31 May 1996

Seed shortage may knock sward quality

SHORTAGES of grass seed could lead to substitution of varieties within specified grass seed mixtures, causing marked changes in their performance characteristics.

Nickerson Seeds Robin Turner said: "Stocks of Italian Ryegrass and hybrids are worst affected but the shortage is also beginning to affect good quality perennials and could continue into 1997."

He said most mixes carried a disclaimer that the range of varieties within the mix could be replaced by a suitable alternative.

"But it is feasible that as the shortage worsens an intermediate heading variety could be replaced by a late heading variety, which would have a significant effect on quality of grazed grass or silage." He advised using reputable agents and checking with seed agents what varieties were in the mix.

Francis Dunne of Oliver Seeds advised producers to use NIAB recommended lists to establish the performance of varieties and to use merchants that declared standards. "There are stocks of impure seed with high weed content which will inevitably be sold as the shortage grows," said Mr Dunne.

"There is a lot of substitution of early perennials, which vary in persistency, and in some cases a medium-term ley could be sold as a long-term ley. There are also yield differences of 3.75t/ha (1.5t/acre) across the range of varieties on the NIAB recommended lists," he said.

Paul Billings of British Seed Houses said the shortage was due to several factors including flooding in Holland last year, which destroyed much of the seed crop.

"Last summers early maize harvest also led to an increase in demand, as maize growers were able to sow grass after maize in the autumn. The dry weather also led to sowing to repair or replace worn leys," said Mr Billings.

That meant seed was sold as it was harvested in July and August rather than being stored for sale this spring and demand this spring is up by 40% on last year. &#42

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Robin Turner: "As the shortage worsens an intermediate heading variety could be replaced by a late heading one."