By John Dietz
Bin-run soybean seed has one clear advantage compared to certified seed. It’s cheap. However, you don’t know what you are getting and often you get what you pay for.
Cheaper seed – not certified – might be an option, but it’s not a good option, according to Eric McLean. McLean is a seed grower at Oak River, Manitoba and his company is known as J S Henry Seeds. Their focus is soybean seed, but his company also sells (or has sold) certified wheat, barley, oats, peas, lentils, flax, faba beans and even hemp seed.
As well, McLean will sit on the Canadian Seed Growers Association board this summer as the Manitoba director. He’s been a Manitoba Seed Grower Association member for 12 years, including six years as director and two years as president.
The fact, he says, is that there are a handful of growers that are selling soybean seed that isn’t certified; and there are more than a handful that are buying soybean seed that isn’t certified.
“We’ve heard it is well into the tens of thousands of acres in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I’ve also heard it can be 10 to 20 percent of the seeded fields,” McLean says.
Selling the bin-run product as seed may or may not be legal. Technically, selling Roundup Ready 1 varieties (RR1) is legal because it is no longer patent protected. Selling varieties that are not Roundup Ready 1s is not legal.
“The root problem is that they managed to keep some Roundup Ready 1 varieties until they became off-patent,” McLean says. “They may have more than one variety, but we have no idea how pure this seed is. If it has any TUA-protected Roundup Ready 2 Yield® seed in there, those folks are in trouble. It’s a kettle of fish”.
With the Roundup Ready 1 lines, the expired patent allows a grower to clean their own production. The grower doing this is trying to sell this production to other farmers through that loophole, he says.
However, with Roundup Ready 2 Yield® trait, patent protection does not allow a grower to clean, reuse, or sell his soybeans for seed. If the bin-run seed has any Roundup Ready 2®, the grower will be infringing on the patent protection and the grower (buyer), not the seller, is solely liable.
This seed seller of Roundup Ready 1 varieites is not a friend to this industry or to the growers.
“I’m primarily worried about farmers growing soybeans for the first time on the Prairies. They are at risk. They’ll find this slightly cheaper seed and give up quality assurance, access to genetics, yield potential and crop protection services. There could be several hundred kilometers between the final customer and where it was produced,” he says.
“The first-time farmer or grower, using this on their own, has no access to the support, knowledge, and experience of a trusted seed retailer.”
Without certification, the seed in the bag may come with earth tags, with foreign weeds, diseases, insects, pests, and pathogens. Even worse, farmers don’t have any idea what variety they are receiving or if it is multiple varieties with multiple traits. Worse yet, bin-run does not come with germination certification. If the seed has poor germination, it will produce a poor crop stand. The cost per plant goes us up and the yield potential goes down with poorer germination.
The price spread between the bin-run soybean seed and certified bare Roundup Ready 2 Yield® seed is likely to be $5 to $20 a unit. When looking at crop insurance data over the past five years to compare top acre varieties, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® are at a significant yield advantage over Roundup Ready 1s. Farmers need to consider net return per acre.
Basically, the cheap seed is old technology, according to McLean. It was good when it came out, maybe ten years ago, but not now.
It is important to note the spread in performance will only increase. The new varieties continue to show greater yield performance, disease packages, trait technology and mature earlier.
According to Claude Durand of NorthStar Genetics “Most of this bin run seed is being planted by newer growers and in new growing areas. The irony is soybeans weren’t being grown in those areas before now because the industry and farmers didn’t feel there were varieties suitable for those areas. Now that there are suitable varieties, these growers are starting out with varieties that are 10 years or older, increasing their risk of failure. ”
“Our problems advance every year we grow a crop. Diseases attacking these old varieties have changed. Weeds have changed. My fear is the first-time growers who decide to just ‘cheap out’ may have a complete wreck,” McLean says. “And, once the damage is done, those farmers and others who could really benefit from another good crop in the rotation may stay gun-shy of soybeans for a long time.”
“So, the short-term gain leads to long-term pain. It starts with low quality yields. If one producer is telling everybody at the coffee shop that the beans he tried don’t work right, it can sour the taste for soybeans in an area. And, that area could have benefitted from another crop in the rotation.”
“Cheap seed? It’s like buying a cheap vehicle. Watch out,” McLean warns.
If you value things like certainty, peace of mind and net return per acre; certified seed is the best choice.