When is Cheaper Seed Too Costly?

When it comes to crop input costs, the price of seed continues to rise. This is in spite of the fact that many other crop input have stabilized or even dropped.

Seed price increases have a lot to do with the introduction of genetically engineered traits. In other words, producers are paying for technology advances. Forage breeders also have developed traits that enhance agronomic or livestock performance. Therefore, paying extra for quality genetics means a higher price tag. So why does price sometimes remain the only consideration when it comes to purchasing a particular type of seed?

Premium genetics and traits cost more because they are shown to increase plant or animal performance. But what is the real cost of seed? When spread over the life of a stand, for example, cost is not a significant measure of production cost. Especially when you compare it to other expenses.

Premium genetics are thought to bring improved performance but the amount of yield boost is often seen in just one cutting. For example, if you pay $1 per pound more in seed, it is only necessary to, conservatively, capture .12 ton per acre over the life of the stand. That happens in the first cutting. What’s more, it keeps doing this every cutting. When it comes to livestock feed, improved animal performance make extra seed costs even easier to justify.

The seed buying season is upon us and there are many reasons why producers will choose one seed over another. It may came down to anything from brand loyalty to performance results to recommendations from friends or family.

If you are consider what type of seed to purchase, chances are you will continue to weigh your options in the same way as you have in the past. You may, however, want to consider the following, as well:

  1. Is the money you save on less expensive seed in the short term worth lost production in the long term?
  2. Premium genetics usually return seed costs. This is true even with annual forages which require that those costs be returned in only a year’s time.
  3. Even a small increase in yield makes paying more for seed worth it.
  4. Better seed genetics, when other agronomic traits are similar, almost always mean improved livestock performance.

Finally, seed cost doesn’t always guarantee improved performance. Therefore, when any claim is made about a particular forage variety or silage hybrid, you still need to do your due diligence. That means confirming any research presented as part of a marketing claim.