In our annual review of new seed products, we asked several large and mid-sized seed companies to send us their best of the best in new corn and soybean seed. Some responded with lists of a few top products. Others shared a more general overview of product line highlights and buying opportunities. Choices are numerous, and as you might expect, each company claims its products have top yield potential and offer a number of traits designed to add profit to the corn and soybean grower's bottom line.

If there's a dark lining in this silver cloud, it's the StarLink scare. Hardest hit by the corn's Cry9C genetic contamination worries was Garst Seed Company, which now is trying to put customers' minds at ease about genetic contamination. We are testing every Garst corn hybrid that will be sold for the 2001 planting season, explains David Witherspoon, president of Garst. We are making the commitment to our customers to not sell any hybrid seed that shows a positive test for StarLink based on our testing procedures.

Despite the loss of StarLink insect-resistant hybrids, Garst is pressing on by offering new YieldGard Bt, Clearfield (IMI) and some conventional hybrids. New Garst entries in the 87- to 103-day maturity range include 8902, 8909Bt, 8994Bt, 8801IT, 8766IT, 8766, 9313 and 8790Bt. New soybeans include an assortment of early-season varieties that offer Roundup Ready (RR), STS and soybean cyst nematode tolerance. Meanwhile, growers are either steering clear of Garst or are hoping to scavenge bargains. One deal-hungry farmer, flying lazy circles around his Garst dealer, summed up this viewpoint: It'll be like bargain hunting an auto lot after a hailstorm. You can start your shopping at www.garstseed.com.

Other companies have taken their own precautions to avoid confusion about grain marketability. Pioneer postponed sales of six new hybrids that contain a combination of the YieldGard and LibertyLink genes. Monsanto, meanwhile, put a hold on its much anticipated rootworm-resistant corn hybrids but decided to continue marketing its RR corn despite a letter sent to seed dealers by the Illinois Department of Agriculture in early January, which urged them to stop selling seed varieties that are not approved for all uses in all major markets. Although it is accepted in Japan, RR corn is not yet approved in Europe.

With or without RR corn, this year brings a good selection of both genetically modified (GM) and conventional hybrids and varieties. Here are some of the new leaders that seed companies are lining up for 2001.

Golden Harvest Seeds

One of the largest independent seed companies left standing after several years of seed industry mergers, Golden Harvest offers both conventional and transgenic seed. But thanks in part to industrywide questions of GM crop marketability, the company does not anticipate introducing any major new transgenic technology for the 2001 crop year.

Examples of stacked technology in the Golden Harvest 2001 product lineup include Bt, RR and Clearfield products such as Golden Harvest H-9176Bt/RR, H-7895Bt/RR and H-8250Bt/CL. The company's top conventional hybrids suited to the western Corn Belt include H-8123 and H-9403, and hybrids for the eastern and northern Corn Belt include H-7895 and H-8562.

In response to livestock producers' demand for consistency in the quality of the feedstuffs they buy, Golden Harvest has also launched a new product line called Consistent Corn. The company developed the line to help growers produce a highly marketable commodity with a consistent nutritional profile and test weight. Check out product offerings at www.goldenharvestseeds.com.

Mycogen Seeds and Cargill Hybrid Seeds

The past year's merger of Cargill Hybrid Seeds and Mycogen Seeds makes the combined company the third-largest U.S. seed corn producer, the largest sunflower seed producer and a significant seed supplier for other crops including silage corn, soybeans, alfalfa and sorghum. The company says an expanded network of dealers will offer a full line of products for both the Cargill Hybrid Seeds and Mycogen Seeds brands. Cargill/Mycogen offers the following list of hybrids and varieties that it thinks will shine in the coming season. Both Mycogen and Cargill brands remain available for 2001. Go to www.mycogen.com.

Mycogen Seeds

Corn hybrids to watch

2424

This attractive, medium-height hybrid has semi-flex ears that produce superior quality and high test weight grain. 2424 provides NGBt1 protection against European corn borer.

2525

This early flowering, medium-height hybrid delivers exceptional yield for maturity. It performs best in well-drained, highly productive soils. 2525 provides NGBt1 protection against European corn borer.

2652

An attractive, moderately tall hybrid, 2652 flowers late for its maturity and then dries fast for early harvesting. Its large, flexible ears give it good adaptation across a wide range of plant populations. It is best adapted to areas where it is an early- to mid-season maturity.

2717IMI

This medium-tall NGBt1 hybrid offers excellent plant health, strong stalks and exceptional root strength. 2717IMI provides Clearfield herbicide technology for use with imidazolinone herbicides.

2799IMI

2799IMI combines the yield and agronomic performance of 7250 with NGBt1 European corn borer resistance and Clearfield herbicide technology. It is targeted for corn-on-corn acres, narrow rows and fields that you intend to harvest last.

2833

This hybrid provides NGBt1 protection against first and second brood European corn borer in addition to excellent drought-stress tolerance. It responds to high populations and fertility levels.

Feed

Mycogen hybrids containing Supercede nutritional traits are a new and unique category of feed grain that combines higher energy and protein content. The company says Supercede nutritional traits are bred only into high-yielding, single-cross corn hybrids, so the premium they earn is not erased by yield drag.

2654

Mycogen's first nutritionally enhanced introduction, 2654 is a medium-tall, single-cross hybrid with a determinate ear type and the NGBt1 gene for European corn borer resistance. It is targeted for hog and poultry producers across northern Iowa and extreme southern Minnesota.

Cargill Hybrid Seeds

Corn hybrids to watch

6912

This hybrid has early flowering for late zone 6 and very good stalk strength, drydown and drought tolerance. It is food grade for some markets.

5212

This medium-tall hybrid has strong early growth in a solid agronomic package. Better-than-average gray leaf spot tolerance and early vigor make 5212 adaptable to reduced tillage systems.

7770

High yields, emergence and early vigor make 7770 a preferred choice for no-till acres.

4111

Excellent emergence and early vigor make 4111 a favorite among reduced tillage growers. It has very good tolerance to green snap and drought and shows late-season plant health and root strength.

1877

This hybrid has high test weight and good drydown for exceptional grain quality. Very good stalks and roots allow you to push populations and maximize yield.

3677

This is a tall hybrid with very good standability. It has consistent performance in northern areas and prefers high fertility and higher plant populations.

Mycogen Seeds

Soybean hybrids to watch

5316RR

This glyphosate-resistant variety was a top performer in both Mycogen and many third-party yield trails. It has outstanding emergence vigor and multi-race resistance to Phytophthora root rot.

5251RR

Similar in appearance and maturity to J-251, this RR soybean variety has a medium-bushy canopy that works well in either wide row plantings or solid seedings. 5215RR provides excellent field tolerance to Phytophthora and very good protection against brown stem rot. It has strong emergence vigor and excellent lodging resistance for no-till.

5240RR

This RR variety shows tolerance to iron chlorosis and resistance to Phytophthora (Rps1k) and white mold.

5280RR

This RR variety provides resistance (Rps1k) to Phytophthora and is rated very good against both brown stem rot and sudden death syndrome.

Cargill Hybrid Seeds

Soybean varieties to watch

B395RR

This variety is resistant to races 3 and 4 of the soybean cyst nematode.

B284RR

For heavier, wet soils, B284RR has the Rps1k gene for Phytophthora root rot. It performs well in iron chlorosis problem soils.

B434RR

This variety has resistance to soybean cyst nematode and Phytophthora root rot and good tolerance to SDS.

B076RR

This RR variety couples multi-race Phytophthora root rot resistance with a strong agronomic package for added yield punch. It is adapted to no-till cropping systems.

B195RR

This is a Late-Group I variety with good tolerance to brown stem rot and iron chlorosis. It is an excellent choice for no-till and minimum tillage systems.

Monsanto Asgrow/Dekalb

The new millennium seems to be proving the old adage that you don't necessarily have to love someone to do business with them. After polling our Team FIN members and other farmers in the field, it's clear that the number-one target for Greenpeace activists didn't win any popularity contests with farmers last year either. Complaints included high technology fees, poor availability of non-GM hybrids, changes in dealers and distribution and inflexible policies on seed/herbicide packages that limited grower control. Still, most farmers admit that the combination of Asgrow and Dekalb offers one of the broadest and deepest product portfolios in the industry, the products perform and the herbicide package deals can save money.

Monsanto offers many specific-trait seed products, including herbicide-resistant hybrids and varieties, stacked traits that combine herbicide and insect resistance, and defensive traits such as drought tolerance and the Rps gene for multi-race resistance to Phytophthora root rot in soybeans.

In addition to an ample selection of RR, Bt and stacked-trait seeds, some Monsanto products that might be worth watching include the newly branded Residue Proven soybean varieties from Asgrow. These varieties provide a combination of strong emergence and disease resistance to perform on no-till. Residue Proven varieties include AG2602, AG2703, AG3003, AG3302, AG4301, AG4702 and AG5901.

You'll find seed selection guides for both Dekalb and Asgrow all under one tent at www.monsanto.com.

NC+

If you prefer buying seed from an underdog, Larry Schuett, president of NC+, says his company will offer 22 new corn hybrids and 10 new soybean varieties. And he offers up what might be perceived as fightin' words aimed at seed industry Goliaths. We are an independent seed company that bases its products on customer needs and not just company needs, Schuett says. There are nine new conventional hybrids, two white corn hybrids, four Roundup Ready hybrids, three LibertyLink hybrids, two Bt hybrids with YieldGard, one Clearfield hybrid and one stacked YieldGard Bt/Roundup Ready hybrid. We really listened to what producers were saying when we developed our list of new products for 2001.

Some of the NC+ Goliath-killer hopefuls include NC+ 0850, 85-day the earliest NC+ hybrid for northern and western growing areas; NC+ 3770, 108-day, for test weight and grain quality; NC+ 4950W, 112-day white corn for quality grain; NC+3310R, 105-day RR; NC+ 3450L, 106-day with gray leaf spot tolerance; NC+5790B, 115-day Bt hybrid with gray leaf spot tolerance; NC+ 4890C, 112-day Clearfield version of 4880; and NC+ 4340RB, 111-day stacked RR/Bt hybrid. For a complete list of NC+ products, visit www.ncplus.com.

Stine

Another relatively small company that continues to draw a loyal following is Stine. But not being the biggest hasn't kept the company from being a seed industry innovator. You can still shop for, buy and finance Stine seed at a discount by logging on to www.directag.com or by calling DirectAg.com at 877/651-1770. Stine Seed dealers will service and distribute the seed orders.

Another area where Stine claims to take the lead is in the development of hybrid soybeans. Although most seed companies and university researchers eye the viability of hybrid beans with cautious skepticism, Stine says its hybrid beans will be ready to market as soon as 2003, offering a marked yield advantage over conventionally bred beans. The hybrid beans are also expected to allow combinations of many desirable traits without the use of genetic engineering.

This year, Stine offers more than 50 elite soybean products, including both RR and conventional varieties. Varieties offer traits such as SCN resistance, Rps1k Phytophthora tolerance and iron deficiency chlorosis resistance. The company also continues to add to its portfolio of corn hybrids, including conventional, RR, Clearfield, Bt and NutriDense hybrids. For more information, go to www.stine.com.

Syngenta NK brand

The names keep changing: Northrup King, Novartis and now Syngenta NK brand. But by most accounts, the song remains the same. Syngenta Seeds introduced 22 new NK brand corn, soybean and sunflower products for 2001 planting. The new NK brand products round out the company's offerings in several key geographies, allowing growers to plant complementary products without sacrificing yield potential. For example, N43-C4, a 100- to 104-day corn hybrid, adds to the company's lineup of hybrids for the central and western Corn Belt, and N45-T5, a 101- to 105-day hybrid, is targeted for many northern Corn Belt growing environments.

Five of the new NK brand hybrids include YieldGard insect protection and tolerance to Liberty herbicide. The company points out that these hybrids, like all its products, are approved for export to the European Union.

Additionally, growers have the option of purchasing many NK brand hybrids with Syngenta Seeds' proprietary seed-delivered insect control: ProShield technology with Force ST insecticide. The seed-coating system delivers protection to corn plants through direct application of insecticide to the seed. With ProShield technology, a precise amount of the active ingredient, Force ST, is applied to each seed. The treatment protects germinating seeds and growing corn plants against rootworm, white grub, wireworm and seed corn maggot, and suppresses cutworms.

Syngenta Seeds also has added 13 new soybean varieties to its NK brand product lineup, a group that product manager Mark Schmidt rates as the best set of new products in the company's 30-year history of soybean breeding. You'll find a no-nonsense listing of NK seed products by region at www.nk.com. Here are highlights of several of Syngenta's new NK seed products.

Syngenta NK brand

Corn hybrids to watch

N27-M3

Relative maturity: 89 to 93 days This hybrid, with both YieldGard insect protection and Liberty herbicide resistance, partners well with N2555Bt and N3030Bt.

N43-C4

Relative maturity: 100 to 104 days This zone 4 hybrid is adapted for the central and western Corn Belt. It delivers YieldGard insect protection and resistance to Liberty herbicide.

N45-T5

Relative maturity: 101 to 105 days Very high yield potential and excellent agronomics make this hybrid well adapted to the northern Corn Belt.

N48-V8

Relative silage maturity: 98 days Silage-only hybrid Designed to meet dairy nutrition needs, this product produces very high forage yield, high NDF and high NDF digestibility with a low forage starch content. Best used as a dairy forage silage, N4-V8 delivers ration flexibility during diet formulation.

N83-Z8

Relative maturity: 118 to 122 days Well adapted for the High Plains and mid-south region, this hybrid combines YieldGard insect protection and resistance to Liberty herbicide.

N91-R9

Relative maturity: 124 to 128 days This is a dual-purpose hybrid for silage tonnage or grain yields.

Soybean varieties to watch

S04-E1

Mid-Group 0

This RR variety adapted to northern fields and high pH soils with very good tolerance to iron deficiency chlorosis in first-year trials. It resists Phytophthora root rot with both the Rps1-c gene and moderate field resistance, and includes moderate resistance to Sclerotinia white mold.

S20-Z5

This is an RR variety for standability and consistent yields.

S24-K4
Mid-Group II

This RR variety's stress tolerance helps it yield even in drier, more variable growing conditions. It features the Rps1-a gene for resistance to Phytophthora root rot.

S25-J5
Mid Group II

This conventional variety features a wide area of adaptation and good brown stem rot resistance.

S30-P6
Mid-Group II

This is an RR variety with the Rps1-k gene for protection against Phytophthora root rot. It also resists brown stem rot and includes moderate resistance to SDS.

S46-G2
Mid-Group IV

This RR variety offers improved Sudden Death Syndrome tolerance, standability and soybean cyst nematode resistance. Partner with S46-W8.

Pioneer Hi-Bred

Corn hybrids to watch

38P05
93 CRM

This replacement hybrid for 3861 includes drought tolerance, mid-season brittle stalk resistance, and resistance to northern leaf blight and head smut. Avoid planting in areas where gray leaf spot or anthracnose stalk rot are a concern. It has the same base genetics as 38P06 (YG).

36R10
101 CRM

This hybrid has very good drought tolerance, above-average mid-season brittle stalk resistance with average stalk strength, good staygreen and very good drydown. It has dependable husk coverage, with moderate resistance to Gibberella ear rot. Disease package includes resistance to northern leaf blight and moderate resistance to anthracnose stalk rot. It has the same base genetics as 36R11 (YG).

36B08
103 CRM

This hybrid is well adapted for no-till and ridge-till with strong early growth and intermediate resistance to gray leaf spot and anthracnose stalk rot. The shorter plant produces less stalk residue. It provides a combination of drought tolerance, above-average stalks, very good roots and staygreen. It has dependable husk coverage and test weight, moderate resistance to gray leaf spot and anthracnose, and strong resistance to northern leaf blight and eyespot. It has the same base genetics as 36B09 (YG).

34B23
108 CRM

This moderately tall plant is well adapted for no-till and reduced-tillage acres. It has very good staygreen and test weight, moderate resistance to gray leaf spot, and some resistance to anthracnose stalk rot, Fusarium ear rot, and northern leaf blight. Avoid planting in areas where MDM complex is a concern. It has the same base genetics as 34B24 (YG), 34B25 (HOTC), 34B28 (CL) and 34B29 (LL).

33P66
114 CRM

Moderate gray leaf spot resistance contributes to very good staygreen and above-average test weight with yellow food-grade potential. The hybrid has above-average drought tolerance; place on highly productive soils. It has moderate resistance to northern leaf blight and Fusarium ear rot, some resistance to anthracnose stalk rot, and good natural resistance to first-generation European corn borer. It has the same base genetics as 33P67 (YG), 33P69 (LL) and 33P71 (CL).

33B50
112 CRM

This hybrid is a stable performer across a range of environments. It has early 110-CRM silking, very good staygreen and drought tolerance with strong roots, average test weight, moderate early growth for reduced-till and no-till management, short stature, some resistance to gray leaf spot and anthracnose stalk rot and excellent resistance to head smut. Avoid planting in areas where MDM complex is a concern.

It has the same base genetics as 33B51 (YG).

33G26
112 CRM

This hybrid has strong early growth for reduced-till areas. It combines very good staygreen, reliable stalk strength and mid-season brittle stalk resistance. It has exceptional ear flex, very good test weight, good resistance to gray leaf spot and consistent drought tolerance. Many processors accept it as a food-grade hybrid. It has the same base genetics as 33G27 (YG), 33G28 (LL) and 33G29 (CL).

Pioneer Hi-Bred

Soybean varieties to watch

Early-mid Group I
91B33 (RR)
RM 13

This RR variety has multi-race resistance to Phytophthora via the Rps1k gene.

Early-mid Group II
92B36 (RR)
RM 23

This variety has very good standability and field emergence. It provides resistance to labeled rates of Roundup branded herbicides and has good tolerance to brown stem rot.

Mid-Group II
92B63
RM 26

This conventional variety provides a strong agronomic package, including very good field emergence and excellent standability. It has good field tolerance to brown stem rot and Phytophthora.

Mid-Group III
93B67 (RR)
RM 36

This RR variety has resistance to soybean cyst nematode Race 3 plus multi-race Phytophthora resistance via the Rps1c gene.

Mid-Group III
93B72 (RR)
RM 37

This variety has the RR gene and emergence suited to no-till management. It has multi-race Phytophthora resistance via the Rps1k gene and brown stem rot tolerance.

Pioneer Hi-Bred

The Pioneer brand and its titanic product portfolio have so far navigated safely through a merger with Dupont and a sea of GM crop controversy. Practically in a class by itself, the number-one seed company fields far more new products and highly trained professional dealers than any of its competitors. And farmers give the company high marks for both product performance and service. Still, detractors say Pioneer has simply gotten too big and successful in its apparent quest to win every acre of the largest 20% of farms.

To some, Pioneer's domination of the National Corn Growers Association's yield contest is a case in point. As Pioneer pro dealers lock up more of the best-yielding acres with Pioneer products, their odds of winning increase dramatically. Dealers for other companies can often do little but wave the white flag and try to point growers to other sources of yield data. Meanwhile, many farmers find it difficult to bet against a winner, even if it does mean paying more for seed. For a complete list of regionalized Pioneer products, go to www.pioneer.com.