said Marc. But the most crucial benefit of certified seed? Peace of mind.
Fewer Worries, Greater Yields
Wheat is constantly challenging growers and in today’s agriculture, there’s risk everywhere. Certified seed helps take the risk out of this risk-laden industry and gives growers that competitive advantage, explains Marc. Planting certified seed also gives him one less thing to worry about on his farm. “We have too many things to worry about in production agriculture. Do we really want to worry about our seed investment, too?”
*Monsanto Market Probe Survey, 2015