Farming 101: How do farmers select what seeds to plant for the coming growing season?

A few weeks ago I posted a poll asking “What Would You Like To Know about Farming?”    The selection that received the most votes asked,

 How we  (farmers) select our seeds for the (coming) season?

So lets dig in to the answers!

When you go to the store to purchase seeds to plant in  your garden, you may be confronted with countless choices to pick from.  Carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, sweet corn, green beans, the list goes on and on.  You also may notice that within each vegetable category there are different types as well.  Tomatoes are a great example of that.  Early Girl, BeefMaster, Better Boy etc.  The list goes on and on (click here for more).  You may also have the choice to purchase Conventional,  Organic or even Heirloom seeds as well.  With all of the choices you have, it may be difficult to choose, especially not knowing which variety may be the best yielding for your own individual garden.

Photo credit to “Its Not Work, Its Gardening”

Just as you stand in the store, going back and forth and back and forth debating on which packet of Carrot or Cumber Seeds to buy, farmers do the same exact thing when it comes to purchasing their seed needs, albeit on a much larger scale.

Lets “dig” into the details!

For farmers, the decision on what seeds to plant often occur in the fall, while harvesting the previous years crop.  Every fall, grain farmers across the Midwest and beyond harvest their crops and compare which soybean or wheat varieties or corn hybrids were the best throughout the year and of course which have the best resulting yield.  On average if a farmer is pleased with a certain variety they will purchase and replant it again the following year, if not, then they look for something new.

Generally Speaking, if a farmer is looking for something new, here is an example on how the choice is made:

First the farmer must determine which Production method best fits their needs, This will determine which seed category he/she will purchase from, and yes contrary to what the Natural News’s of the internet say, there are countless seed options to choose from for each Production Method.  If you need proof, just ask any farmer.

Production Methods Vary from:

  1. Conventional (which may include GMO)
  2. Non GMO
  3. Organic

Just like you choose what CROP of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which CROPS they will plant for the following year.

When choosing a CROP, Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. Which Crops Grow the best on the Farmers Individual Fields
  2. Which Crops Grow the best in the Farmers overall Location
  3. Which Crops are readily marketable in the Farmers Location
  4. Which Crop’s harvest-able goods  has the highest demand.
  5. Which Crops have the greater ROI for his Location
  6. Which Crops the does the farmer need to plant to feed his own Livestock.
  7. Which Crops are best adapted for the Farmers local Weather.
  8. Which Crops can the Farmer efficiently Care for and Harvest with their current farm equipment and labor situations

NOTE:  Although I know there are many crops grown across the USA I will stick to corn and soybean seed decisions because that is my area in which I am most knowledgeable.

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After making the decision what crop to plant, it is time to choose what variety/hybrid to plant as well.

Just like you choose what Variety of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which Variety/Hybrid they will plant for the following year.  And just like the vegetables in the store, there are countless choices!

When choosing a Variety/Hybrid  Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. How quickly the seed emerges
  2. How tall the resulting plant is
  3. How does the resulting plant stand throughout the year?
  4. How strong are the resulting plants roots, stalk/stem?
  5. How is the resulting plant affected by various insects and diseases?
  6. How is the resulting plant is affected by it being planted on various soil types?
  7. How well does the resulting plant preform under stress from excess water or drought?
  8. How well does the resulting plants yield stack up to others?
  9. How long will it take the resulting plant to mature for harvest?
  10. How does the resulting plant react to various populations and row spacings?
  11. What weed pressures do the farmers fields have?

 

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The above questions are just a handful of what goes through a farmers mind when choosing what will be best to plant for his/her farm the following year.  As you may imagine choosing the right seed for the field is a very important and difficult task, and guessing what the weather may be in the following year, an even greater task yet!  Luckily determining which soybean variety or corn hybrid preformed the best in the year before isn’t so difficult.

Every seed company in the market today conducts annual seed trials on various farms across the Midwest and beyond.  Farmers then have access to those trial locations to get “hands on” with the plants throughout the year and also has access to the resulting yield data at the end of harvest!  In this aerial photo, taken by an Agricultural UAS Drone, each corn hybrid shows height and slight color differences.

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

A great source for farmers to source accurate independent yield data from is from the F.I.R.S.T. Group.  Click here for more info.

The researchers at FIRST pride themselves on providing independent research of Seed Technologies.  Every year they provide farmers with countless corn and soybean trial results so they can better choose which seeds are the best for their farm for the following year.

 

I hope this post helps you better understand how a farmer chooses his/her seeds, but if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me directly by visiting the contact page by clicking HERE.

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5 thoughts on “Farming 101: How do farmers select what seeds to plant for the coming growing season?

  1. Pingback: Are Farmers Forced by Big Ag and Monsanto to Plant Seeds? - Ask The Farmers

  2. Pingback: Are Farmers Forced by Big Ag and Monsanto to Plant Seeds? - Ask the FarmersAsk the Farmers

  3. Pingback: Farming Myth: Seed Corporations like Monsanto leave farmers with little choice of what seeds to plant. | The Farmer's Story

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