With the advent of genetically modified soybean varieties two decades ago, most soybean farmers haven’t considered the prospect of saving seed for years. With the original RR1 patent expired in 2014, and the third-party patent expired in 2015, what opportunities are now on the table?

Not all RR1 soybean varieties can be saved and resold because they are also protected from Plant Variety Protection (PVP). However, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led by Cory Walters with the school’s department of agricultural economics, say that PVP has a “saved seed” exception, making it possible in some instances for farmers to replant (but not resell) these varieties themselves.

Farmers are beginning to study the potential of saving this seed versus purchasing varieties with newer technology such as Roundup Ready 2 Yield. The decision is a multi-dimensional one, they note. Farmers need to compare:

  • The quality and cost of saved seed compared to commercial seed
  • Yield potential of RR1 varieties vs. RR2Y varieties
  • The potential legal restrictions with certain varieties

UNL researchers conducted soybean trails comparing RR1 and RR2Y varieties from 2012 to 2014. The researchers also factored in various costs that a farmer would incur when saving seed.

“Seven specific cost categories were identified to save RR1 seed,” Walters and his colleagues report. “[They include] seed storage equipment, interest, cleaning, quality testing, labor, cleanout and transportation.”

Research results from these trials indicated no significant yield differences between saved RR1 seed and commercial RR2Y seed. That did not lead to higher net returns in 2012, but there was an advantage with higher net returns for RR1 seed in 2013 and 2014 by an average of $26.61 per acre. These results run contrary to other research conducted in 1991 and 2009, the researchers also note.

Additionally, the University of Maryland has a fact sheet, “Legal Liability of Saving Seeds in an Era of Expiring Patents,” that explains how and when farmers can legally save seed in greater detail.

“If you check with your seed dealer, understand the PVPA, read seed package labels, and pay close attention to the details of contracts you sign, you will be able to save seed legally and avoid significant legal bills and fines,” according to Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland Extension legal specialist.