Peace region dries up

Northern Alberta grass seed producers were hit with a double whammy this year with poor yields and poor prices.

Little or no rain this growing season meant most farmers in an area that grows most of Canada’s grass seed had poorer than average crops.

Janet Roy, marketing manager of the Peace River Seed Co-op, estimated creeping red fescue ranged from 100 to 600 pounds per acre across the Peace River region, but averaged about 300 lb. per acre.

“The crops were very light,” said Roy of Sexsmith, Alta.

“The quality seems to be good, but everything this year is light.”

Depending on the area, crops range from “good to horrid,” said Roy.

Western parts of the Peace River and the British Columbia side of the Peace had the least rain and worst grass seed crops in years.

Timothy crops are thin with short heads. The smooth brome crops are also light.

To make a bad season more difficult, the south Peace has received daily showers since farmers began swathing their bromegrass.

“Green is starting to grow up through the swaths from the showers.”

Roy said in her 22 years in the grass seed business, it’s the first time both price and yield have been down together.

Few companies are buying much fescue and prices range from 32 to 35 cents per lb.

Everyone is looking to Europe for the less expensive product, she said.

Roy added that buyers are looking to poorer quality American fescue to add to grass and forage seed mixtures and ignoring the higher quality, more expensive Canadian grass seed.

“Eight percent of our fescue goes to the States and their bankers are saying they don’t want any carryover inventory,” she said.

Long-term grass seed growers in the Peace who are tired of low prices have started to tear out their sod and seed their fields to wheat and canola.

“There will be a shortage when the demand comes back.”

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