Oregon is the grass seed capital of the world! Oregon supplies approximately 75% of all of the grass seed produced in the world; it is a very important crop to their economy. Last month I made my 15th trip to the beautiful state of Oregon.
The Willamette Valley is in the heart of the grass seed growing region located between Portland and Eugene and contains some of the best growing conditions in the world. However, a lot of grass seed is also grown in the eastern section of Oregon too.
My reason for going to Oregon is because Jonathan Green is a big grass seed supplier and we have a sister company Cascade International Seed Company located in the Willamette Valley that we formed in the 1980’s. Cascade ships seed mostly in the USA but to many other places in the world as well. We supply cool season grasses such as Tall Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue, Chewings Fescue, Hard Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass.
Production of grass seed usually starts in the early fall when we find growers to plant many acres of seed for us. Breeders seed, created from germplasm obtained from private breeders in conjunction with various state universities, is drill seeded in rows sometimes at a low rate of five pounds per acre. A fall fertilizer and perhaps some weed controls are applied too. When spring arrives the same thing happens, weed controls and fertilizer are applied and perhaps some fungicide to reduce rust disease if necessary. Late in spring, the reproductive tillers reach up to 5 feet in the air and the seed is pollinated by Mother Nature’s blowing winds. Mature grass seed develops so that by the end of June the fields are swathed and combines are running sometimes for 24 hours at a clip to collect the millions of pounds of grass seed produced, yes over 100 million pounds. That’s the equivalent of over 2,000 truckloads of grass seed, wow!
There are hundreds of grass seed growers in Oregon and once they harvest the seed they need to clean it to remove, weeds, crop seed, chaff, and soil inert matter before testing and bagging takes place. I find it amazing how these grass seed growers can produce such a beautiful clean lot of grass seed for planting great lawns. Many seed laboratories located in Oregon run overtime hours too to keep up with the summer rush of testing and shipping requirements to send seed all over the world. This grass seed is used for planting on home lawns, parks, ball fields, playgrounds, sod farms and for forage grazing animal demands.
Jonathan Green ships seed to many sod growers all across the USA. Fall is the best time for them to start their fields too just like your home lawn, after the summer heat, drought and bugs have passed and the ground is warm. Sod growers usually need 10-18 months to have a new field planting ready for harvest to ship finished sod to customers. Remember, a great lawn starts out with great quality grass seed! And fall is the best time to reseed and upgrade an existing lawn or start a new one.
Many other profitable crops are grown in Oregon such as hops, potatoes, beans, peas, corn, pears, apples, sugar beets, plums, cherries and grapes. Grapes and hops mean wine and beer! The winery and beer micro-brewing craze has hit Oregon in the last 25 years like the rest of the country. Hazelnut production has grown to over 100,000 acres too! All of these profitable crops have started to make it more difficult to find growers at times to grow grass seed. Has the grass seed market matured? Golf courses are not being built like they have been in the last 25 years, even many are closing in favor of new homes. If you ever get a chance to visit Oregon please do and enjoy the many sights and sounds and beauty, enjoy the rest of the summer!