2018/2019 Season Grass Seed Forecast

by Glenn Jacklin of Jacklin Seed

The 2018 grass seed crop is starting to take shape, and barring some un-foreseen Mother Nature event like frost during seed fill or heat during pollination, we are expecting average to good yields. Here is a run down by species.

"We expect higher prices for 2018 crop bluegrass, and continued shortages, so you should book seed early."

Kentucky Bluegrass:

In the Bluegrass production areas of the irrigated Mid-Columbia Basin in Washington State, and the dryland production areas of the North Idaho growing region, we are expecting average to good yields. Winter in the production area was fairly normal, with adequate cold temperatures for the bluegrass varieties to vernalize.

Our spring was cooler than normal with above average rainfall in all locations. Due to the cool and wet conditions growers were challenged to get fields sprayed and weeds treated in a timely manner. Most fields are now heading up, and some in the early production areas are already pollinating at the time of this writing.

We expect higher prices for 2018 crop bluegrass, and continued shortages, so you should book seed early.

Perennial Ryegrass:

The main production area is the Willamette Valley. Similar to other areas, growers were late getting fields sprayed due to weather issues, but the cleaning machines are good at getting out the small seeded weeds like Poa annua. Yield wise, conditions were favorable and the fields looked to be heading up fine. We should expect average yields at this time. The only concern here is that there has been no measurable rain the month of May, and we will need a good shot soon or the plants will suffer. 

The seed trade has carryover from 2017 but acres are almost at an all-time low for 2018 crop which could balance out supply and demand. Pricing should be lower, but due to shortage of acres we shall see. 

Tall Fescue:

The fields are just heading up and it appears to be a normal crop coming. Quality should be good since growers have more selective herbicide options with tall fescue than with perennial ryegrass. Supplies will be tight due to no carryover from 2017. Book early because we expect to be sold out.

Keep in mind the only reason the tall fescue market increased prices higher and higher this past season was because of the devastating KY-31 tall fescue crop out of the Midwest. Had the KY-31 crop been normal, the industry would have had carryover tall fescue and weaker prices. We will see what happens this summer with harvests in Oregon and the Midwest.

Fine Leaf Fescues:

Fields in the hill country of the valley are heading up well. Similar to tall fescue, the fine fescues have a few more chemistry tools growers can use, so quality should not be an issue. Acres are about the same as last year, so supplies will most likely remain tight for red, sheep, Chewing's and hard fescue. Prices remain firm.

Bentgrass:

Our fields look very good at this point. These are irrigated fields so lack of rain won't be an issue and quality should be good. The demand for T-1, V8, and L-93 XD has put pressure on getting more inventory. Alpha, Nightlife, Kingdom and Armor are gaining more popularity too. We have unique bentgrasses for which each provide a different solution to golf course problems. Expect prices to increase due to increased production costs.

Poa trivialis:

Supplies will be limited in the industry. Demand has exceeded supply as there are limited areas to grow this grass. We expect it to be sold out so book early, and expect to pay US $ .30-.40/lb higher prices.

Warm season and Native grasses:

The largest species is Bermuda. We have never seen prices as high as we experienced this past season. Demand plummeted because the price became too high. We hope for better crops to re-position Bermuda and zoysia into markets. Expect native grasses to be average to limited on supplies.

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