The grass seed market is going to look a little different in 2021. Recent mergers and acquisitions coupled with crazy retail demand for seed have conspired to make this year’s seed supply short, yet long on price.
2020 was stressful in myriad ways. One pressure point was on the retail grass seed market. Countless homeowners had extra time to pay attention to their lawns while quarantined at home. Big-box stores and other retail seed suppliers were unable to keep up with demand and subsequently left a lot of potential profits on the table. Determined to not let this happen again, a major retail seed supplier decided to purchase not just more seed, but two seed companies. The two seed companies acquired were supplying roughly 15%-20% of the perennial ryegrass overseed market. This seed is now being directed to the retail market and will therefore not be available for traditional golf course purchasing.
Recalling lessons learned in Economics 101, when supply is short and demand is high, prices go up. In our seed example, prices are going way up. Perennial ryegrass seed prices are projected to be in the $1.40-$1.50 per pound range this year. Unless you were channeling your inner Nostradamus last year and budgeted for a 40% increase in seed costs for 2021, your seed budget will buy you less seed this year. Take solace though, what you can now afford may have been all you could have acquired regardless of your budget because there will be shortages.
So, let’s talk coping strategies:
- Captain Obvious would probably suggest that you could try using less seed. Options for doing so include cutting your overseeding rate by slit seeding in two directions instead of three, or not overseeding certain playing surfaces.
- Use turf colorants to make traditionally overseeded areas look green without seeding.
- Use seed blends. Adding a fine fescue or Poa trivialis component to your overseeding mix can lower your ryegrass requirements.
- Consider using intermediate varieties of ryegrass. What is intermediate ryegrass? It’s ryegrass that can’t figure out if it wants to live forever or not. While not as hearty as a true perennial, some varieties of intermediate ryegrass can persist under the right conditions. Leaf color and texture can also be fairly close to some of the nice perennial varieties. Best of all, it is going to cost about 75% less than a straight perennial.
- Most importantly, check with your seed supplier. They’ll have the latest information on supply, prices and options for your particular situation.
The difficulties in formulating a game plan for grass seed this year may be a harbinger of things to come. Farmers continue switching from grass seed to more profitable crops, which will likely translate into more supply challenges to come. This year may be a glimpse into the “new normal” for what the grass seed market looks like in the future.
West Region Agronomists:
Brian Whitlark, senior consulting agronomist – email@example.com
Cory Isom, agronomist – firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff