some seed companies to report on the latest trends in the sports grass market,
crop predictions, and recent company news. Specifically we also asked: Any
significant sales trends over the past 2 years specific to sports grass? Has
the continued severe weather affected availability of any popular grasses?
Should buyers expect stable prices, or higher/lower depending on variety?
Micah Gould, Product Manager,
greatest trend we’ve been observing in the sports turf world has been the
commitment to improved genetics by field managers. Specifically within Kentucky
bluegrass products like HGT and Turf Blue Pro, we are seeing more and more
customers invest in their seed. These products not only make the life of a
field manager easier, but they’re seeing actual return on investment through
saving on other management practice costs.
is amazing to me isn’t the fact that this is occurring in the sports turf
world, but it’s happening across all budget types. I’ve visited grounds where
the budgets hit each end of the spectrum, but the satisfaction and eagerness to
continue with our featured brands remains constant.
markets should be stable with regards to supply and price for perennial
ryegrass and tall fescue. It is appearing that Kentucky bluegrasses may be in
short supply. Slight price increases might be seen for bluegrasses. As always,
we’re seeing high demand in many popular products. With such high demand it
doesn’t hurt to check in with your distributor well before expected shipment
and usage. On our side of the operation, seed purchased by an end user is
planned and accounted for 3 or more years prior.
proud to announce a new program: Green Earth. We love this earth and want to
ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the outdoors as we have. As
part of our commitment to sustainability, we breed and develop new varieties
that are rigorously tested to the strictest standards. All of these standards
are centered on this mission: to not only refine varieties that make this world
beautiful but to craft them to be good for our planet. Keep an eye out for our
Green Earth seal as it emphasizes products specially designed to maximize
performance in categories such as reduced water, low mowing, salt tolerance,
and low inputs.
Austin Lanzarone, Brand Manager
concept of ‘Bluemuda’ is a recent trend that has seen significant growth in the
sports turf market over the last two years. The concept of growing the two
species together to give an aesthetically pleasing and safe playing surface for
all types of facilities has been a successful practice for most sports field
managers in the transition zone.
weather patterns are continuing to have a tremendous impact on crop yields in
the Willamette Valley. A few years ago Mother Nature gifted the Pacific
Northwest with severe drought for a large majority of production areas; this
drought bled into the next growing season with significant yield losses across
all non-irrigated species. These yield decreases generated extremely tight
inventories and created market pricing uncertainties on a global scale. As
moisture returned to the Willamette Valley, crop (currently being harvested)
assessments looked solid, until a few widespread rare and untimely rain/wind
events came thru delaying the crop and potentially decreasing yields up to 30%
in some areas on annual ryegrass and tall fescue. As we continue through
harvest this season we will gain more market insight and knowledge on how
yields will unfold, however we remain cautiously optimistic that we will still
see relatively strong yields.
quality of a variety should always be top priority for a sports turf manager as
they are the building blocks of a sustainable and successful program. Highly
rated varieties tested thru NTEP (National Turfgrass Evaluation Program) and
other programs that showcase varieties tested under extreme pressures and
conditions like A-LIST (Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf) should be the
Aaron Kuenzi, Executive VP/Division
Mountain View Seeds
Why do we
see higher and more stable seed prices?
There are several micro factors but in general, there are a few macro
factors that are influencing our seed industry. In my opinion, these
macro-influencers are legislative changes, Oregon Grass Seed Bargaining
Association (OGSBA), and higher valued alternative crops.
the Oregon government passed what we call the “slow pay, no pay” law. This
requires that seed companies pay for their contracted seed by May of the
following year unless an alternative can be mutually worked out between the
company and the seed grower. Before this law took effect, seed companies could
overproduce their annual needs, as there was not a lot of financial liability.
The seed grower was forced to carry the inventory, so it did not affect the
seed companies’ balance sheet. Today seed companies are more financially
responsible for their production and inventory. We probably all know the
struggle between accountants and salespeople when it comes to inventory. I
believe this is one reason our industry has less inventory and at times can run
out of seed.
is made up of Oregon seed growers and negotiates prices paid to seed growers by
seed companies. There are many opinions regarding this process, but I believe
it has helped bring stability to the seed prices and some transparency around
the Pacific Northwest continues to see an increase in higher value and more
profitable alternative crops being produced in the region. As an example,
according to the Oregon Blueberry Commission in 2018, there were 14,500 acres
of blueberry production compared to 6,100 acres in 2018. Hemp and hazelnut
acres have also exploded in recent years; an estimated 7,800 acres of hemp in
2018 to more than 46,000 acres in 2019. Today there are more than 70,000 acres
of hazelnuts in Oregon with roughly 8,000 new acres being planted every year.
These acres may not seem significant until we consider there are only an
estimated 342,000 acres of grass seed production in Oregon. As these
alternative crop acres grow, they will continue to displace grass seed acres.
factors combined with a below-average crop in 2018 followed by good demand have
left the industry with low seed inventory levels of most cool-season
turfgrasses. Thankfully as a farmer’s owned co-op (Pratum Co-operative, near
Salem) we have great relationships with our farmer-owners that allows us better
access to seed production acres.
winter in Oregon did create more opportunity for our winter weeds to flourish
so we believe our seed quality will be more challenged this year than in the
past. Our mild winter followed by a dry spring resulted in just an average seed
harvest for 2019.
production acres remain relatively low for tall fescue, bluegrass and fine
fescues going into the 2019 harvest season. As inventories remain tight, and
production acres are limited, we expect market prices to remain relatively firm.
At MVS we
strive to consistently deliver a high-quality seed product. This means looking
at new production regions around the globe, working with our breeding company
and leading universities to develop the best new varieties. Varieties that
don’t only perform the best on your sports fields but also produce the most
seed in our growers’ fields.
sports field market is exciting right now. There seems to be a revival in
natural grass surfaces and wiliness to try new things. This combination makes
for new trends and trendsetters in our industry. Trends we see are the
increased use of Kentucky bluegrass and a desire to be more sustainable.
our genetic breeding and development programs, we have been able to improve the
performance of Kentucky bluegrass. MVS has specifically focused on
establishment, disease and wear tolerance to allow us to take bluegrasses into
more regions and applications. A great example is our 365ss brand of bluegrass.
One of the applications that it was designed for and is generating a lot of
“buzz” is the Bluemuda concept, used at places like the Rose Bowl, where
traditionally they used bermuda and perennial ryegrass. This concept is where
turf managers interseed Kentucky bluegrass into an established bermuda turf.
These two species have been found to work very well together in a large part of
the transition zone. Brian Winka of Advanced Turf Solutions and Dr. Gregg
Munshaw from the University of Kentucky have pioneered this concept in the USA
and continue to do a lot of research around it. The general benefit of Bluemuda
is more year-round playability. As natural grass competes with artificial, we
are looking for ways to have 365 days of playability.
seed genetics continue to get better, the market continues to demand more,
which I view as a great thing for seed companies, especially those with
breeding and development new varieties of grass seed.
address the rapidly growing demand for more sustainable varieties (varieties
that use less water and inputs), Mountain View Seeds joined the Alliance for
Low Input Sustainable Turf (A-LIST) as a founding member. The A-LIST is a
non-profit industry initiative that works to identify, through independent
university trials, varieties that maintain their turf-quality under reduced
irrigation, fertility and chemical use. Additionally, the A-LIST promotes the
use of sustainable varieties across the country and works to influence turf
breeding to focus on these traits as much as color and seed yield. Through
their efforts, the A-LIST has promoted these varieties to municipalities and
transportation departments around the country. These entities realize that
through better variety selection not only can they realize better environmental
benefits through reduced irrigation, fertilizer and chemical use, but those
same benefits also result in cost reductions. While these industry segments
were often the dumping ground of VNS and off-quality seed lots, they now demand
high-quality varieties that although they cost a few cents higher offer significant
cost savings long term. The work of the A-LIST has garnered attention from
industry associations including the TPI, GCSAA and the STMA; so much so that a
presentation on sustainable varieties and the economic importance of smart
variety selection will be presented by Dr. Cale Bigelow of Purdue and Dr. Gregg
Munshaw of University of Kentucky at this year’s STMA Conference and Exposition
in West Palm Beach, FL.
Dan Foor, Chief Executive Officer
La Crosse Seed
The use of
modern, high tillering and rhizomatous tall fescue cultivars is expanding in
select sports turf markets. Superior drought and high wear tolerance, along
with improved cultivars, allows turf-type tall fescue to be used on many fields
with limited resources. Many mixes in La Crosse Seed’s Earth Carpet platform
contain varieties with early expression of strong, aggressively spreading
rhizomes and rapid tillering, and are specifically formulated for sports turf
turf-type perennial ryegrass like those in the DLF (La Crosse Seed’s parent
company) 4Turf program, with lower set crowns, provide excellent wear tolerance
in sports fields. These seeds germinate at lower soil temperatures and shorter
day lengths, giving field managers greater flexibility in planting times.
acres in the Willamette valley of Oregon and a spring drought in the seed
production areas of Canada will affect the seed supply of turf-type perennial
ryegrass, a popular grass for winter overseeding of bermudagrass. The industry
continues to be challenged to produce and process very high quality seed lots
of Kentucky bluegrass as well. Pressures on chemical tools and labor are
limiting the ability to remove contaminates in seed production fields, which
further impacts supply.
general will see some increases in the 2019-2020 selling cycles. Perennial
ryegrass seeds of high quality will be limited. The higher performing Kentucky
bluegrass cultivars are in short supply as well. There will be supply of
lower-end Kentucky bluegrass cultivars, but sports turf managers should take
extra care to evaluate seed quality.
From a DLF
perspective, the breeding group continues to improve upon the popular 4Turf®
cultivars for sports fields. These grasses will be used for construction and
repair of sports fields in the permanent sports turf field market. Having seed
on most fields for the last two World Cups, DLF has significant experience with
From a La
Crosse Seed perspective, the company is currently celebrating its 100-year
anniversary as a national supplier of turf seed and other products.
Chad Adcock, VP of Business
Sod Production Services
Tahoma are outstanding. We need significantly more inventory than we currently
have especially in the Midwest. Farms struggled to expand much given the
horribly wet and flood conditions experienced this year. In the East we’ve sold
out completely on some farms and are about to be selling 8-week-old grow back
material. Several NFL stadiums throughout the Midwest and East are
experimenting and liking the results thus far. Duke and Indiana University have
installed Tahoma on soccer fields; James Madison and Maryland-Baltimore County
have installed it as well on soccer and baseball fields respectively. The new
MLS team in Austin, TX is interested for their new 2021 stadium. Also
significant interest has been expressed from football clubs in California. This
is only the tip of the iceberg as we are about to blow the lid off of Australia
and Japan in 2020.