22 January 2022, Texas: Four years ago, Warner Seeds decided to partner with FBN® to expand their distribution. Warner has been in business since 1965 and partnering with FBN has allowed them to get more boots on the ground to start spreading the word about their portfolio and get their products into the marketplace.
History of Warner Seeds
Warner was founded in 1965 by George Warner, a Texas A&M grad who learned sorghum breeding as well as grass seed breeding. Eventually, Warner decided to drop grass seed from the business and focused solely on sorghum.
Today, the seed that Warner sells is a distant relative of the varieties that George Warner developed back in the 1960s. While they bring in a few varieties of seed from other genetic producers, most of what they offer is based on their own germplasm.
Continuing to improve varieties and characteristics of their seed is part of their breeding efforts and important to the business and their customers.
When sugarcane aphid hit the sorghum industry in 2015, Warner was pleased to see that a number of products actually had tolerance to this pest.
From there, Warner started crossing different varieties into more popular products and released them into the market. This jump on some of the big companies in the industry is something the company is very proud of.
Partnering with FBN
Until they partnered with FBN, they mainly sold locally but with this partnership, this has allowed them to take their product nationwide. With FBN’s help, Warner has been represented in states and areas where there was previously not an opportunity..
There are only about 6 companies that produce and breed all of the sorghum varieties that are in market today.
And rather than private label their seed under the FBN brand, Warner has continued to sell their sorghum under their own name.
Expanding to new regions
“We’re fairly well known in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma but nationwide recognition is a different story. To actually get sorghum placed in a lot of areas that haven’t grown sorghum in the past has been huge. The price of sorghum as a commodity created a lot of opportunity for Warner and FBN helped us get into new growing areas,” said Rusty Smallwood, Sales Manager at Warner Seeds.
“I think all those seeds that were planted, no pun intended, in those areas will turn into future good sales. I’ve been hearing some really good success stories of guys that planted our products in those areas, they did really well and are interested in trying a little bit more this year. We’re very encouraged and hope the growth is going to continue exponentially over the next few years.”
Sorghum has become very popular to plant. There’s a huge market for grain sorghum in China right now because it’s used to distill liquor. The market is hot because China’s buying so much.
Warner has full season hybrids from the tip of South Texas into the Midwest, to west on the upslope of the mountains in Colorado and as far north as South Dakota.
Their portfolio of seeds is versatile and they’ve found that they have a maturity and drought tolerance level in most geographic regions.
Looking to the future
As for the future, Smallwood is excited about what’s in the pipeline. There will be a lot of new products that come to market as older hybrids are replaced.
“Forage sorghum? We have some of the best in the industry. We have some of the highest yielding aphid tolerant silage sorghum products out there. We also have aphid tolerance in our hay and grazing products as well. In fact, I haven’t even heard anyone else advertising an aphid tolerant sorghum Sudangrass.
Sorghum Sudangrass covers a wide geographic area from South Dakota, down into Texas through the mid south and up the East Coast into Pennsylvania and New York. We’re looking forward to expansion and FBN is helping us look at many states where we haven’t sold as much in the past.”
Smallwood says he works closely with FBN reps on a daily basis to talk about product placement and product recommendations to help better educate growers.