Saturday, April 20, 2024

Cheap seed is false economy, PBRA warns

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Choosing unknown seed instead of modern proprietary options can be a high-risk strategy.
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Farmers opting for cheap common seed over modern proprietary options don’t necessarily know what they are getting in the bag and could be buying a long-term problem.

That’s the warning from the NZ Plant Breeders and Research Association (PBRA) to farmers looking for re-grassing and cropping seed options this autumn.

Choosing cheap common cultivars or unknown seed instead of modern proprietary options can be a high-risk strategy for farmers trying to shave costs from their farm business, the PBRA said. 

PGG Wrightson Seeds general manager of marketing Alick Elliott said choosing a cheap common cultivar like nui or an uncertified or unknown seed may seem appealing until the potential risks are considered.

“Firstly, you know what you’re getting in the bag if you choose a proprietary cultivar or a proprietary seed mix. It’s really that simple,” Elliot said.

Proprietary seed cultivars from PBRA companies have been through a rigorous breeding and selection programme that often takes more than 10 years and around $1 million of investment per cultivar before being released to farmers. 

Most PBRA proprietary cultivars are also tested in the independently run National Forage Variety Trials, the results from which help farmers make informed choices on the best cultivars to improve their farm system and deal with their region’s particular pest or disease challenges.

“If you’re buying seed that is uncertified or from an unknown source, you could be buying a long-term problem.

“It could contain a high proportion of weed seed that takes years and expensive chemicals to get under control, or it might be a low-germination line that has been rejected so establishment is compromised, or it could be full of wild type endophyte, which can really impact animal performance.”

A large part of the cost of establishing a new pasture occurs before the sowing of seed with ground preparation and fertiliser application.

“Cutting costs on seed after this expenditure is just not worth the risk,” Elliot said.

Germinal Seeds general manager Simon Larsen said opting for common seed could mean farmers miss out on decades of genetic gains in plant breeding.

Seed breeders continue to invest millions of dollars into breeding new cultivars that come with the latest endophytes, which help plants cope better with specific pest issues, such as Argentine stem weevil or black beetle attack.

Larsen said farmers who choose proprietary seed options also get support and advice on all aspects of agronomy from a team of trustworthy, trained staff with experience and knowledge to share.

“That advice and support also comes at no extra cost to farmers.”

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