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TECHNICAL


its dense, high-wearing and strong rooting system, its slower establishment means that it’s no longer a popular choice for overseeding. While it has qualities desirable for certain niche markets, a percentage of the crops once dedicated for SSMG have been switched to cheaper, fast-establishing species like Perennial Ryegrass. With the two-year crop planting cycle of the amenity grass seed market, unlike other areas of the industry, production cannot easily be increased or decreased depending on demand. A big spike for a mower company will see more resources put into manufacture to produce stock accordingly. Equally, chemical firms can source more of the ingredients required to make more product and hold any excess supplied for the next surge in demand. Grass seed is not a tap that can be turned off and on in the same way.


As a living organism, grass seed has a shelf life which will vary depending on conditions at harvest, drying, cleaning and storage. Adequate rainfall through the growing season followed by a dry few weeks ahead of harvest will see high yields


and healthy seeds. These will naturally have a higher viability and would generally maintain optimal viability for several years when kept in ideal storage conditions. In a poor season, this could be significantly reduced. As a general rule, the seed you’re using this year is likely to be from the previous year’s harvest.


While we can make our best estimations of trends and market activity, there are elements in the mix that we cannot control - the weather and resulting crop yields being the major one. During 2017, we started to see market demands return to levels achieved prior to the 2009 recession, which meant we entered 2018 with lower than expected inventory levels. We then fell victim to the ‘Beast from the East’ which was tough on the crops and then went straight into one of the biggest pan-European droughts we have experienced in recent years.


The extended period of very hot, very dry conditions hit seed producers hard. The European grass market totals an estimated 200,000 tons per year - approximately 80,000 tons is for the amenity market of


which roughly 12,500 tons is used here in the UK. It is well documented that certain species are better able to withstand challenging climatic conditions, however it is estimated that harvests in the summer of 2018 were down by 10% (8,000 tons) overall, with some species in particular dropping in yields by as much as 30%. The crops that did survive produced seed of varying quality.


Simultaneously, the burning up of turf across Europe caused a spike in demand that was impossible to predict. The autumn of 2018 saw a rise in consumption of 30% to 40% compared to expected levels as Turf Managers fought to renovate and repair, which meant seed suppliers were borrowing from future stock to cope with current demand. For many, the warm temperatures that were sustained late into the season caused this seed to fail. This in turn created a residual demand that has rolled through to the spring of 2019, as those that couldn’t renovate last year now require seed to ‘catch up’, taking supply from already depleted spring stocks.


The same issues Turf Managers faced


Perennial ryegrasses have grown in popularity over other species such as smooth stalked meadow grass


It is vital that as industry suppliers we are looking for ways to deliver new products into the market to help them achieve their aims


132 PC August/September 2019





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