There’s a good chance the seed used to plant your lawn came from an Oregon grass seed field.
The Beaver State produces roughly 90 percent of cool-season grass seed in the U.S., says Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council.
The seed is used on lawns, sports fields, golf courses, in pastures and along roadsides. It has even made appearances at the Olympics, World Cup and Super Bowl.
The Willamette Valley’s mild winters are ideal for grass seed, enabling growers to plant in fall for summer yields. Minimal summer rainfall enables growers to dry seed in the field, reducing drying costs and improving germination rates. Drying occurs in a seven- to 10-day window between cutting and harvesting the crop.
“Depending on the species, grass seed can be difficult to produce,” says Denver Pugh, a fourth- generation seed grower from Shedd.
Particularly when growing perennial crops, production demands are considerable. “You’re fighting weeds, diseases, slugs and insects,” Pugh says.
Once harvested, seeds are cleaned and bagged, then shipped to seed companies. It’s then packaged for retail. A blend of grasses is a combination of two or more cultivars of the same species, while a mix is a combination of two or more species of grasses.
Grower Orin Nusbaum says he didn’t think about where the seed he produced ended up. In 2009, however, Nusbaum began serving on the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission and met livestock farmers who use Oregon annual ryegrass seed.
“Talking to those producers and having them tell you they couldn’t do what they do without your product, that is pretty rewarding,” Nusbaum says.