From: Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press
Published March 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Seed Supply Tight; Ethanol Market Encourages Farmers to Plant Massive Amounts of Corn

WICHITA, Kan. -- A burgeoning ethanol market has the nation's farmers gearing up to plant massive amounts of corn this spring, creating shortages of some popular biotech hybrid seeds.

While growers should still be able to find plenty of corn seed to plant, it may not be the variety developed for their season or bred with the genetic modifications they want to combat insects and diseases in their region, experts said.

"It is a nationwide problem. One reason it is so severe in Kansas is that a lot of the seed available for us is being used to replace cotton acres in Texas and Mississippi. But the shortage is nationwide," said Terry Vinduska, the sales representative for Pioneer Hybrid International in Marion.

Kansas farmers do not typically plant the varieties of corn favored by Corn Belt growers farther north, Vinduska said. Farmers here need corn hybrids bred to resist local pests and to tolerate blistering hot summers that can wilt even irrigated crops.

Those popular varieties were sold out before Thanksgiving, he said.

Those are the same kinds of hybrids southern growers in the nation's Cotton Belt want. Many acres of cotton are going to be planted to corn this year rather than cotton, Vinduska said, noting the price of corn is close to double what it was at this time last year.

Consequently, some Kansas corn growers might not be able to find the biotech hybrids that are resistant to certain herbicides or to corn borer and root worm, he said.

"We will undoubtedly have lower yields, and in some cases we will have to spray with pesticides to control corn borer, so that will add to our costs," Vinduska said.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service does not release its prospective planting report until March 23, but the industry already expects a massive increase in corn acres nationwide given the demand for corn seed and fertilizer.

Bob Timmons, a corn grower near Fredonia, plans to plant around 1,000 acres of corn later this month -- about the same amount as last year. He said he is limited in the amount of farmland good enough to grow corn and sticks to his rotation.

Because he bought his corn in November, he found the seed variety he wanted, although not the seed size he preferred, he said. But he wasn't complaining, especially given high corn prices.

"It is pretty nice. We have had many years of bad prices," he said.

It's not yet certain how many more corn acres will be planted in Kansas this spring. Corn planting typically starts first in the southeast corner of the state by the third or fourth week of March.

Jere White, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, said he anticipates a significant increase over last year. He expects those added corn acres to come from farmers shifting from soybean acres in Kansas.

Source: Associated Press

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