Seed Production Report -
Since last fall we have experienced periods of warm and cold, wet and dry, and many combinations thereof. Not too much different than a normal weather pattern for us, but the timing of those combinations has led to some interesting issues. First of all we had a warm, dry fall followed by a warm and wet period which allowed for a lot of slug damage to many newly planted fields. Growers were applying slug bait at rates and frequencies unheard of in the past with little or no control being seen. Dry and cold periods were needed, but when they came, they were accompanied by clouds and foggy conditions. That allowed the slugs to re-hydrate and continue to eat and lay more eggs for the next population explosion. We are now seeing the results of this “over-winter” feeding and new baby slugs. Even older established stands are showing damage in the crowns. While it is still too early to have an indication of whether or not this will adversely affect seed yield too much in the older tall fescue and perennial ryegrass stands, it is something we will be watching carefully over the next couple of months. Many newly seeded fields have been reseeded in areas where slugs had devastated the stand. This could create areas in the same field that will have varying maturity dates affecting swathing time.
Regarding new fall-planted fields: Due to the extended dry fall (which lasted until nearly the first of October), growers were not able to utilize the normal agronomic practice of: Preparing the ground for planting, waiting for moisture to generate a volunteer sprout spraying or controling the volunteer sprout, and then planting the new crop. Instead, growers had to move ahead and plant prior to the volunteer emergence and control, and we are now ending up with many fields that are a combination of volunteer and newly planted seedlings. This could be bad if the field was designed to produce Certified, or if the previous variety was different than the newly planted one. It could be fine if the new plant was Uncertified and of the same variety as the previous one. What this may amount to is fields that were expected to be certified may fail their seedling inspection and be removed from certified eligibility for the life of the stand and/or the interim period required by certification regulations.
As a whole, fields are now responding to longer days, a little sunshine and nights with temps above frost levels. Growers are applying their first shot of spring fertilizer and some fields are already beginning to show the effects. The next two to three weeks should show considerable improvement and give us a better view on what to expect as a trend as we gather information towards expected crop and yield conditions for harvest 2013.
An update on production acres in the lower Columbia Basin:
We were just in the Basin last week and the Perennial ryegrass fields are looking very good. They do not have the huge slug issues that we have here in the valley. We're confident that most fields will produce as expected in 2013. The Bluegrass fields are also looking good as fields are starting to wake up.
Regarding the Upper Basin and higher elevation areas:
These areas have yet to awaken from the winter dormancy, but with adequate moisture, they are expected to at least start out the spring looking good.
We are looking for acres to spring plant Tall fescues, Festuloliums, Orchardgrass and any others that may require a spring plant in order to establish a stand that will produce seed in 2014. In this search we are finding that acres are few and far between and what acres we do find have a line-up of companies trying to contract those very same acres. Also, we are competing with many other crop options as growers are looking at what crops will have the best gross value return over the short term with very little thought to the long term value of amortizing expenses over a multi-year crop such as Tall fescue.