Alfalfa seed crop yields up, prices down

This year’s alfalfa seed crop looks to be average to somewhat above average, based on its appearance, but surplus seed from previous good crops has lowered prices.

“I’m hearing guys thinking that its going to be another above average year, but at the same time a lot of guys have ripped out acres and they’re not putting any more in because the price is low,” said Brad Alexander, research and extension specialist for the Alberta Alfalfa Seed Commission.

“So, we might have really good years for the ones that are still in it.”

With low alfalfa seed prices and fewer acres come lower prices for leafcutter bees, which can be another stream of income for seed growers if they have more bees than they need for crop pollination.

Last year, leafcutter bees were selling for $80 to $120 per gallon, but this year Alexander said he’s heard about prices as low as $6.

David Slomp, who farms northeast of Brooks, Alta., agreed bee prices are scraping bottom.

“This year the price was in the ‘give them away’ to the $15 to $20 range,” he said.

“It’s largely just oversupply, and there have been a number of acres coming out (of seed production).”

Slomp and his father, Karl, grow about 565 acres of alfalfa seed. David said the crop is looking good despite early bug problems and patchy hail.

“I’d say average to high average,” he said.

Alexander said alfalfa seed growers all over the province reported lygus bug pressure but they were able to get good control.

“The guys were really worried about this, but it seemed like they got some good control and now most of the fields I go to are looking really healthy with lots of seeds, so it seems like we’re going to have another really good year,” he said.

“We also have a lot of heat days, so we’re also going to have another good year for bees.”

Alfalfa weevil has once again been a problem for growers in the Rosemary, Alta., region and some have sprayed four times already for the pesky insects.

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