ATLANTA, IND. (DTN) -- Baby, it's hot outside, but row after row of seed corn bags coolly wait out the sizzle inside a giant air-conditioned warehouse in rural Indiana.
Beck's Hybrids opened its Atlanta, Ind., company headquarters to media earlier this week. In an interview with DTN, Sonny Beck revealed that the company purposefully overplanted in South America last winter -- attempting to hedge bets that this season might also deliver a short crop.
"Last year the (seed) industry on average had about a 60% crop and we were about the same," said Beck.
"We went to winter production to get a few hybrids to bolster that, but we also increased what we needed by 10%. We didn't want to go into the 2013 year with such a tight supply."
Beck said the fact that the company is family-owned and doesn't have to answer to stockholders is an advantage when it comes to such decisions. This spring, the company further added to the seed supply cushion by planting twice their normal production and by widening their production area into multiple states.
"That (doubling) was close to doable until about a week ago," Beck said. The company's seed production area in the Atlanta, Ind., area has been particularly short on rainfall and the high temperatures this week has hurt prospects -- although central Indiana did see some rainfall June 29.
"We also spread planting date(s) from the first week of April through the last week of June. Eight full weeks of planting should help spread some of our risk," he added.
Almost all of the company's seed production on lighter soils is irrigated.
"Heat is what kills the crop," Beck said. "We have enough irrigation and we have enough soils with water holding capacity to have 2/3rds of a crop if it didn't rain again, but it will be heat that kills us. It was heat that killed us last year."
The veteran seedsman said seed corn is more vulnerable to heat than commodity corn. "In seed production, we only have 10 to 15% as much pollen in the field and if temperatures hit 95 to 100 degrees, we don't get pollination.
"Most of the industry has irrigation to take care of the water situation. If we have as much heat as we did last year, it could be a short crop again this year," he said. Beck said in general, corn prefers 86 degree temperatures with around a 20 degree drop in nighttime temperatures.
Beck has less concern about heat when it comes to soybean seed production. "We normally plan for 30% to 40% more soybean acres than expected sales. This always covers needs," he reported.
"Soybeans pollinate over a six-week period on any given plant. Corn only has a two-week pollination period on any given plant. It's much easier to get a week of good pollinating weather during a six-week window than a two-week window," he said.
Moisture remains a critical input with soybeans, but the company mitigates risk by growing beans over different environments and regions.
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
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