Reacting to the strong demand and higher prices for corn, American producers are expected to plant upwards of 8 million more acres of corn than they planted last year. And while seed corn supplies will be adequate in most areas, industry sources say producers will see some elite genetics or the newest stacked-trait hybrids sold out.

“There appears to be adequate seed corn supplies in the pipeline,” says Tom Strachota, CEO of Dairyland Seed in West Bend, WI. “However, the newest genetics, with the newest traits, including a lot of the triple stacks in the industry, will be in tight supply. Our supplies of these products are in reasonably good shape, but they are going fast.”

Ethanol demand

Experts say the increase in corn acreage will be driven mainly by the heightened production of ethanol. “At least an 8 to 9% increase in corn acreage is highly likely,” says Robert Wisner, agricultural economist at Iowa State University. “These acres are going to be needed for the growing ethanol demand as well as our demand for feed and the export market.”

Darrel Good, University of Illinois agricultural economist, says the area from central Illinois northwest into southern Minnesota should see a large boost in corn acreage. “Of course, there will be pockets all over, but in that area [growing corn] has a comparative advantage [over] growing soybeans,” Good says. Areas in the vicinity of ethanol plants also should experience increased corn production.

The expansion of corn acres isn't likely to subside. “There are more than 2 billion bushels of corn-processing capacity under construction right now, and virtually all of it will be online within a year and a half,” Wisner says. “In addition, the 2006 corn crop was about 1.2 billion bushels below potential demand.”

Seed suppliers expect that an additional 2 million to 3 million bags of seed will be needed this spring to meet demand.

“We are experiencing strong demand for corn this winter,” says Kevin Turnblad, head of corn products for Syngenta Corn and Soybeans. “Dealers and growers are ordering early and taking shipments of their orders early, and as a result our shipping of seed is two to three weeks ahead of what we would experience in a typical year.” That demand has meant some hybrids are in short supply. “In some cases, growers and dealers are opting for other choices from Garst, Golden Harvest or NK Brand,” Turnblad says.

Steve Buss, sales manager of Jung Seed Genetics in Randolph, WI, says if producers are looking for a hybrid of a specific maturity, they may have to adjust. “We will have enough seed corn, but there will be some shortages in certain traits,” he says.

Seed corn production

Overall seed corn production in 2006 was good to excellent. Because seed companies boosted their supplies for an anticipated increase in demand, supplies were in good shape heading into 2007.

Companies also have taken advantage of production in other areas of the world. “We have an aggressive winter production program, and our air freight from Latin America is near historic highs,” says Pioneer spokesperson Jerry Harrington. “Overall, we have a good supply of seed corn. But growers may find the selection of leader brands in short supply.”

Companies are expected to use their entire 2007 seed corn inventories. “That will put them in a position to increase production on the newest germplasm and stacked traits, putting the newest, highest-yielding products in the hands of producers in 2008,” says Mark Herrmann, leader of Corn States/Holden's.