After suffering through what could best be described as a challenging few years when it comes to supplying corn and soybean seed for U.S. producers, there’s a cautious optimism as this year’s supply makes its way through the supply chain and ultimately to producers’ planters for the 2014 growing season.

“We feel very positive about this year’s corn seed supply,” says Matthew Brandt, corn pricing lead for Monsanto. “Conditioning and packaging of our seed crops is underway now, and with harvest coming to a close, early indications are that we’re hitting and even exceeding our production targets in some hybrids.”

Scott Beck, vice president of Beck’s Hybrids, says this year’s weather patterns were generally favorable, as opposed to the drought and excessive heat experienced last year.

“Our seed supply looks very good, with seed yields and test weights above average,” Beck says. “As the seed comes through husk and sort, the seed quality looks excellent, with very little evidence of insect pressure. We were very fortunate this year to have cool temperatures during pollination. Weather conditions were ideal for seed production.”

Dan Case, DuPont Pioneer supply planning manager, says, “The cooler-than-normal temp-eratures seemed to delay the progression of the crop about one or two weeks behind what we would expect in a season with normal growing degree unit accumulation. However, this meant that a good majority of the crop flowered under conditions that were much less stressful from a heat standpoint, which lends itself to good pollination and kernel set.”

And the late extreme heat, which generally occurred after pollination, actually helped mature the crop and enabled plants to catch up, from a development standpoint.

Soybean seed production is also moving along, although planting delays in some areas of the country may impact final seed production.

“Some areas in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota saw planting delayed beyond normal planting windows,” Case says. “But beans are quite resilient; just a little bit of rain at the right time can have a significantly positive impact on the crop, and we have seen that in some areas. The balance of our seed acres looks to be in good shape this year, and I am anticipating good yields and quality.”

Hot corn hybrids

It’s not surprising that the newest corn genetics and trait packages are in high demand. Producers continue to clamor for the latest product offerings, which is reflected in the early-season bookings. Top on the list are hybrids with multiple modes of pest control, drought resistance and specific trait packages, as well as combined refuge products.

“Syngenta began gearing up production for our trait packages well in advance of the selling season by ramping up production early,” says Pat Steiner, head of Syngenta’s corn portfolio. “This ramp-up combined with a great growing season should go a long way toward meeting customer demand.”

Jeff Hartz, director of marketing at Wyffels Hybrids, is seeing a shift to corn hybrids with dual modes of action. “The dual modes of action provide more durability to the control of pests like corn rootworm. There can be confusion with some technologies over what is required for refuge with each of them,” he says. “Products with multiple modes of action both above- and belowground are available in lower refuge-in-bag blends, and a grower is not required to plant any additional structured refuge.  They’re convenient and protect more acres from more pests.”

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Tom Strachota, general manager for Dairyland Seed, says the stacked-trait refuge product lineup is up dramatically for 2014.

“This is the product in greatest demand by growers. We have emphasized these stacks in our production plan, as they are strong genetics which keep refuge and compliance simple for our customers,” he says.

Strachota also says there is a smaller, yet firm, demand for conventional hybrids.

Specific soybean products

For soybeans, seed suppliers continue to see increased demand for the newest technology traits combined with the latest genetic packages.

“Across the board, growers are asking for soybeans that will maximize yield under the particular growing conditions and agronomic challenges found in their fields,” says Andre Trepanier, DuPont Pioneer senior marketing manager for soybeans. “We have expanded our elite product offerings and trait packages across more maturity zones.”

Doug Tigges, soybean product manager with Syngenta, says the latest genetics are normally most popular, “especially when it comes to the newest herbicide-tolerant traits.”

Word of advice: Order early

It’s advice that’s given every year, but bears repeating: To ensure you get the products you want, in the trait and genetic packages you desire for your acreage, order early. Seed companies have product available, but don’t be surprised if quantities are limited for some of the newest or most popular product offerings.

“We continue to recommend early ordering to growers who want particular products or technologies,” says Chris Garvey, general manager for Mycogen Seeds. “It helps ensure they are able to get the right products to maximize the potential of their acres.”

Although a late harvest could delay some seed orders as producers make final evaluations, opening up the lines of communication is a great first step.

“Farmers should talk with their dealers or sales reps and order early to help maximize their ability to get the products that are their first or second choice,” Brandt says.

Ordering early also helps producers take advantage of the many early-order discounts offered by the various seed companies. That’s nothing new, but the pace of early orders continues to creep earlier and earlier in the fall.

You can also expect a slight price increase in seed next year — in the 3% to 5% range, according to those interviewed — although the increase is weighted more heavily toward the latest offerings. And it’s possible that some seed packages will see no price increase compared to last year.

“Overall, the seed price is up over 2013,” Strachota says. “But it’s not every product. It’s a product-by-product change — some are up, and some are equal to last year.”