Do Your Seed Trait Packages Perform and Pay?

Understanding the cost of traits alongside seed performance can help you optimize your seed selection for net revenue, rather than yield alone. 

It’s important to understand the difference between seed genetics and traits in order to realize the best return from each. While genetics create yield, traits are incorporated to protect that yield potential. But, the most expensive traits, and the addition of multiple traits to seed, do not necessarily mean the best genetics, or the greatest net revenue to the farmer.

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How much do your seed traits cost? 

In our latest network report, we look at genetically modified (GM) trait packages versus conventional varieties for corn and soybeans as observed across the FBN network.  

The report includes millions of acres of real-world yield and price data generated from within-field comparisons from both soybean and corn fields managed from 2009 to 2017 across 28 states. We looked at all fields in the FBN network where exactly two different trait packages were grown in the same year, in order to find side-by-side comparison datasets where conditions were presumably similar except for the trait. These side by side datasets allow us to quantify the yield difference associated with a particular trait.

Trait packages that provide more tolerances tend to cost more.

The graphs below show the median price per bag paid by FBN farmers, based on more than 25,000 records from seed invoices and price quotes contributed by farmers, spanning 2015-2018.

median soybean seed price by trait package

median corn seed price by trait packageBalancing Genetics and Traits 

It takes years of research and regulatory approvals for multinational technology companies to develop new traits that will be safe and successful in the market. So, it makes sense that as these become available in the bag, the prices of those bags would be higher to recoup the investment of development. But, do the most expensive traits mean the best genetics? Adding traits doesn’t always get the same results in all varieties, so many seed companies try to balance both.

Genetics and traits should be thought of as two different pieces of the production puzzle–genetics are the piece that create yield potential; traits are there to protect it. Now faced with challenging economics of low commodity prices and high traited seed prices, a farmer must decide how best to balance genetics with traits to bring them the greatest potential profitability.

Ask yourself if the expected increase in yield by planting seed with a particular trait technology will outweigh the potential cost increase of doing so.


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2. Edgerton, M. D., Fridgen, J., Anderson, J. R., Ahlgrim, J., Criswell, M., Dhungana, P., … Stark, S. B. (2012, June). Transgenic insect resistance traits increase corn yield and yield stability. Nature Biotechnology.
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