Many individuals mistakenly believe that it makes good sense for farmers to save seeds from the current year to plant the next year. After all, purchasing seeds is a significant expense, right? The fact is, the practice of saving seeds was for the most part abandoned in the 1930s with the advent of hybrids.
Second-generation plants do not typically exhibit the positive traits for which they were originally bred. Therefore, saving these seeds doesn’t make good financial sense. In spite of this fact, many people believe farmers are constrained by seed companies that are taking away their right to reuse seeds. The truth is that most farmers make this decision on their own because it is in their best interest.
There are other reasons farmers prefer to plant new seeds every year, as well. One of those is the desire of farmers to plant seeds that are the same size and shape. When seed is the same size, it can be more precisely planted. It also prevents two seeds from being planted in the same spot. Seed companies provide more uniform seeds which allows for greater planting efficiency. Seed grown by farmers are rarely uniform, reducing yields and, ultimately, profits.
Next, when crop is saved to be used as seeds for the next year, cleaning is required. Plants can get caught with the crop during harvest and combines may not throw these plants out. In order to remove any residual corn cobs out of the kernels, for example, someone would have to clean
Convenience is something farmers are willing to pay for, especially when they get a positive return on their investment. While there is no question that farmers could grow a genetically desirable crop, sort out uniform seeds to plant, and clean the crop, seed companies can do this
for them—at a much lower price.
Ask any farmer and he or she will tell you that high yields are the key to a successful operation. This is why few—if any—are interested in planting second generation seed. Quality seeds with the desired traits are one of the most important investments a farmer makes so cutting corners on seed isn’t something they are willing to risk.