Thomas G. Chastain

There’s no question that grass seed acreage has been down in recent years while wheat acreage in the Willamette Valley has been on the rise.   The often asked question is whether the acreage levels of these crops are unprecedented.  Historical trends in grass seed crop acreage in the Willamette Valley over the years have been essentially a mirror image of wheat acreage (Fig 1 – click to enlarge).  From the mid 1970s through the early 1980s, both crops occupied about 250,000 acres and together accounted for about 1/2 million acres in the valley.

Figure 1. Grass seed crop and wheat crop acreage trends in the Willamette Valley. Gray bars represent periods of economic recession.

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Thomas G. Chastain

One of the most often heard comments (or complaints) so far this spring has been about how cold and wet it has been.  Has this spring’s weather been as cold and wet as it seems?  The answer is yes!  Compared to the long term averages for Corvallis, April temperatures would have been roughly normal for the month of March (Fig 1 – click on figure to enlarge).  But it does not stop there as May was only a bit warmer than the average April.  Moreover, this year’s spring weather is part of a trend.  The past four springs have been colder than normal (2007-08 crop year data not shown).

Figure 1. Monthly spring temperatures at Corvallis in recent years compared to the long-term average

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Range of maturity in perennial ryegrass spikes (Tom Silberstein photo)

While the weather has been cool and wet for much of the spring, the calendar indicates that we’re just a few weeks away from the start of the grass seed crop harvest season. Seed moisture content is the most reliable indicator of seed maturity and harvest timing in grass seed crops. Harvesting within the correct range of seed moisture contents will maximize harvestable seed yield and minimize losses of seed during harvest.

A recent publication by OSU’s Tom Silberstein and others (EM9012) updates the traditional seed moisture content guidelines for grass seed crops and provides illustrated instructions on conducting a seed moisture test.
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Energy budget for perennial ryegrass seed production (Chastain and Garbacik, 2011). Percentages denote the proportion of energy consumed by management practices.

The efficiency of energy use by US farmers has increased dramatically as the energy use per unit of farm output has declined about 44% since the late 1940s. Despite these gains, there is increasing scrutiny regarding the amount and the cost of energy used in agricultural production. Since the prospect for higher energy prices and further limitations on the availability of inexpensive energy is both real and immediate, identification of improved energy efficiencies is essential in order for grass seed production to remain a competitive enterprise for Oregon seed producers. Reducing energy costs is one way that the profitability of grass seed production might be improved.

For more information, click on the link below:

May 2011 Hyslop Farm Field Day Handout

T. G. Chastain, C.J. Garbacik, and D.J. Wysocki

Camelina pods nearing maturity (T.G. Chastain photo)

Camelina (Camelina sativa) is a new oilseed crop in the Pacific Northwest that can be grown as a feedstock for biodiesel and aviation fuel (jetfuel), to provide a needed rotation crop for grass seed producers in the Willamette Valley, and as a source of oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Camelina is adapted to production on marginal soils and low levels of agricultural chemical inputs.  In addition, camelina does not cross pollinate with vegetable seed crops, eliminating the potential conflict among growers possible with other oilseed crops.
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