Affectionately known as the “The Valley”, Willamette Valley is a fertile growing region, where most of the forage type grass seed is produced in the US. Acreage is highly sought after, and every acre counts in the final production yield for all companies that have ownership in the Valley. This year, several challenges are mounting up, and are likely to reduce the overall production of many cool season grass seed crops, including novel endophyte tall fescue.In the past few years, acreage requirements of other crops have continued to trend upwards. This upward trend has gained the attention of prospective growers, but fortunately, the forage seed production acreage is set.
The Valley is ideal for more than just forage seed production, including an ever-present population of voles. The cyclical nature of The Valley’s vole population peaked this last year, resulting in the highest population numbers in the last decade. Voles damage plants, both above and below the ground, resulting in a significant reduction in yield. Plowing out production fields and rotating crops are two of the methods being employed which result in further challenging forage production acreage. In future years, rodent numbers will encounter a decline due to population self-regulation, but the damage for this year is done.
As if the production acreage in the Willamette Valley had not been through enough this growing season, the weather has shown it no favors thus far. Extreme wet conditions late last year and early into this year proved to create difficult management conditions for seed growers. The extremes tilted rapidly as this year played out, resulting in extreme drought conditions for much of the forage seed production regions with 47% less precipitation that historical averages. On a typical year, 3” of rain can be expected in both April and May, but the Valley did not see drought relief until mid-June. This was unfortunately too little, too late for a great deal of the producers. Additionally, record high temps, well into the triple digits, took their toll on yield due to early dry down and seed head shattering, leaving a great deal of seed in the field. In all, tall fescue harvest is reduced 40%-50% this year.
The Valley and its growers will keep pushing through and continue to produce the seeded products that we all value across the country and internationally. They will continue doing whatever they can to ensure that high quality seed lands on your operation. If you plan to seed a novel endophyte tall fescue, or any other cool season perennial grass, it is best to reserve your seed early. The arrival time of seed across the country will be in keeping with years past but it will be limited in quantity. Due to quantity limitations among all other input costs being up, the cost of seed might be higher than that of previous years. ~ Drew Denman, from Novel Notes.