Oregon grass seed harvest winds down

By Eric Mortenson
Capital Press

Oregon’s grass seed industry finds stability after some rocky years during the recession.

Oregon’s grass seed harvest will wrap up within the next week or so and appears on pace to continue the industry’s recovery after the recession slammed the housing market.

Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council, said seed yield is average to slightly above average. Seed quality will be determined as the cleaning process begins.

Oregon leads the nation in production of multiple varieties of grass seed, which is used for lawns, parks, pastures and sports field. Grass seed was Oregon’s sixth most valuable commodity in 2012, worth about $411 million.

Farmers are harvesting about 129,000 acres of annual ryegrass this summer, up slightly from 2013. Perennial ryegrass acreage is 112,000 acres, tall fescue turf planting cover about 118,000 acres.

While the acreage planted in grass seed is significant, it has dropped from the days when Oregon farmers planted 180,000 to 190,000 acres in annual ryegrass alone. Demand for grass seed dropped when the recession hit in 2009, and has only recovered in the past couple years.

“The acreage will never get back to where it was because permanent replacement crops have gone in,” especially hazelnuts and blueberries, Beyer said.

Wheat and clover were planted in former grass seed fields during the lean years, but those are rotational crops which allow a return to grass seed, he said.

The original article published in Capital Press on 8/6/14 can be found here.