Production Blog
Russ Quinn DTN Staff Reporter

Monday 08/13/12

Seed Company Celebrates 75 Years in Business

Eleven acres and two bags of seed corn.

A sign at the test plots at Hoegemeyer Hybrids heralds the company 75th anniversary during the Hoegemeyer Homecoming held on Aug. 9. The Hooper, Neb., based seed company estimated 1,000 people could be attending. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

That is how Hoegemeyer Hybrids began in 1937 near Hooper, Neb. The Western Corn Belt seed company is celebrating its 75th year in business in 2012 and recently held its Hogemeyer Homecoming at their east-central Nebraska headquarters.

The company began with H. Chris Hogemeyer and his son, Leonard C., planting two bags of inbred line corn on 11 acres as corn hybridization dawned in the late 1930s. Leonard was a student at the University of Nebraska at the time and brought the two bags of corn home with him from Lincoln on the train at Easter.

Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer, Leonard's son, spoke Thursday to a tent full of employees and customers about the history of the company.

"My grandfather started this business and he saw it as just one more enterprise of the farm like feeding livestock," Hoegemeyer said. "He didn't see the growth potential in it, which my dad obviously grasped."

Tom Hoegemeyer joined the company in 1974 after going to Iowa State University to obtain his Ph.D. The fourth generation of the Hoegemeyers is now operating the company. Leonard's grandsons, Stephan Becerra and Chris Hoegemeyer, Tom's son, are now in leadership roles with the company.

While Tom Hoegemeyer is still involved with the company, his time is currently now being divided. He splits his time between the company northwest of Hooper and being a professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

As for the 2012 seed crop, Ryan Siefken, Hoegemeyer corn product manager, said seed corn production during the 2012 growing season has been "challenging" with the dry field conditions and record heat damaging the crop.

Despite the tough growing season, he thinks seed supply should be adequate for the 2013 crop and there will be no shortages of corn for farmers to plant in the spring of 2013.

"All of our seed corn acres are irrigated here in Nebraska, mainly in Dodge and Platte counties," Siefken told DTN. "We also spread the risk out some by growing some acres both irrigated and dryland in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan as well as in the Missouri River valley."

Because of the drought, seed quality is somewhat lower but he points out seed corn still has to pass company and industry standards, which are very high. If seed companies like Hoegemeyer have to throw more seed away in order to have a quality product, then they will do so, he said.

In addition to weather conditions for seed corn, Siefken also mentioned pests were a problem this year.

Rootworm and their beetles have affected the crop this year, although most of their seed fields are rotated onto soybean ground from the previous year, he said. Rootworms have affected commercial corn fields more so this year than seed corn fields, he added.

Siefken did acknowledge the availability of certain hybrids might be the casualty of the drought. While the overall seed supply is not in question, certain hybrids may be in shorter supply than other hybrids.

"Some hybrids may not have the numbers because of dry weather and lower yields but overall seed supply will still be pretty good," he said.

Hoegemeyer was purchased by DuPont Pioneer in 2010. The company operates under Pioneer's PROaccess business umbrella -- a strategy that includes regional seed companies that are both owned by or distributors of Pioneer products.

Other speakers at the field day were Dr. Ray Ward, Ward Laboratories of Kearney, Neb., and Dr. Mike Boehlje of Purdue University.

Posted at 2:21PM CDT 08/13/12 by Russ Quinn
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