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Soybean seed in short supply in some areas

Soybean seed is in short supply for some area farmers. But the best bet is that producers should have enough to finish planting unless a wide swath of frost kills young bean plants and forces reseeding.

"It's something to watch. But I think there's enough to cover the acres unless some need to be reseeded because of frost," says Monte Peterson, a Valley, N.D., farmer and chairman of the North Dakota Soybean Council.

Two factors are contributing to short supplies of soybean seed:

- U.S. farmers are expected to plant a record 78.1 million acres of soybeans, up 1 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybean acreage is expected to jump in North Dakota and South Dakota as well.

- The late harvest last fall reduced supplies of some varieties of seed.

To be sure, not all area soybean producers are short on seed.

"We're looking pretty good," says Bill Zurn, a farmer in Callaway and president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

"But we got our order in early, and maybe we got a little lucky," he says.

Many farmers weren't so fortunate, says Jacob Sukalski, a Fairmont-based sales representative with Mycogen Seeds.

Reports of tight seed supplies are "spot on," he says.

Producers anxious to get seed in the ground should make sure they're not planting the wrong variety for their areas, he says.

Some varieties sold out

The combination of more acres to plant and less-than-ideal 2009 harvest conditions has led to some seed varieties being sold out, says Adam Spelhaug of Peterson Farm Seeds in Harwood, N.D.

Ideally, farmers should lock up seed well in advance of planting, he says.

"We tell producers to order early," he says.

But alternatives sometimes can be found if a farmer's first seed choice isn't available. Both seed dealers and Extension Service officials can provide advice on other varieties.

In North Dakota, for instance, the NDSU Extension Service and state Agricultural Experiment Station offer data on soybean performance trial results. It can be found at

The majority of soybeans in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota typically aren't in the ground until the latter half of May.

Area farmers -- many of whom got into fields unusually late in spring 2009 -- are making faster-than-normal progress this year.

As of early May, soybean planting was 4 percent done in North Dakota, 19 percent finished in Minnesota and 3 percent done in northern South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Threat of frost

The possibility of spring frost complicates planting and the question of whether seed supplies will be adequate.

Spelhaug says he advised his farmer/clients to hold off planting soybeans until May 1.

Planting beans earlier than that increased the odds of frost damage, he says.

Historically, frost has been a significant danger to soybeans in much of the Red River Valley until the middle of May, says Hans Kandel, North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist in Fargo.

Frost remains at least a minor concern in much of the region until mid-May, according to information on the National Climactic Data Center website. The cold temperatures in the area over Mother's Day weekend prove the point.

For instance, the final spring freeze of 28 degrees in Britton, S.D., occurs most years by mid-April, according to the National Climactic Data Center website.

But in one out of 10 years, the final spring freeze of 28 in Britton occurs on or before May 18, the website says.

Widespread showers slowed planting in much of the region during late April and early May, which reduced the number of young soybean plants potentially at risk.

Still, there's no guarantee that late frost won't force reseeding.

Jonathon Knutson is a reporter at Agweek in Grand Forks, N.D., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.