ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
A larger selection of genetically engineered Roundup-ready corn varieties highlights the beginning 2002 seed season for two Marion County farmers who are selling seed in a new partnership.
Not far behind the corn to interest farmers will be new milo hybrids selected for greater ethanol production.
Gary Evans, 38, who has his headquarters in a mixed grain-farming and crossbred-cow-calf operation eight miles northwest of Marion, has sold NC+ seeds for two years.
He selected the company when he wanted an on-the-farm business to round out his farming operation because NC+ was founded 50 to 60 years ago by a group of Nebraska farmers who still run it and produce seed as contrasted to companies owned by large chemical or agri-business companies.
When Evans and his wife, Becky, needed a baby sitter for their daughter, Katie, 8 months, they took her to Autumn Chisholm near Durham, where Evans became better acquainted with Chris Chisholm, 25, Autumn’s son.
Chisholm, who is in a farrow-to-finish hog operation using hybrid boars with his uncle, Tim Kaufman, three miles east of Durham, also needed a supplemental farm business. Evans realized having Chisholm selling under him at his farm would help him and allow Evans to expand.
Chisholm said the hog operation, with seven and one-half average farrowings annually, keeps him very busy.
“But I think the seed business will be good for both of us,” he said. “I’m good friends with Gary, and when he asked if I would like to work with him, it looked like a good opportunity.”
Evans said the new corn varieties include both short-season and full-season types as well as one especially for silage corn.
Roundup-ready means the corn is unaffected by or resistant to the effects of Roundup herbicide while weeds that sap the crop are killed by an application. Roundup is sprayed or wiped on the plants, moves systemically to kill roots but degenerates into harmless substances when it hits the ground.
“The big thing with Roundup-ready corn is that a farmer will be able to cut back on the total amount of chemicals used to control weeds, and it costs less,” Evans said.
“The seed is slightly higher than conventional corn, but it’s not a considerable enough difference to be of much concern because the increase in seed cost is offset by the savings in chemicals.
“A bag of the seed corn will weight 40 to 55 pounds, depending on the kernel size you select. You can order small, medium or large kernel corn (for greater vigor and size).
“Most guys get medium as the most cost effective.”
The corn seed may cost from $63 to $125 a bag, meaning perhaps a $30-per-acre addition to production cost, Evans said. A $130 bag of milo seed may plant 13 acres, bringing added production cost down to $10 an acre.
But Evans said there is still a push to change to Round-up ready corn and soybean varieties to reduce chemical and tillage costs.
“There also is a higher loan deficiency price from the government to help offset cost for corn and soybeans,” he said.
In the soybean seed he sells, Evans said, “The conventionals are already about a thing of the past. I would guess 95 to 97 percent of the beans sold will be Round-up ready beans. It important to use it to clean up the noxious weeds.
“The new varieties of milo this year come mostly from a program where NC+ got money from the U.S. Government to produce varieties that will make more ethanol to help solve the energy supply need.”
Evans said a new milo variety, among these that looks good to him for the large climate swings Kansas has in moisture and temperature, would be variety 371. He expected 6,050 or 6,070 to continue to be leading favorite milo varieties in this area.
The new genetically engineered varieties also are adding to the workload of seed dealers, Evans said. Last year he had to check with his customers to find out what they were doing with the seed after the controversial Starlink corn engineered for animal consumption was found in human food.
“The seed company gave us forms, and we had to track the seed to document what the customers did with it,” Evans said. “We had to know whether it went for silage or grain, whether it was used for livestock feed or whether it went directly into the human food chain.
“The seed company did this on its own, but it’s a case where the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture wants to know pretty much where the crop is clear through the food system. We’ll probably have to do it again this year.”
Chisholm and Evans also will be selling alfalfa sorghum cane silage and sedan grass seeds.