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Progeny Seed finds clouds' silver lining

When Shay Sebree scheduled this year's Progeny Field Day on the Gibbs Farm near Wynne, Ark., he was hoping for clear skies and moderate temperatures. He got the temperatures, but clouds rolled in and dumped nearly 2 inches of rain before the field day.

Fortunately, Sebree had ordered a circus tent that allowed representatives of Progeny and other seed companies to talk about their new varieties in relatively dry conditions. But the steady downpour reminded growers of the importance of breeding varieties for local conditions.

“Progeny P 4401 RR is a good, heavy-ground soybean,” said Progeny's Jamey Boney, referring to a new variety introduced in 2003. “It has a good disease package, and it stood the early rains this year better than other varieties.”

Wynne-based Erwin-Keith, Inc., started Progeny Ag Products in 1998, after it “identified a need to diversify seed sales operations that coincided with a growing demand by farmers for varieties bred for their growing conditions,” says Sebree.

In 2000, Erwin-Keith introduced the Progeny Ag Products brand, which featured conventional and Roundup Ready seed, followed by wheat seed the same year. Progeny brand soybean and wheat seed are now sold in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

“We develop varieties we think will meet the needs of growers in our area,” says Sebree. “Then they undergo extensive test efforts prior to release to insure that only high-performing products reach the market.”

That testing consists of state university and Extension trials in conjunction with private yield- and disease-screening programs at more than 50 locations throughout the Mid-South.

“Blocks of production grown by farmers under normal agricultural practices complete the final link of the evaluation chain,” he said. “If seed products do not perform outside of the test environment, they are not released to the market.”

One of Progeny's varieties, P 4858 RR, was the No. 1 yielding variety in the soybean trials at the University of Arkansas' Cotton Branch Experiment Station near Marianna for two years, says Boney, who represents Progeny in northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.

“4858 has been our top-selling Group 4 variety,” he told farmers attending the field day on the farm operated by Rome Helton. “It's adapted to heavy or light soil and has good plant height.”

Recognizing the growing demand for earlier-maturing soybeans, Progeny introduced three new Maturity Group 4 varieties in 2003 and has been evaluating three additional Group 4 lines for 2004.

“The market is definitely trending toward Group 4s and earlier Group 5s,” said Boney. “We were planting late 5s and early Group 6s in this area, now we're seeing more demand for Group 4s and early Group 5s, such as our P 5250.”

“Preliminary harvest data in 2003 has shown P 4401 RR, P 4884 RR and P 4932 RR to have outstanding yield potential and diverse disease resistance,” says Sebree. “P 4401 RR and P 4884 RR demonstrated significant dry crop yield potential, while P 4932 RR has flourished under irrigation.

“Two new Group 5 soybean lines released in 2003, P 5250 RR and P 5822 RR, are also expected to perform very well as harvest progresses.”

Besides Boney, representatives from Delta and Pine Land Seed Co.; Asgrow, DeKalb; Syngenta; Horizon Ag, and RiceTec all spoke at the Field Day. Erwin-Keith is a distributor for each of the companies and for Progeny Ag Products.

Founded in 1985, Erwin-Keith originally was located in Fair Oaks, Ark. The company moved its corporate headquarters to Wynne with the purchase of Hamlin Seed Service in 1994.

Currently, the company operates three separate seed production lines at two conditioning facilities. From each of the production lines, seed may be treated and packaged in 2,000-pound super bags or 50-pound paper bags for shipment to distributors throughout the Mid-South.

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