Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Grass seed supplies 'set to be tight'

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Grass seed supplies will be tight this summer and merchants could struggle to meet farmer demand, it has emerged.

Record reseeding levels last year saw the amount of grass seed sold rise from 2,600t in 2009 to 4,100t last year. At a seeding rate of 12kg/ac, this equates to more than 340,000ac of grassland sown last year.

If that reseeding rate is repeated this year, there may not be enough grass seed available, Germinal Seeds' Jim Gibbons told a conference in Kilkenny last Friday.

"We will have enough grass for 80pc of last year's level but after that we're on a wing and a prayer," he told merchants and farmers at the Germinal Seeds seminar.

Seed production is expected to be down this year as continental grass seed producers switch away from grass into the higher-priced grain sector, David Johnston, from Northern Ireland's Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), told the delegates.

The harsh winter weather also impacted on seed supply, with higher than normal winter kill in seed crops.

Last year's reseeding boom was driven by several factors, including weather conditions in 2008 and 2009 that resulted in damaged swards and provided few opportunities to reseed.

Poor grain prices also had an effect as some arable farmers moved from cereals into grass, while last year's weather conditions were also ideal for reseeding.

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Teagasc's grassland research head, Michael O'Donovan, said that the level of reseeding seen last year should become the norm for the future as dairy and livestock farmers looked to maximise returns from grass.

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