Drought Leads to Tighter Colo. Wheat Seed Supply


Exceptional drought conditions and untimely freezes that have left some southeast Colorado winter wheat fields with nothing to harvest also have limited the certified seed supply for next season.

The Colorado Wheat Research Foundation works with certified seed growers of varieties developed by Colorado State University and predicts there should be enough seed available if farmers get in touch with dealers early.

“It’s going to be very tight,” said Darrell Hanavan, the foundation’s executive director.

Certified seed is sold by growers authorized to raise new varieties that have patent-like protections. Customers usually are allowed to save some seed after the harvest to replant in their own fields, but it’s illegal for them to resell the seed to others.

This year, some farmers didn’t have enough of a harvest for grain, let alone seeds.

Certified seed growers in northeast Colorado, which got a little more moisture than southeast Colorado this season, have been fielding calls from southeast Colorado, western Kansas, and the panhandles of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas to see if they have surplus certified seeds they can sell.

Dan Anderson, a certified grower near Haxtun, said his supply is already about 70 percent sold.

“We’ll still have some to sell, but most of the time, we’ve never been this far sold out this early,” he said. “Most of it has gone to local customers. They know the problems further south of here, so they’re speaking for seed earlier this year.”

Kansas, the nation’s top winter wheat producer, dealt with exceptional drought on the state’s western side. However growers in the central part of the state fared better and should be able to supply their counterparts in western Kansas with seeds, said Eric Fabrizius, associate director of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association.

About 43 percent of Colorado winter wheat is grown from certified seed, while the rest is from seed that farmers saved from previous harvests, Hanavan said.

There are about 40 certified growers statewide, Hanavan said.

Burl Scherler of Sheridan Lake is among the few in southeast Colorado. Scherler estimates he harvested about 20 percent of his total acres this summer, but only about half was good enough for seed he could sell. Those acres yielded about one-third of the normal, he estimated. “We ended up with probably less than 6 to 7 percent of what we sold last year,” he said.

He is working to secure seed from northern Colorado for his customers, but it could be 20 to 30 percent more expensive than usual to cover expenses. There won’t be nearly enough for everyone either.

“I’ve got enough for 25 percent of what I needed,” Scherler said.

“It’s just disappointing. It’s like working all year and not getting a check,” said Scherler, who said crop insurance will help keep him afloat. “You have to be tough in this country. The weather is harsh.”