April 10, 2018

A young farmer gets his start on the family farm

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Since farming routinely is a family affair, with generation after generation taking up wheat production, one can truly never be too young to enter the family business.

You can never be too young to succeed either.

Alec Horton, 25, of Leoti, Kansas, is just two years out of college and already contributing to his family farm and seed supplying business, Horton Seed Services. But he’s not just contributing: he’s winning accolades at the state level in the National Wheat Yield Contest, posting a yield of 95.30 Bu/A with WB-GRAINFIELD, good for third place in Kansas’ Winter Wheat-Dryland division.

The Tiller was able to catch up with Alec at 2018’s Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California, to talk about his short time in the business and how certified seed, an optimal seeding rate, and WestBred® wheat help make him successful.

The Tiller: How long have you been in the wheat business?

Alec Horton: We've been growing wheat since my grandpa's uncle came out to the farm in 1936 and started buying ground where our headquarters is at now.

Me, myself, I've been out of college for two years now, but I've been on the farm, very active, helping make decisions and buying ground, and other things like that, since I was 15 years old or so.

TT: What got you into the family business at such a young age?

Alec: Probably what got me really into it was just harvest time. Riding the combine with my grandpa, sitting on his lap, learning how to run the machinery, looking at the crops with him. Looking at the crops with my dad, just getting that knowledge passed down, around the times of year that we do things, why we do things, why wheat is a good crop for our area, and what we do with our crops.

TT: Has a WestBred variety been particularly effective for your farm and your growers?

Alec: WB-GRAINFIELD has been one of our big varieties. It does a good job of finishing, and putting heads in the berry, and capturing the potential for the farmer. Number one, it has to yield and Grainfield is a very good yielder. I think WestBred is just well-rounded as far as the varieties they kick out to us. They understand they're going to do well for the farmer in the long run.

Certified seed is part of it. A certified seed that out-yields everything else will sell itself. Something that the farmer sees and he's like, "That is something that I need on my farm because it is going to give me the most potential and the most return on my investment."

TT: What other management practices do you recommend?

Alec: Seed treatment is a big part of it. We're protecting each seed and giving it the best potential to capture yield later on. Each seed's going to be able to come up; it's going to have the best chance to germinate, get established and make a viable head, and then return yield and profit to the farmer.

TT: Does finding an optimal seeding rate factor into your management practices as well?

Alec: Seeding rates is a big one for us. Wheat, in general, farmers are coming back to a population base, going to a seeds-per-acre concept instead of a pounds-per-acre concept because of seed size. Seeds per pound change from year to year. And even though it doesn't seem like a lot at 3,500 different seeds per pound, if you're planting on the same pounds basis, it's going be about, I think, that's a 175,000 seeds-per-acre difference, which is a big difference.

If we were on a pounds basis and we were off by 175,000 seeds per acre, that's going to totally change how that variety's going to yield, how it's going to respond to certain things, how it's going to tiller. Using a population basis cannot be stressed enough.

TT: Has WestBred wheat helped in any other way?

Alec: Just knowing the farmers — WestBred wheat has done a really good job of that. It's definitely important and WestBred knows this, to have people who understand the product, understand the people in the area, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get them the product when they need it.

Need help finding your Optimal Seeding Rate? Look no further than our handy Wheat Profitability Calculator. And if you’re looking for a seed supplier like the Hortons in your area, check out our seed supplier page.

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