Order early, as forage seed in tight supply for ’22

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

By John McGregor, extension support for Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association

Supply shortages have become almost the norm for most of us. From the infamous toilet paper shortage back in 2020 to hay shortages presently, living with and planning for supply disruptions are becoming all too common.

On the agricultural side, we read about supply issues for seed, fertilizer, equipment and parts. Recently, forage seed availability concerns for the upcoming season have been brought forward. When we look back over the past three years, forages in Manitoba have taken a beating due to drought conditions, requiring many acres to be re-seeded.

To help offset forage shortage for the short-term, more and more producers have had to rely on annual forages to make up for some of their forage shortfalls. From a positive glass half-full perspective, this has generated a huge movement toward cover crops and regenerative agriculture. The result from all of this is increased demand for forage seed.

Unfortunately the drought conditions that affect forage production can also affect forage seed production. So the question on many of our minds is: Will there be a forage seed shortage for 2022?

Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association did a quick survey of some of Manitoba’s forage seed industry leaders to get their take on forage seed availability and if they were anticipating any supply issues this year.

The general consensus across the industry was that although supplies are tight, they anticipate seed supplies will be available for 2022. Other key findings were:

  • One of the points that most industry reps pointed out is that they were able to access seed from abroad and/or from inventory that has been carried over from previous years
  • With the higher prices, suppliers aren’t bringing in excess inventory but will bring it in if they have sales. This could be an issue for buyers in the spring if they wait too long to order.
  • The tight supplies aren’t all due to the drought – global demand is outweighing supplies and there has been a contraction of seed production acres over the years
  • This global demand is pushing prices upwards and like most agricultural products increased input costs have increased production costs.

Industry, in some cases, doesn’t want to carry over expensive inventory, especially if they anticipate that prices could go lower next year.

Across the board, industry leaders don’t foresee a forage seed shortage, but highly recommend that if you want forage seed for the 2022 planting season to order early so that they can try to access what you need in time. Waiting until spring to order your seed may find limited choices and quantities.

Be prepared to pay higher prices and realize that selection may not be as robust as usual, as well.

The situation for cover crops seems to be a bit tighter. The industry is recommending that if you are planning on growing cover crops in 2022 you should contact your local dealers and book your seed requirements now as inventories are changing daily. Certain species and blends may be sold out by spring.

To make the most of new stand establishment, use the Manitoba Agriculture fact sheet on forage stand establishment, found here.