I looked at the sign in my local ag wholesale store a second time. Sure enough, it said each bag of seed corn was $59 per bag. And they were 80,000 kernel bags. Wow! What a bargain?
At least it sounds like a bargain. You could plant an acre of corn for about $25 in seed. Or you can buy non-GMOs from a traditional seed company and pay more like $65 per acre. Go for triple-stacks with traits and pay around $85 per acre. Or buy the newest hybrids with the most traits and pay roughly $100 per acre.
It doesn't take a math wizard to realize that's a chunk of savings. Even if you save $50 an acre, that's $5,000 on just 100 acres. At $4 corn, you'll need 12.5 bushels more per acre just to break even planting corn that's $50 more per acre than the bargain seed.
Can you expect to get that much back? You bet, and then some! That would be Dave Nanda's answer. He's a plant breeder and crops consultant, based in Indianapolis, Ind. Nanda has assisted as a consultant with the Corn illustrated project for three years.
Seed offered at bargain prices is typically older hybrids without traits. It may even be older seed that's been carried over. That's not saying it won't produce a good stand, however, Nanda notes. Seed laws in most states require that seed be tested each year before it's sold, and that the germination be reported on the seed tag.
All you need to do is look at any university's test plot program and see that within a certain maturity range at a certain location, there can be easily 50 to 75 bushels per acre difference in yield amongst the hybrids in the test. Look at results from the Purdue University 2009 trials to find such differences between the top yielding hybrids in trials and the lowest-yielding hybrids in those trials.
And that's when companies likely entered their best hybrids and best seed. It costs to enter those programs. So it doesn't follow that you would enter a hybrid that you didn't think would perform well. What winds up happening, of course, is that some locations and some seasons favor certain hybrids over others.
Nanda says you should choose your source of seed carefully, and work with a seedsman who can supply you data, not just information, on germination scores and a whole lot more. Make sure your seedsman knows you want corn from more than one genetic family.
Do your won test plot. Keep it up for a couple of years and you'll begin to build your own data base of information you can use when making selection decisions.
Don't switch whole hog to the latest, greatest brand new hybrid or variety, he advises, especially if you haven't seen it grow, or there isn't good, unbiased test information available. Try a few acres of it, but don't plant it on the whole farm.
What you plant and how you plant it matters. It may require more investment up front, but it can return big dividends in higher gross revenues in the fall.