Recently, Bell State Bank & Trust interviewed Carl Peterson for the April issue of their AgViews Newsletter. Here is an excerpt of that article.
Longtime Bell State Bank & Trust ag customer Peterson Farms Seed started in 1996 on the Peterson family farm near Harwood, ND. Today, the company is one of the major seed providers in the north-central region, with its own independent research program, a commitment to exceptional product quality and service, and educational and best-practices opportunities for farmers through Peterson University. Thank you to Peterson Farms Seed owners Carl and Julie Peterson, who took time before the planting season to answer AgView’s questions about their business and its place in ag industry.
Q: In your opinion, how much of the increase we’ve seen in soybean and corn yields the past 5-6 years are related to genetics and how much to other agronomic factors?
A: That is a really interesting question. There are always natural variations and cycles. However, nationwide, yields have increased on trend lines for many many, many years — a little more than a bushel per year for corn and about one-third of a bushel per year for soybeans. Breeders and agronomists argue a bit about the source of that increase, but the reality is that our crops are produced in systems that include breeding, cultural practices, chemistry, fertility and GMO traits. We need all of those factors to create the incredible productivity we enjoy. If you remove any of those factors, our productivity decreases, often dramatically. And of course that is something to think about when folks talk about radical changes in our food production systems.
Q: What are your thoughts on the concerns about Roundup-resistant weeds?
A: I don’t like them! I would argue that Roundup Ready crops have been one of the very top innovations in agriculture in the past century. Over time, any dramatic change in farming practices causes change in the weed spectrum that challenges the dominant practices. We need to adapt to meet the challenge. That may mean adding pre-emerge chemistry to the mix, it might mean planting LibertyLink soybeans, or it might mean tweaking crop rotations. In the short term, however, we need to make certain that farmers are on top of the situation as it develops on their farm. In other parts of the country, there have been fields disked up because they were too late with weed control.
Q: What is the average life of a corn or soybean hybrid?
A: About three years, on average. Some extremely strong products will last four or five years, but as trait innovation continues and breeding progress accelerates, product life cycles shorten. Farmers need to trust their seed suppliers more than in the past, because the farmer simply doesn’t have time to “test” these new products on his farm. Peterson Farms Seed’s goal is to earn the farmer’s trust so that together we can become more productive.
Q: What do you see as the next big trait that genetics will address? Will it be drought, insects, disease?
A: All of the above. We demonstrated one drought product at our 2012 field day, a second product is just reaching the market, and there are several right behind. Some of these address short-term drought, and others address more chronic water shortages, so they are targeted to different markets. Insects continue to adjust to current strategies so there will be a continued effort in this area. The next major shift will be to output traits: higher protein levels or specific amino acids or improved oil quality. This will be industry changing, in time.
Q: How do you compete with the Pioneers, DeKalbs and other major brands of the world?
A: I would answer that by looking at what is needed to succeed: Access to great genetics. We run the largest independent yield testing program in this region. As such, we test genetics from more sources than any other company. And we have access to a broader range of genetics than the major companies, who are constrained to work within their own breeding programs. Access to the latest traits. We work very closely with every trait provider. In fact, we have licenses for every GMO trait currently on the market for corn and soybeans. There is truly no other company in this region with as broad an access to technology as Peterson Farms Seed. We live here! It is pretty hard for a company headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., or Johnston, Iowa, to understand the differing needs of growers in North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota. To us, this region is the only thing that matters! That gives us a pretty significant edge. As a smaller company, we are quicker to respond to changes and farmer needs. We can identify a problem, discuss alternatives and implement a solution before the folks in those huge companies even decide who to put on the committee to discuss the issue! As the largest independent company in this region, we are large enough to be important to the major players and to gain access to all the latest traits and genetics. Our goal is that our customers will grow better crops and be more successful.
Thanks to Bell State Bank for asking such great questions!