Last minute seed decisions can pay off

With late fall deadlines for most seed programs, there are plenty of incentives for growers to book their seed before the end of the year. But, for a variety of reasons, growers may have to delay their seed purchase decisions until closer to spring.

“The majority of the canola is booked before the end of December, but there are a certain number of swing acres,” says Jamie Mills, grower and channel marketing manager, canola with Bayer Canada. “These acres make up the last 10 to 15 per cent that growers need to purchase. These seed decisions are made at a later date depending on market conditions, weed spectrum, expected date of seeding or for other reasons that delay decisions until closer to the spring season.”

The relationship growers have with their local agronomist or retailer will help them make a decision on what seed to pick whether it’s before or after the new year, says Mills. “For canola growers the number one decision making factor in purchasing seed is their agronomic needs,” he says. “There is a hierarchy of decision making — if they have clubroot issues that narrows it down, if they have particular weed concerns, that narrows it further. And depending on where they are in their rotation, that will impact which system they use.”

Mills also counsels growers to try new genetics if they are undecided. If Mills has a trusting relationship with growers he advises them to try something new, even if it’s only on a few fields and that helps new seed products get into wider production.

While rotations are generally set, there can be some flexibility within them, he adds. Growers will always look at market trends or the potential to manage production risk with a last minute decision. “You might not get your first seed choice if it’s a launch year for a newer seed or hybrid,” says Mills, which is a typical example of why a seed decision has to be changed at the last minute.

“And some of the (buying) incentives might not be there after the first of the year, but sometimes that is the best decision for your farm.” In other words, sometimes being forced to choose a variety you hadn’t initially planned for can pay dividends.

THE BEST TIME TO DECIDE

“Most growers start thinking about next season’s seed purchases the day they put the seed in the ground,” says Mark Kerry, crop and campaign marketing manager, corn with Bayer. “They see how it responds to cold, moisture or dryness as well as how it emerges, what its vigour is like and how it performs throughout the season. Seed is constantly being evaluated.”

Most growers look at seed performance throughout all four seasons of the year. Once it is in the ground, they see in summer how it responds to fertility and crop protection products, they evaluate plant health, plant structure and how the plant pollinates. And by using technology like Climate FieldView, they are able to track plant health throughout the growing season, says Kerry.

Bayer turns over its seed lineup by 20 to 30 per cent each year, which is standard within the industry, so it would be unusual for growers to choose the exact same hybrids or varieties every year. When it comes to new seed, growers are looking at trial information on yield, plus grain quality, plus — when it comes to a crop like corn — dry down and test weight.

A season like 2019 can have some of the biggest impacts on last minute seed switching or purchase decisions, says Kerry. In Eastern Canada, the spring was so wet and delayed that some corn growers had to switch their initial order to get a different, earlier maturing hybrid. In some areas the spring was even further delayed and growers had to switch a second time. Then spring got so far behind in some areas that even more growers had to switch out entirely to soybeans.

When making seed purchases, growers increasingly do their homework online, says Kerry. They look at trial results, marketing pages and social media, but in the end they talk to their local dealer or retailer to make a final decision.

“It all comes back to having a trusted dealer that they are comfortable working with,” he says. “Rarely can growers just change their crop with short notice. But when you need to make a change or book your seed closer to spring, you want to make sure you have as much information as possible at hand and someone you can trust to work with.” FF