No-Tillers Using New Corn Hybrids, But Selection Still Requires Care

The cost of seed corn has skyrocketed, but some no-tillers and researchers report big gains in yields in side-by-side test plots.

No-tillers seem to be taking evolving technologies in stride as seed companies unveil seed corn that provide new single, double and triple transgenic traits, with seed treatment options for early-season insect and disease protection.

The multiple benefits offered through transgenic seed corn has resulted in a sharp adoption curve, especially in the north central states. A new Iowa State University report reveals that 39 percent of Midwest corn is now transgenic and 88 percent of the nation’s transgenic corn is grown in the Midwest.

The fast transition to transgenic corn has also driven a dramatic boost in seed costs. Between 1987 and 2003, average per-acre seed expenses for farmers enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Profits Through Efficient Production Systems (PEPS) program rose from $19.60 to $42 per acre. Seed prices have continued to climb steeply.

Seed Costs Climb

How are No-Till Farmer readers responding to transgenic corn? A recent e-mail survey of about 600 subscribers reveals a steady acceptance and a shift to more trait-enhanced seed — and a corresponding boost in cash outlay, both for the seed itself and additional technology fees.

Sixty-four percent of the survey respondents paid between $100 and $150 per bag for seed corn for their 2006 plantings, with about 9 percent spending more than $150. Not all are willing to pay top dollar, however — nearly 25 percent still paid between $50 and $100 per bag and a few paid less than $50.

On average, No-Till Farmer readers report that seed costs represent…

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Ron Ross

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