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New seed company forms

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/14/2013 3:29 PM

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STEWARTVILLE, Minn. — Farmers looking to buy seed this fall have another option.

Genesys Grain Genetics cooperative officially formed in July. The farmer-owned, seed cooperative will sell its first seed corn and soybeans this fall, said Jeff Littrell, one of the cooperative's founders. Other founding members are Keith Schlapkohl, of Iowa, and Rusty Packer and Jim Nelson, both of Illinois.

The cooperative is in the middle of a member drive. Members will receive priority in seed selection and higher discounts than non-members.

Littrell said he and Schlapkohl began pushing for a different kind of seed company two years ago when they repeatedly were unable to find a company to work with that would follow their fertilizer protocols. It was impossible to get the seed quality they wanted, said Littrell, a farmer and vice president of FHR Farms of Stewartville.

"We want to build a better product," Littrell said.

Starting Genesys allows them to bring together crop fertility systems, non-GMO seed supplies and a well-established processing and marketing distributor.

Littrell hopes to draw upon the knowledge of the plant breeders who worked in universities before the introduction of genetically modified crops. They were a talented group who bred better hybrids. Theirs is becoming a lost art that needs to be rediscovered, Littrell said.

He is growing his first corn for seed this year and hopes to produce at least 10,000 bags of non-GMO seed corn to market.

The corn was planted in Olmsted and Fillmore counties on June 12-13, and Littrell predicts he'll harvest more than 100 bushel per acre corn for seed.

He had to get a variance from his crop insurance provider to plant the seed crop because it's never been done before in the counties, as far as the records show.

In addition to Minnesota, seed corn also is being grown in Illinois. It will be 84 to 116 day non-GMO hybrids, Packer said.

Soybean seed is in production in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Nebraska. Seed maturities range from 0.9 to 5.1, Packer said.

The non-GMO seed crops are isolated to retain seed purity. Genesys Grain not only meets but exceeds setback requirements established by the state crop improvement associations, Nelson said.

Nelson has been in the seed business for 30 years. He started raising seed as a contract grower in his home state of Illinois. He has worked in several other roles within the seed production industry.

Littrell and Schlapkohl together have more than 50 years of farming experience.

Packer has farmed in Illinois and worked in the seed production industry.

Littrell hopes to market hybrids that have long-lasting durability, like Pioneer 3751. The hybrid was on the market for many years, Littrell said. Now, hybrids cycle out of the market within one or two years.

Genesys members will earn a premium on their corn and soybeans.

Nelson's goal is to connect farmers to a market that pays more money than traditional ones.

For Littrell, the goal is to give producers the fertility and tools to produce a better product.