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Oregon Grass Seed Growers Harvest While the Sun Shines

Oregon Grass Seed Growers Harvest While the Sun Shines

Oregon grass season ran late this year.

Nearly all Oregon farmers are taking advantage of warm temperatures as dry skies hold this summer, but many are overdue in their farm schedules.

For Oregon's $256 million grass seed industry, the workday is now pretty much around the clock as the crop is generally ready for harvest late.

Despite the last season, a large carryover inventory for two years, and changes in the state's field burning laws, the grass seed industry remains one of the state's most significant ag sectors, says Roger Bayer, Oregon Seed Council executive director.

"The crop is about two weeks late as the cool, wet spring combined with the wet weather in July to push back the harvest," he observes. "The crop looks good in the field, but nothing matters if it isn't harvested."

A late start is difficult to recover from unless the dry weather  extends well into September.

"There is an axiom that a late harvest is a good yielding harvest, and this may hold true for late varieties of grasses that are just now being swathed," says producer George Pugh of Shedd.

"The first fields have been all  over the board, but what I am hearing and experiencing has been generally lighter than normal yields. The seed industry's inventories have  been re-balancing the past couple of years. A light crop may cause some shortages in some varieties. Hopefully, the marketplace will compensate farmers for reduced yields."

Several years ago, grass seed had the second highest production value among all farm commodities in Oregon, the leading state for grass seed production. But very few crops have declined in value the last six years as much. Value fell nearly 50% since 2000 from a high of $510 million that year to just $256 million last year, sending growers on a search for alternative crops for grass seed land in high production areas like Lind County.

Grass seed and Oregon's number-one farm industry in nursery crops have both been caught up in a decline in housing construction, the chief outlet for marketing. A surplus of grass seed has also led to the reduction in acreage.

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