The initial cost of buying certified seed can discourage many farmers. Farm-saved seed is usually a lot cheaper than purchasing seed from an external source. So if a farmer’s primary concern is about cost per unit of farm-saved seed versus cost per unit of certified seed, the equation is simple. Farmers may even say “we’ve always used farm-saved seed.” Why invest in something new? But farmers who think a little more recognize that it’s not enough to merely consider the price difference. Even farm-saved seed requires inputs to make grain from the previous harvest ready for seed. Farm-saved seed requires proper quality testing, cleaning and even treating. Taking these factors into account, the cost savings aren’t quite as attractive. In fact, certified seed is a very different product from farm-saved seed, and it offers unmatched benefits.
What Seed to Sow?
Ask farmers who rely on certified seed what the most important benefits are, and they’ll say the quality and stability of their yields. For decades, seed companies like Bayer have been investing in improving seeds through smart breeding and trait technology. Traits are the genetic characteristics that help crops grow to their full potential, thrive in different environments, defend themselves against insects, nematodes and diseases, and withstand all that nature may throw at them. Thanks to the research and development that has gone into seed development and new genetics, certified seed holds improved traits such as better quality and quantity of yields, pest resistance and drought tolerance. The genetic purity and assured quality of certified seed reduce the risk of adverse climate conditions, pests or diseases that can reduce the next season’s yields.
Bayer’s Wheat Breeding Stations
For North American grain farmers, Ardent Mills is a key customer, with a broad range of flours, mixes, blends and specialty products. Glen Weaver, a Research Director at Ardent Mills and one of the US’s most experienced millers, is equally interested in grain grown from certified seed. “The most important criteria we’re looking for in milling grain are quality and consistency,” he says. After all, grain with such properties enables Ardent Mills to produce better quality flour and achieve higher yields of flour per ton of grain. By using certified seed, growers can achieve better grading and pricing at the farm gate – because seed purity delivers desired characteristics.
The Benefits of Certified Seeds
Certified seed is clean seed. It’s grown and processed under the strictest possible production conditions to minimize the risk of infiltration by weeds or other undesirable plants. Certified seed also gives a farmer pure varieties. Strict quality management systems are employed to maximize purity and ensure a farmer receives the specific variety he wants. Another advantage these quality management systems offer is traceability. With food safety and traceability becoming increasingly important criteria in agriculture, farmers growing crops from certified seed can be sure of its origins.
The advances in seed technology that have gone into certified seed also bring decisive benefits in overcoming the challenge of feeding the growing global population. This technology has increased productivity, enabling farmers worldwide to grow more food or fodder on available agricultural land. With urbanization eating away at farming acreage, it’s vital to maximize yields per hectare. The challenge of safeguarding global food supplies is one of the driving forces behind Bayer’s investment in hybrid seed technology.
Hybrid Seeds for Stronger Crops
The advantages hybrid technology brings – the hybrid vigor known as heterosis – are only available when farmers purchase hybrid seed. Farm-saved seed has no heterosis. Bayer’s research into hybrid seed is mainly aiming to create stability, quality and quantity of yields through specific trait stacks, such as for disease or drought tolerance. “We want to reduce the gaps between good and bad years to give farmers plannability and peace of mind,” says Gustavo Gonzalez, Global Cereals Marketing Manager. “We know all about the huge genetic potential to increase crop yields through our genomic expertise.” Besides boosting yields, hybridization gives Bayer the ability to achieve a high degree of localization by breeding new varieties to match local requirements, such as specific climatic conditions or the need for specific disease tolerance.
To ensure farmers can continue to choose the best possible seed, Bayer invests nearly 400 million Euros a year in Research and Development activities at 53 breeding and trait stations as well as 11 main research centers in 23 different countries. This is strong evidence of the company’s commitment to certified seed, and in particular to hybrid varieties that offer the greatest future potential for increased and more consistent yields of improved quality.
As a result of this research, farmers will have even more good reasons for purchasing certified seed rather than sowing farm-saved seed. The argument that “we’ve always done it that way” will be one that fewer and fewer farmers find convincing.
We want to reduce the gaps between good and bad years to give farmers plannability and peace of mind.