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CropTalk: Seed Corn Production: From Field to Bag

October 2021

Published on Friday, October 1, 2021

Harvest season has quickly approached fields across the Midwest. Accumulating adequate heat units over the summer has allowed for corn and soybean crops to be taken out of the fields now. For corn production fields, the destination after the crop has passed through the combine is back to the processing plants to be processed. Exactly how does the production process work? Jim Herr, Beck’s Processing/ Inventory/Wholesale Manager, along with Jason Morehouse, Production Manager, give us an update on what’s happening in seed corn production this harvest season!



Once the Product and Leadership teams determine the hybrids and volume targets, we begin building a plan. What planning really means to the Production team is creating a set of multiple options for accomplishing our task. The beginning point is the selection of growers and fields. Growers and fields are selected based on several factors including, but not limited to: geographic proximity, quality of soils and ability of the field to isolate, cooperation skills, and adaptability of the grower. After fields and growers are selected, our production agronomists will place hybrids and varieties into the acres. Careful attention and thought is given to this step of the process as they consider field environments, agronomic risks, and operational efficiencies of the growing process.

At this point in the process, parent seeds are allocated and distributed to the growers for planting. During the planting process, isolation setback distances, equipment settings, and seed allocations are intensively double checked. Throughout the growing season, fields are monitored weekly by production agronomists for weeds, diseases, insect pressures, and nutrient deficiencies.

The detasseling season is a management and labor-intensive part of the process. As the corn plants flower, agronomists scout the fields on a near-daily basis monitoring tassel and silk development and coordinating strategies to timely remove the tassels on the female inbred to ensure the quality of pollination. A minimum of four trips across a field are required to properly detassel a field; two trips are with machinery plus two or three trips of people walking down the rows of the field inspecting and pulling the tassels. After pollination is completed, rows of the male inbred are removed.

Seed corn is harvested on the ear beginning at 35% moisture. Ears are hauled into a facility that removes the husks and stalks and allows machinery and people to sort out ears that are off-type. After the husk and sort process, the seed ears are stored in bins with warm air moving through the seed that gently lowers the moisture of corn to 12.5% for shelling.




Once the corn is harvested, dried, and shelled, we start evaluating quality immediately. As we shell the corn, we take a representative sample of each harvest lot. These samples are submitted to our internal Quality Assurance team for shakeouts. A shakeout is a set of hand screens to determine what sizes we will have and the approximate bag weights for each lot. Once the sizes are set, we will take a larger sample and run it through a small sizing machine to get a sample of each unique seed size. Those samples are then tested for germination, hybrid genetic purity, and traits.

In the case of non-GMO corn, we look for the absence of traits. This testing really sets the stage for our supply and planning for the upcoming spring. We use the data to help set up how we will run the corn in our conditioning plants to maximize quality and seed size uniformity. The instructions for our corn runs are entered in our proprietary software and submitted to the seed plant. Once the plants have their instructions, they make sure they have the correct screens and settings in place and begin the process of cleaning, color sorting, sizing, gravity table, treating, and packaging. We operate five seed corn processing sites with one of those being a contract service provider in Minnesota that compliments our El Paso, Mt. Pleasant, Paris, and Atlanta sites. Once we have it all conditioned and packaged, we check final quality results for each size of each lot and send it out to our customers.

The next time you open a bag of Beck’s corn, you can appreciate the journey those seeds took from the production fields to your farm. Ensuring seed quality, hybrid offerings, and a plethora of other agronomic factors tailored to your geographical needs is key to the success of your next planting season. Numerous steps are taken by the Beck’s team of production employees to ensure just that. Be sure to check out corn products for the 2022 planting season at beckshybrids. com/products/corn-list, made possible by the hard work of the production team!

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Author: Jim Herr

Categories: CropTalk, 2021


Jim Herr

Jim Herr

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