What started off as a way to ease ‘sticker shock’ over the cost of Delta and Pine Land Co.'s new DP 555 BG/RR cotton variety ended up being a good tool for figuring an often misunderstood input cost.

The tool, the cost per acre calculator, is available on Delta and Pine Land's Website at www.deltaandpine.com and on CD. According to DPL, it allows users to quickly and easily calculate the cost per acre associated with different cotton varieties.

When figuring seed costs, many cotton producers figure they can plant roughly 10 pounds of seed per acre or about five acres for each bag of seed. Simple enough, but not an exact science. But with the cost of seed these days, it definitely pays to know exactly what your seed costs are.

The variable that needs more attention in this turnrow cipher is that seed size can vary from 4,300 seeds per pound to 6,300 seeds per pound. In addition, the number of seeds per bag can vary by as much as 100,000 seeds. In effect, the actual acres you get from a single bag of seed can vary by as much as 3 acres between small-seeded and large-seeded varieties.

That's why it's important to know your seed costs adjusted for this factor.

To illustrate, the seed calculator shows that a bag of DP 555 BG/RR seed costs $119.95, compared to $70.95 for DP 449 BG/RR. This is the initial ‘sticker shock’ that growers experienced when inquiring about DPL's new-generation cotton variety, also known as “Triple Nickel.”

But costs between the two varieties begin to converge in the seed calculator. At 37,000 seeds per acre, DP 555 BG/RR costs $14.10 per acre, compared to $10.09 for DP 449 BG/RR. The reason for this is that DP 555 BG/RR has the highest number of seeds per bag of all varieties listed, 315,000 seeds per bag, while DP 449BG/RR has 260,000 seeds per bag.

The calculator also shows that at a plant population of 37,000, the grower can plant 8.51 acres with a bag of DP 555 BG/RR compared to slightly over 7 acres with DP 449 BG/RR.

“We don't think you should be planting ‘pounds’ anymore,” noted Jim Willeke, vice president of sales and marketing for Delta and Pine Land Co., when asked how the calculator will help growers figure their seed costs. “You need to think about seeds per foot and seeds per acre.”

To begin, the user puts in his seeds per row foot and row width to calculate his seeds per acre. After entering the latter, the tool then calculates what it actually costs per acre to plant each variety at that selected plant population. At a population of 37,000 plants per acre, the lowest per acre seed cost was for NuCOTN 33B and DP 5690 RR at $9.52, while the highest was 555, at $14.10.

The tool looks at 53 of the top cotton varieties, including DPL competitors, comparing constants such as the average number of seed per bag for each variety, the cost per bag, the average price for 1,000 seeds and average seed count per bag.

Acres planted per bag and cost per acre vary according to the seeds-per-acre figure entered by the user. You can also compare selected varieties in a head to head comparison.

“We first put the calculator out there so farmers could better understand the cost of 555,” Willeke said. While the per bag cost of the variety is significantly higher than other varieties, “it's very cost-effective when you look at the total number of seeds per bag. It's really only about $2 to $3 more per acre than other varieties.”

However, DPL has found a much broader interest in the tool. “Farmers are able to see the actual number of seeds they're planting, the cost and how it impacts them a lot more effectively than ever before,” Willeke said. “It's a very good tool and it's easy to operate.”

Technology fees are not included in the cost analysis, noted Willeke. “Those fees remain the same on an acreage basis. This just clears up to the farmer what his actual seed costs are.

“It also shows the farmer how expensive it is if he wants to plant at 43,000 seeds per acre, and he over-drops and plants 50,000 instead.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com