Published on 02/26/96

Growers Looking Hard for Premium Soybean Seeds

Georgia farmers may have a rough time finding the soybean seed they want and need. The state's seed producers have only about half the preferred seed they need for 1996 planting.

"About 180,000 to 200,000 bushels of Southeast-appropriate soybean seed are available," said John Woodruff, an agronomist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

"Based on estimates of small grain acreage in the state, that seed is one-third to one-half of what our farmers will need," Woodruff said.

The main reason for the seed shortage was that seed producers saw the downward trend in soybean acreage and cut back accordingly. But this year, farmers see the rising profit potential in soybeans and are clamoring for seed.

"Farmers are seeing the advantage in growing soybeans after small grains," Woodruff said.

Improved production methods and research on cutting costs have helped farmers grow better soybeans at less cost, making the crop more profitable.

Georgia farmers produce soybeans in maturity groups seven and eight. The group numbers refer to the time of year they must be planted, the length of their growing season and when they're ready to harvest.

Woodruff said the seven and eight groups are well-suited to the coastal South.

Farmers often grow soybeans after wheat or other small grains. They can plant the varieties in these later-maturing groups in June, after small grains are harvested.

Soybeans in this group mature after most peanuts and cotton, too. This allows farmers to harvest matured soybeans after their peanuts or cotton crops are in.

But that doesn't mean some varieties in other groups won't grow here. Farmers can choose other soybeans that have been tested in Georgia and produce a good crop.

Beans from groups five and six grow mainly in the Mid-South and Delta areas. "Bean varieties from this area were developed for conditions much like ours," Woodruff said, "so the difference isn't that great."

To grow these varieties, though, farmers must plant them in May or very early June. That could cause scheduling problems both with harvesting small grains and planting peanut and cotton.

Woodruff tells farmers to start looking now for group seven and eight seed. They can contract with their seed supplier for the varieties they want most.

If growers can't get all of the seed they need in that variety, they still have time before planting to look at other varieties.

Farmers who must plant soybeans not usually grown in Georgia must choose carefully.

"Some of these varieties have been tested in the state," Woodruff said. "That information is available from your county Extension agent."

Woodruff said growers should check on whether the tested variety resists diseases and insects often found in Georgia fields.

Soybean farmers can request certain seed varieties from their seed supplier. Since many suppliers don't stock seeds in their warehouses, they can put out a computer search for a seed variety.>

"That's an advantage and a disadvantage," Woodruff said. Some suppliers will try to hoard their most popular seed varieties, hoping for higher prices.

Farmers who know their options in choosing seed from other regions can use that option if premium seed prices skyrocket.

The only farmers this shortage will be a real problem for, Woodruff said, are those who don't take quick action to get their soybean seed.

"If they wait too late," he said, "even the alternative seed supplies may run out. And they'll be out of a crop.