The past 18 months have seen extraordinary rises in the values of many farm commodities including wheat, barley and oilseed rape, and as a result herbage seed prices have increased sharply to compete offering the grower healthy returns and access to a well-established market.
There is a real opportunity for farmers to diversify into grass seed production. Grass seed is needed to maintain the best food value from grassland and the best playing surfaces for sports and recreation. The total usage in the UK amounts to around 18000 tonnes per year.
Last year the UK grew 6200 tonnes of herbage seed with ryegrass production of 4500Ha at an all time low. Therefore much of the UK’s requirement, worth over £50 million, has to be imported. It can be grown profitably and successfully here, therefore there is plenty of scope for an increase in the herbage seed area in the UK.
There are a number of real benefits from growing grass seed:
Blackgrass - Herbage seed production offers several diverse opportunities to control blackgrass on arable farms. None movement of the soil over a 3 year period reduces the viability of blackgrass seed below soil surface and we are able to control the surface seed with ethofumesate (Nortron) which is 100% effective on all blackgrass unlike Atlantis etc.
Flexibility - For perennial crops, two seed harvest years reduce the pressure at drilling time and averages establishment costs over the 2 years. Flexibility in variety choice allows a spread of harvest dates between early July and mid August.
Soil Condition - The fibrous root system of grass penetrates to a metre in depth and improves soil structure and carbon and nutrient capture. The crop itself does not demand a high fertiliser use.
Take-All - A 2 to 3 year break in arable farming systems has a significant effect on Take-All levels.
The choice of variety is crucial in determining a successful economic return. Varieties vary significantly in their seed yield. Be sure to pick a good variety.
Grass seed requires little extra investment in machinery. It may be harvested with a conventional combine although some growers invest in a stripper header to improve flexibility at harvest time.
A drive over drying floor is perfect for herbage seed as the crop is harvested at a high moisture content. However once dry the seed may be moved off the drying floor for safe storage allowing later crops to utilise the drying space.
If you are interested in growing herbage seed and have acreage available, please contact us for more details.