More Oregon acres contracted to European companies
By MITCH LIES
Strong first-quarter ryegrass seed movement could signal a return to health for an industry that has struggled to regain its footing in the wake of the Great Recession.
According to a Nov. 5 report from the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission, Oregon ryegrass seed movement topped 200 million pounds for a quarter for the first time since the summer of 2007.
The 201 million pounds moved between July 1 and Sept. 30 is more than half the seed moved in the entire 2008-09 fiscal year, and well above first quarter movement in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Much of the increase came from strong annual ryegrass seed movement. The industry moved more than 100 million pounds of the forage seed this summer, up from 74.8 million pounds moved during the first quarter two years ago.
Much of that movement can be attributed to an increase in Oregon acreage contracted to European seed companies, said Matt Herb, part-owner and research director of OreGro Seeds in Albany, Ore.
"Are we happy with it?" Herb asked. "Absolutely. We are always happy when we can move seed for Oregon farmers. And we are guardedly optimistic we can sustain this for a while."
Quarterly assessment reports document movement of turf and forage ryegrass seeds from growers to seed dealers.
The Nov. 5 report showed only a slight bump in perennial ryegrass seed movement, as it increased from 37.6 million pounds last summer to 39.8 million pounds this summer.
Tall fescue movement, meanwhile, dropped from nearly 60 million pounds in the first quarter of 2011-12 to just over 45 million pounds. And fine fescue movement dropped from 4.3 million pounds in the first quarter of 2011-12 to just 1.45 million pounds in the same quarter this year, as growers pulled out fescue acres to grow wheat.
Still, the strong first quarter ryegrass seed movement was encouraging for an industry that saw movement decline precipitously under the grip of the recent economic downturn.
First-quarter ryegrass seed movement fell from 203.6 million pounds in 2007-08 to 166.5 million pounds in 2008-09.
First-quarter movement bottomed out at 153 million pounds in 2009-10 before rebounding to 168 million in 2010-11 and increasing to 191.7 million last year.
Growers moved nearly 460 million pounds for the year last year, 80 million pounds more than in 2008-09.
The record for ryegrass seed movement in a year occurred in 1999-2000, when growers moved 532 million pounds of seed.
Top first quarter movement in history occurred in 1999-2000, when the industry moved 216.5 million pounds. The industry also topped 215 million pounds of movement in the first quarter of 2004-05.