How important is a pedigree?
A question we get from time-to-time at Missouri Southern Seeds is the difference between proprietary and common seeds, and whether the benefits really outweigh the costs. Well, it all depends on what you are looking for in a seed, your land and what kind of results you are aiming for.
For a little historical background, it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that farmers began buying seed from seed businesses. Before then, farmers saved their seed from the prior seasons’ crop to use for their next planting. They would, however, trade or sell to fellow farmers.
Around 1915 to 1930, certification programs began to expand and farmers turned to commercial sellers, rather than producing their own seed. The certified programs provided quality assurances. At that time, most of the commercial sellers were family owned (fun fact, Missouri Southern Seeds is still family owned).
During those transition years, researchers (namely colleges and universities) began to develop hybrid corn seed that continually outperformed “common” corn seed. The rest, you can say, is history in the development of seed technology of all kinds.
Which brings us to today’s topic: proprietary seeds versus common seeds.
“Proprietary seed” refers to a company or organization that owns the seed or the technology behind the seed. It often indicates the breeding method used—or in scientific terms, the germplasm—with a company. This breeding or research is considered a trade secret, thus a company will stake its claim on the seed as “their” seed.
Propriety seeds can be found in all categories of seed. In the categories of forage seeds, lawn seeds, and cover crops, most are sold with proprietary coatings and seed treatments created to improve germination, growth, survival, or seed flow through planting equipment. Additionally, in order to prevent theft of the germplasm, some proprietary seeds are sold in blends.
So, what is the benefit of purchasing a proprietary product? Well, if you are in an area that is prone to high heat and drought, consider a seed that can thrive and not just survive in that environment. Or perhaps you’re in an area that is prone to fungal outbreaks; a proprietary seed more than likely has been engineered just for that.
By purchasing proprietary seed, you are more likely to have a higher yield with your crop, a fuller turf or a more dense quality forage for your herd.
“Common seed” is just that—a commonly used seed.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the seed hasn’t been bred for a specific trait; it can mean it just lost its ID somewhere in the shuffle. In crops such as alfalfa, clovers and forage grasses, growers can purchase older varieties that become Variety Not Stated (VNS). Usually common seed is produced by an individual grower or company.
Occasionally, companies sell common seed as micro-brands marketed through retailers and companies possessing no seed production, conditioning, or bagging capability. However, a reputable seed supplier will take further measures to guarantee seeds purchased meet minimum winter hardiness, dormancy and disease resistance criteria for the specific region in which the seed will be sold. Some seed companies have built name recognition around premium products with a consistent brand name and stated trait minimums, such as a guaranteed minimum disease resistance or dormancy.
Which is the better choice?
Will one give you a better outcome than the other? Possibly.
With proprietary seed, you can select a seed that offers traits specific to your field’s growing environment. While you may pay more upfront, your return on investment may come at a quicker pace.
Ultimately, purchasing with a trusted seed company is your best bet. When working with Missouri Southern Seed, you can count on us to provide some of the best products available.
We are committed to staying on top of the seed industry and providing you the most up-to-date genetics.