Forage growers, get your seed lined up soon

Alberta forage growers can expect limited seed supplies and high prices 
for almost all forage types this upcoming spring

Bad news for forage growers: Seed is in short supply and prices are “through the roof” heading into spring.

“The prices reflect the supply,” said Heather Kerschbaumer of Golden Acre Seeds in Fairview.

“We’re advising anybody who’s planning on doing any reseeding to go to your seed supplier and get your orders in early.”

Forage seed acres in Alberta are “way down,” said Kerschbaumer, who spoke at the Alberta Forage Industry Network AGM in mid-March.

“High grain prices a few years ago caused a lot of the growers to pull out their forage seed crops and put them into canola and wheat. It takes a few years to get those acres back again.”

As a result, “there’s going to be a lot of shortages of seed this spring,” she said. “Even though grain and canola prices have dropped back, the grass acres are still slow coming back.”

Forage grass acres, including crested wheat grass, have taken a hit in the past two years.

“There seems to be a shortage of all grasses in general, and the prices are very high this year on pretty much all the grasses,” said Kerschbaumer.

It’s the same story with timothy and brome grasses — especially for meadow brome.

“Acres are way down, yields are down. We had poor yields in 2014, so numbers are going to be even less again this year,” she said.

Smooth brome is “pretty much a mirror image” of meadow brome.

“In spite of the high prices, we haven’t seen a huge planting of brome grass,” she said. “A lot of the growers who grew brome in the past have not gone back to growing brome.

“The acres are still falling, and there’s very little carry-over anymore.”

Sweet clover is also “in extreme short supply,” she said.

“Prices are higher than they’ve been as far as I can remember, and I’ve been in the business for about 30 years,” said Kerschbaumer.

That shortage will translate into increased demand for red clover.

“When they can’t get sweet clover, they start looking for alternatives,” she said. “Prices on red clover are not exorbitant yet, and there still is seed available, but it’s also in short supply.”

Alsike supplies are faring somewhat better, but the price is still high.

“It doesn’t seem like that high price has made people too excited to be planting alsike.”

Slender wheat grass is “the one thing there isn’t a shortage of,” she added.

“The acres are higher than they were in the previous few years. They went up again this year from where they were in 2013,” she said.

“Prices on slender wheat grass have been very stable the last few years, so you’re not going to see a huge increase in prices in slender wheat grass.”

No matter what type of forage they’re planning on seeding this spring, producers will need to get their seed lined up soon, or they could be out of luck, said Kerschbaumer.

“For anybody who wants seed, I wouldn’t advise waiting until the last minute. Otherwise, you might not be able to get what you want.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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