Seed shortage not a big concern for Nebraska farmers |

Seed shortage not a big concern for Nebraska farmers

Story by Robyn Scherer, M.AgR.
Photos courtesy of Ne Corn Board
Farmers are tilling the soil to prepare a nice seeding bed.

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Late April and early May means planting time for the thousands of Nebraskan corn farmers. However, many farmers may not be able to plant the variety of corn this year they had hoped for.

The seed that is grown for planting corn is grown from specialized plants, and it is estimated that corn seed is down 25 percent or more heading into the planting season.

Seed production was down due to several reasons, including the drought in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains, and by drought conditions in South America. Many seeds are grown there during the winter, and shipped to the U.S. in the spring for planting.

“From what I’ve heard from our board and a few other producers is they were able to get the seed that they ordered. The main concern is that if they have to do any replanting,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board.

The main shortage is in new varieties, which many farmers may want to plant. “When new genetics come out, that first year until they get a bigger seed stock, they will spread it out to as many farmers as they can, and there isn’t always enough,” he said.

The particular varieties that many farmers are looking to use this year are drought resistant varieties. This increase is due not only to the threat of drought, but also due to the increased number of dryland acres that are being planted across the state.

“What we have seen over the past few years is more dryland acres being planted as a percentage of the total. We are seeing a larger increase in dryland acres than we have in the past as well. People see the opportunities of the new corn genetics that have drought genetics, and they are wanting to use those,” said Brunkhorst.

Although Nebraska is not expected to have a heavy drought, it is always a possibility. “Drought is always on farmer’s minds. I think drought is a concern, but what they have seen is that the genetics are able to withstand that pressure up to some point. They are able to take a little more stress now, and still produce a descent corn crop,” he said.

It is estimated that farmers will plant 10.3 million acres in Nebraska this year, up 450,000 acres from last year, according to a report by the USDA.

“We have to go way back into the 1930s to see that level of planted acres if it holds true. If you look at what the weather has been like, it’s been a great run of weather, which is beneficial to corn planting and other crops too,” said Brunkhorst.

Many farmers started planting their corn crops the week of April 23, and will likely continue planting through May 4. As of April 23, 14 percent of the crop had been planted, and that number is expected to rise drastically by April. 30.

“We have had the warmest March on record. Outside of one rain, farmers have been planting very strong. We are seeing some board members who think they will be done by the end of next week. We will continue to make significant progress as long as we don’t get a heavy rain,” he said.

Farmers want to get their corn crops planted as early as possible, but have to be careful not to plant too early in case they get a late frost as seedlings are emerging. Also, crop insurance generally does not take effect until this time as well.

“It is a benefit to get it planted now. What we saw was the ground temperatures warmed up, and we got a little rain. If we can get more rain a week or so after we plant, that would help get the crop off to a great start,” Brunkhorst said.

The increased planted acres means that there should be an increase in the number of acres harvested. However, other factors could change that projection.

“All of it will depend on what the weather is like between now and September and October when we begin harvesting. Projections are out there for a larger than we have seen crop due to the increased acres. If it stays true, we will probably see a drop in price and then it will stabilize,” he said.

Overall, the demand for corn should stay high, no matter what varieties are planted. “We are doing well. There is good demand in livestock and in ethanol. We also have good international demand from China and India demand. The supply will be there as long as the weather is favorable,” Brunkhorst said.

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