Drought in Central Oregon could impact global seed supply

Drought in Jefferson County, Ore., is putting a heavy burden on the area’s farming community, affecting everything from crop production to equipment sales. But the drought is now having wider implications, causing price hikes for some varieties of seed. And the situation could worsen next year.

Troy Kuenzie, president of Pratum Co-op, which markets Jefferson County grass seed in the U.S. and overseas markets, said the price for some grass seed grown in Jefferson County has surged more than 50% over the past year.

Jefferson County farmers specialize in vegetable and grass-seed production and are globally dominant for some varieties. But most of the county is now in exceptional or extreme drought, forcing farmers to cut back their crop production. For some farmers, the water that was planned for the autumn watering of next year’s crop has already been exhausted.

The price hikes in the grass-seed market are felt mainly by buyers who sell seed to golf courses.

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Doubling the Size of the Cover Crop “Pie”

That’s the impetus behind GO Seed’s recent hiring of Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi: to scientifically demonstrate the value of – and increase the market for — cover crops.   By working more closely with farmers and universities to facilitate research on what’s going on beneath the ground, the company hopes to determine which varietals of cover crop, turf, and forage seeds will best help farmers reduce input costs, increase profits, and mitigate the impact of climate change.

“Leveraging Shannon’s expertise in soil and plant relationships and her wide network within the agricultural research community, we’re going to be able to understand so much more about the impact of products and current management practices on the environment,” says Jerry Hall, co-founder and head of breeding for Salem-based GO Seed. “Much of the research will be in the public domain, so this will benefit our entire industry.”

The idea of hiring a highly respected soil health scientist to help shepherd research grants came to Hall when he was asked by a land grant university to design a study on perennial cover crops. He recognized that there was a desire and need for more industry guidance and input on research and Dr. Cappellazzi, who is a member of the Soil Science Society of America and serves as a board member of the Oregon Society of Soil Scientists and the Oregon Forage and Grassland Council, was an obvious choice to help lead these efforts.

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DLF seed featured on new Jack Nicklaus golf course

The new public course opened May 2.

The new American Dunes Golf Club, Grand Haven, Michigan, debuted as a renovation of the Grand Haven Golf Club, partially with the help of retired professional golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Construction of the new championship golf course, which opened May 2, started in April 2019. Halsey, Oregon-based DLF’s U.S. professional turf team was approached about the project by Jon Scott, formerly of the Nicklaus agronomy team. DLF and its Seed Research of Oregon team along with La Crosse Seed, provided all the grass seed for the course.

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Weber led COSI’s rise to seed industry leadership

Central Oregon Seeds Inc. has been key in making Jefferson County a seed production hub

After 42 years as managing partner of Central Oregon Seeds Inc., Mike Weber turned 70 and retired Jan. 31 from a job that helped establish Jefferson County as an innovative specialty crop area. He will still remain a partner and on the board of directors.

Weber grew up in El Paso, Texas, and later earned a master’s degree in plant nutrition at Oregon State University. In 1976, he came to Madras and worked three years as an OSU extension agent specializing in crops and soils.

During that time, he was approached by six local farmers who were interested in starting a company to produce, process and sell bluegrass seed and garlic.

“We explored the idea and made the decision to venture out into that opportunity and build this facility,” Weber said of the COSI plant located in the Madras Industrial Park.

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Grass seed dealer agrees to $300K settlement in mislabeling case

SALEM — A Willamette Valley grass seed dealer accused of mislabeling more than 8 million pounds of seed has reached a settlement with state agriculture officials.

Dynamic Seed Source LLC and owner Trevor Abbott have agreed to pay $300,000 in fines to to the Oregon Department of Agriculture as part of the deal. The company will also have its wholesale seed dealer’s license suspended for one year, effective June 30.

ODA initially alleged Dynamic Seed Source and Abbott in 2019 had mislabeled 124 seed lots as Kentucky 31, or K-31, a popular variety of tall fescue used for livestock forage, manicured lawns, erosion control and turf.

Investigators later determined the company mislabeled 161 seed lots as K-31, totaling 207 infractions. Each lot equals up to 55,000 pounds of seed.

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Top turfgrass breeder combines art, science

Pure-Seed Testing develops turfgrasses and forages that solve problems and meet needs.

Crystal Rose-Fricker, the president of Pure Seed and Pure-Seed Testing Inc., and has developed or co-developed more than 320 turf and forage grass cultivars.

The renowned grass seed geneticist has made her mark in research and breeding for more than 30 years, earning the Genetics and Plant Breeding Award from the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders.

She was also listed No. 6 in Sports Illustrated’s list of the “Most Influential Women in Golf.”

Rose-Fricker operates from the heart of a fully integrated family business that her father, Bill Rose, started in 1970. The third generation is now involved, and the family’s network of companies include PST for the research and testing; Pure Seed, marketing and services; and Roselawn, the production arm headed by her brother, Ed Rose.

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Berger keeps family, business in focus

In a bustling family business, relationships can easily fall by the wayside.

With seed planting, cleaning, bagging, storing and shipping, Becky Berger, owner and CEO of Berger International Seed, is as intentional about growing strong family relationships as she is about the business.

“We formed a family council,” Berger said. “Twice a year we sit down with a consultant and work through family and business issues.

“I’ve got children that are in the farming business and children that are not,” Berger said. “I want to make sure my values are passed on to them — and keeping this business going is very important to me.”

Berger has worked in the turf grass seed business since marrying into the Berger Seed family 45 years ago. After her husband, Keith, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 30, he suffered a gradual decline until his death in 2011.

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Oregon Seed Association Responds to Investigation into Grass Seed Mislabeling & Fraud Charges

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—March 4, 2021

Contact: Angie Smith
503-685-7555
smith@pacwestcom.com

 

OREGON SEED ASSOCIATION RESPONDS TO INVESTIGATION INTO GRASS SEED MISLABELING & FRAUD CHARGES

(Wilsonville, Ore.)—In response to the recent article about a former grass seed company manager charged in a fraud and mislabeling scheme, the Oregon Seed Association (OSA) issues the following statement:

The OSA firmly believes in the overall integrity of its members, and that customers who purchase from OSA members can have full confidence in the products they purchase. 

The OSA does not condone the mislabeling of seed by its members and upholds its mission to promote integrity in member business practices. The OSA has been on the leading edge in protecting industry standards in the labeling of seed. To that end, we took the initiative in 2017 to request the Oregon Department of Agriculture investigate instances of seed mislabeling of K31 within the industry, an investigation that continues today. We also appointed representatives to serve on an ODA rules advisory committee to review and revise regulations and increase the penalties and fines for those found in violation, thereby reducing incentives for bad actors looking to increase profit margins. The OSA’s ethics policy requires all members to abide by certain ethical standards in their general business practices. Such standards include full and truthful representation of the quality and description of the seed sold or offered for sale. Such breaches of the ethics standards, when directed to the attention of the OSA Board of Directors and after due process, shall result in suspension or termination of membership in the association. We will continue to monitor the investigation.

If you have any questions about the above, we encourage you to contact any member of the OSA Board of Directors https://oregonseed.org/contact/.

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The Oregon Seed Association (OSA) is a non-profit agricultural trade association representing the interests of Oregon’s world-renowned seed industry. OSA members market and distribute Oregon grass and agricultural seed to more than 70 countries on six continents.

 

Nearly a year into COVID-19, seed industry is booming

Almost a year into COVID-19, the domestic seed industry is flourishing.

“A lot of seed companies are selling out. Some warehouses are empty of seed. They’re having an incredible year,” said Angie Smith, executive director of the Oregon Seed Association.

Industry leaders say when the pandemic hit last March, there was an alarming lull in sales. But from about April on, experts say sales took off in most seed sectors and the momentum has continued into 2021.

The specialty seed sector, including vegetable and flower seeds, is blooming on the retail level. Last year, Americans nationwide planted a record number of gardens. Extension agents at the time wondered whether people’s interest in gardening would carry into 2021. So far, the answer appears to be “yes.”

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Proprietary Grass Seed Business Prioritizes Quality

Becky Meeuwsen Berger’s grass seed business evolves to prioritize quality and family harmony

Whether she’s meeting with potential buyers in China, weighing a new crop option or sitting at a table surrounded by her family council, Becky Meeuwsen Berger knows difficult times don’t define you – they propel you. And, through hard work and focus, no challenge is too great.

“I’ve been through some tough times, but those tough times make everything else easier,” Berger says.

Around 45 years ago, Berger married into a farming family. The operation, headquartered in Hillsboro, Ore., focused on turf grass seed production. Her father-in-law retired early, so her husband took over. At age 30, Berger’s husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which eventually took his life in 2011.

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