Farmers like the speed and convenience of high-volume bulk seed Buying seed in bulk took on a new meaning for farmers last spring when dealers across the Midwest offered bulk soybean seed in any quantity they wanted. It's bulk seed without the bag.

Nebraska farmer Doug Stuhr didn't hesitate to stop swinging 2,500-lb bulk bags above his homemade bulk trailer that he used to fill his planter. Instead, he drove the twin-axle trailer to Helena Chemical Company, Albion, NE, and had two seed tenders with 60 bu of treated beans loaded onto the bed.

"I use a grain vacuum mounted on the trailer to empty the bulk containers and fill the planter boxes," Stuhr says. "With the bulk seed it's so much faster and so much safer. I didn't have to lift those big bags 10' in the air. And with the treated seed, I just dumped it into the planter and went."

After his first year's experience with bulk seed, Helena branch manager Dan Meysenburg believes "it will go wild in 2001.

"Most guys weren't geared up for bulk beans last year. Most were using gravity wagons with augers, or using one of our seed tenders. We even had one guy come in with a 750-bu truck," he says. "My guess is 80% of the bean seed we sell here at Albion this year will be bulk."

Meysenburg stores his bulk seed in four 2,200-bu bulk tanks that he fills from semis. "We can cover 90% of the varieties grown in this area with the four tanks. They're mostly mid-Group II beans and 90% of what we sell is Roundup Ready." As the bean season winds down, farmers can buy either treated or untreated seed from the Helena plant. The seed is weighed at the plant and any unused seed that isn't treated can be returned.

"Probably 60% of the seed that went out of here last year left in one of our own seed tenders," says Meysenburg. "The rest farmers hauled with their own equipment."

This isn't just a system for large-scale farmers, he says. "We've got just as many 500- to 600-acre farmers using it as we do bigger farms. They really like the convenience. You can get over a lot more acres in a day when you don't have to mess with 50-lb paper bags or 2,500-lb bulk bags."

There is no price discount for buying seed in bulk. "We feel the convenience and efficiency of bulk beans is the real value of this system," says Meysenburg.

But the numbers on bulk are impressive. "The bulk seed bins hold the equivalent of 2,000, 50-lb bags or 40, 2,500-lb mini-bulk bags," says Russ Frazier, who is with Friesen of Iowa, a manufacturer of bulk seed tanks. "We aren't just replacing all those bags; we're replacing all the labor involved as well. The way we store, sell and move seed will never be the same."