Dry in the West, Flooding in the East

Posted by Chris Eubanks on 07/17/2015

This year has been very abnormal. The West has been very hot and very dry. East of the Rockies has been very wet and many places have been cooler than normal. How does this affect the seed industry?

Oregon turf and forage seed yields are coming in light. Some as much as 30% below average. A significant number of acres - hundreds of thousands, if not millions - of corn and soybeans in the Plains and Midwest have been flooded, along with pasture and hayfield ground. 

The wet weather in the eastern half of the country may not affect turf demand much. The shorter supply coming out of Oregon will likely have more impact on pricing than customer demand.

On the other hand, the record rainfall in the Heartland may have a major impact on forage (including cover crop) seed demand. Over the past 60 days, portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio have seen serious rainfall totals. Large areas within those states are 8-12 inches above normal for the past 60 days, with big swaths that are even 16 or more inches above normal. The result of all that rain is flooded fields.

In corn belt states, there is significant crop damage. A report this week from northern Indiana and southern Michigan stated tens of thousands of acres of corn and soybeans have been destroyed in just a handful of counties, and it's too late to replant many of those fields. We can assume that there are also many acres of forage grasses and alfalfa that have been drowned. 

Based on the situation, there could be more acres open to cover crops this fall than we've seen in a long time. It is likely the demand in this region for radishes, crimson clover, winter peas, turnips, annual ryegrass, and other popular cover crop species will be strong. Additionally, many farmers will be short on forage because of flooded alfalfa, corn silage and grass hayfields. So many flooded crop fields may go into annual forage crops that can be grazed over the cool season or harvested in early spring. Annual ryegrass, winter rye and winter triticale are  the best options for that type of situation. But many perennial forage grass and clover fields may also need to be reseeded this fall. For the Midwest, a majority of the alfalfa renovation may take place next spring.

The weather in August and early September will be the determining factor for this demand. If it keeps raining, then farmers won't be able to plant. If it dries out for a few weeks, we could see some major seed movement in August.