62 / SEEDWORLD.COM DECEMBER 2018 WHEN I TALK TO seed producers about genetic purity testing of their corn seed lots, I occasionally get a response similar to this: “How can I afford to do all of that testing?” My response is: “Can you afford not to do this testing?” I ask them to consider the value of the seed they have produced – it is usually worth hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. An accurate and effec- tive genetic purity test can be completed for a couple of hundred dollars within a few weeks. A good test can tell the pro- ducer whether or not the lot is correctly identified, if the hybrid pedigree is accu- rate, if selfing has occurred, if outcrossing is present within the lot and if any seed mixing has occurred during seed harvest- ing or plant operations. Discovery of any problems related to the seed’s genetic quality is critical to the seed producer as it provides the information essential to knowing if the product is suitable for sale. Even if the news is not what the producer wants to hear, it will provide crucial data needed to make decisions regarding if the lot should be resized, blended, wholesaled or if it should be discarded. Testing for genetic purity can occur when the seed is still in bulk storage or later when the seed is bagged in a finished condition. The important factor, regardless of the stage of processing, is that all seed sizes should be tested for genetic purity. Genetic quality can vary greatly based on seed size. Fertilization occurs at different positions on the ear Can You Afford Not to Test Your Seed for Genetic Purity? CRAIG NELSON, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROFINS BIODIAGNOSTICS name@mail.com • eurofinsus.com/biodiagnostics throughout the pollination period. Even if the seed field was flooded with pollen during the early portion, pollen flow could decline or even cease at the end of the pollination period when the silks from the tips of the ears are receptive, magnifying the potential for foreign pollen contamination for small flat and small round seed sizes. Therefore, testing all of the seed sizes from a field is very important. Saving some dollars in testing costs and not properly identifying the purity of your seed lots can end up costing you big in the end if your genetic quality is poor and your customers are unhappy with the appearance and performance of your hybrids on their farms. SINCE 2013, U.S. row crop farmers have experienced big yields and low com- modity prices. This has put significant profit pressure on those in the Corn Belt. This pressure is also being felt by seed companies selling to these farmers. Here are two ways your company can extend its current infrastructure and expertise to pursue better margin opportunities and get a leg up on the competition. Sell Something New Resistance to change is the biggest barrier to doing something new. Despite the challenging market conditions, most seed companies are doing OK. If that’s good enough, then the status quo works. But if you believe it can be better, you’ll need to push your team and company beyond their comfort zone. In almost every corner of the country, farmers are experimenting with some type of niche market: organic, food grade, alternative crops, plant-based proteins, etc. Many of these may be competitive to what your company sells, and the natural tendency is to resist supporting an opportunity that could cannibalize existing sales. But what if you embraced it? Your company could combine its local knowledge of farming practices, weather and soil to partner with farmers in their new ventures. Non-ag companies are aggressively investing in these markets and I believe seed companies can be value-added partners. Explore Public Partnerships Universities and technical colleges are incubating new ag and food companies than ever before. These academic institutions provide a wealth of skilled students and overhead support for startups, but they often lack the ability to execute and expand beyond the Niche Markets: The Cure for Low Commodity Prices JIM SCHWEIGERT GRO ALLIANCE PRESIDENT @jim_schweigert • jim.schweigert@groalliance.com • GroAlliance.com testing phase. You can gain insight into what new opportunities may be coming next and position your company to benefit by creating relationships with public researchers. If you have an idea that could give farmers an additional source of rev- enue or cost savings, reach out to these institutions. You might be able to tap into public funding, genetics or scientific expertise to support exploration. Success in niche markets requires you to widen your scope of possible partners and brainstorm new ideas. Preparing for and pursuing new oppor- tunities can diversify your business and set it up for long-term success. Selling seed to commodity farmers may always be your largest source of revenue and profit, but dedicating time to pursue new markets ensures you’ll have oppor- tunities beyond the commodity corn and soybean complex.