Due to last year’s drought and the rising cost of nitrogen fertilizer, many types of forages are expected to be in high demand this year across the United States.
In order for Kentucky producers to secure their preferred varieties, they should consider purchasing seed early, said Ray Smith, University of Kentucky Extension forage specialist.
“Producers need to buy or line-up seed with a dealer early on most forages, with the most acute being orchardgrass,” Smith said.
Orchardgrass supplies are limited because of a fungal disease called choke, which keeps the seed from developing. In the past two years, orchardgrass producers in the western United States have lost at least 20 to 30 percent of their crops because of the disease. An economic fungicide treatment for the disease has not been discovered.
Another cause of the orchardgrass shortage is producers have begun producing more turf-type tall fescue seed, which produces a higher yield and has more market value. The high price of corn has also put pressure on orchardgrass seed production.
The tight supplies will cause a price increase for orchardgrass seed, and prices are not expected to decrease as the year unfolds. Producers wanting orchardgrass should act soon, even if it means paying higher prices, Smith said. Seed will likely sell out at many dealerships.
With the price increase of nitrogen fertilizer, forage legumes, which are also a good source of nitrogen, will be in high demand. In 2007, many varieties of nitrogen supplying red clover that were well adapted to Kentucky sold out before producers could buy seed.
Producers should purchase other legumes, such as alfalfa and white clover, early to receive their choice of variety. Even though they most likely won’t be planted until May, producers should also consider purchasing warm season annual grasses such as sorghum-sudan, pearl millet and sudan grasses early because most varieties sold out last year.