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Published April 16, 2012, 09:35 AM

Seed shortages

Corn planting is swinging into high gear across the region, but some area farmers may not get enough seed to plant all the corn — or at least the type of corn — that they want.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Corn planting is swinging into high gear across the region, but some area farmers may not get enough seed to plant all the corn — or at least the type of corn — that they want.

“It’s short, particularly Bt (biotech) corn,” Neal Foster, executive director of the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association says of corn seed supplies in his state.

There have been concerns for months that area farmers might come up short of corn seed this spring, in part because farmers nationwide were expected to plant a huge corn crop.

Some area observers report a more optimistic — though less-than-ideal — outlook of corn seed availability.

In Minnesota, “If you want to plant corn, you’ll be able to find seed. It may not be what you want,” says Steve Malone, with the plant protection division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

By that, Malone means corn farmers in the state may need to switch from their first choice to another corn variety.

Adam Spelhaug, who sells corn seed for Peterson Farms Seed in Harwood, N.D., says that his company’s customers should be able to get all the seed they had ordered as of late March.

Strong demand

U.S. farmers, attracted by strong corn prices, are expected to plant 95.9 million acres of corn this spring, roughly 4 million acres more than a year ago and the most since the 97.2 million acres in 1937, according to the influential prospective plantings report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

North Dakota farmers will plant 3.4 million acres of corn, up from 2.2 million acres a year ago, USDA says.

Some area corn growers predicted before the report that seed shortages would keep corn acreage in North Dakota under the 3 million mark this year.

Spelhaug says he thinks corn acres in the state will top 3 million this year, although he’s uncertain if USDA’s projection of 3.4 million acres will be reached.

Minnesota farmers are expected to plant 8.7 million acres of corn, up from 8.1 million acres from a year ago.

In South Dakota, corn acreage is pegged at 5.5 million, up from 5.2 million last year.

So much demand for corn seed has tightened the supply of it, officials say.

Seed supplies also are crimped by wet weather last year, which led to less corn seed being planted, and, ultimately harvested.

Wheat, barley certified seed

There were reports earlier this winter that supplies of certified seed for spring wheat and barley could come up short this spring. Certified seed is seed of a known variety produced under strict conditions that maintain the variety’s purity.

North Dakota is the leading producer of both spring wheat and barley; the two crops are grown in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana as well.

Wet weather last year cut into the amount of certified barley and spring wheat seed that was harvested last fall, reducing supplies of it for this year’s crop.

But the supply of certified seed will be adequate, thanks to advance efforts to make sure that enough seed was certified, says Steve Sebesta, deputy commissioner of the North Dakota State Seed Department.

“We’re in great shape,” he says.

Ron Larson, manager of the Montana Seed Growers Association, says he hasn’t heard of any spring wheat seed shortages.

Barley producers in the state were particularly concerned about seed shortages, but those farmers seem to have located the seed they need, Larson says.

“They’re coming up with ways” to get barley seed, including bringing in some from Canada, he says.