As Farmers Scrutinize Cost of Production, Focus on Seeds

Jacob Bunge reported this week at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “U.S. farmers, bogged down in one of their toughest patches in years, are looking for a little magic—in seeds.

“Some are returning to the old-fashioned variety, bred without genetic engineering, and back in fashion as farmers strive to save money following three straight years of falling prices for major crops like corn and soybeans.

“Others, meanwhile, are joining new subscriber-based services that collect seed and other detailed crop-related data from their farmer members, who then use the data to determine which seeds and pesticides will work best on their fields and at the fairest price.”

Mr. Bunge explained that, “The plunge in crop prices—corn has roughly halved since the start of 2013, while soybeans have fallen by one-third—has chipped away at farmers’ financial cushions and led many to re-examine their costs across the board.”

The Journal article added that, “Many farmers already have found ways to stretch the fertilizer applied to their fields and have switched to generic versions of popular pesticides.

Now, they’re scrutinizing seeds—often the most expensive component in raising a crop each year. Seeds have multiplied in variety, complexity and cost in recent decades. As genetic engineering has enabled plants to survive herbicides and fend off pests, corn-seed costs have nearly quadrupled over the past 20 years, and soybean seed costs have soared as well, according to data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.”

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