Collapse of 2009 and 2010 changed grass seed industry
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The days of grass seed companies contracting for the vast majority of their needs are over, a seed company executive said here Feb. 22.
Speaking at the Oregon Grass Seed Bargaining Association's annual meeting, Steve Tubbs of Turf Merchants in Tangent, Ore., said he's relying on the open market to fill many of his needs these days.
"I see that as a big change in how we contract for seed," Tubbs said. "We're never going back to the days when I contract for 80 or 100 percent of our seed."
Tubbs said the market collapse of 2009 and 2010 influenced the way he and other dealers now obtain seed.
And with an abundance of varieties with similar characteristics in the marketplace, he doesn't need to fill bags with specific varieties anymore, he said.
"They are all pretty good," he said. "It's a brand, not a variety."
Tubbs said he now contracts for maybe 50 percent of his needs and obtains the remainder from dealers or growers who have excess seed.
In a presentation on the seed marketplace, Tubbs said the good news for growers is that grass seed acreage is down in Oregon, Canada and Minnesota.
Canada has reduced its acres by 50 percent over the last three years, he said. Turf type tall fescue acres in Oregon are down from 157,570 in 2009 to 73,807 last year.
And in Minnesota, acreage is down 80 percent from three years ago, he said.
"There are so many more profitable things to plant," he said. "That's the good news."
The bad news, he said, is markets may never recover.
The golf course overseeding market, for example, has adjusted to lower use rates of seed when overseeding courses, and, in many cases, reduced the area they overseed.
"These are permanent changes," he said.