Forage Seed (Legume and Grass)
WHAT IS FORAGE SEED?
Forage legume and grass seeds are grown to plant turf and lawns
and to be sold to farmers who use seed to plant hay fields and
pastures. Growers of forage and grass seeds have to use special
techniques to be sure their seeds meet certain standards regarding
weed content and seed germination. Several kinds of seeds are grown
and harvested in BC, the main ones being creeping red fescue
(grass), Timothy (grass) and clover (legume).
WHERE IS FORAGE SEED PRODUCED IN BC?
Production is concentrated in the Peace River region, but other
centres such as the North Okanagan and Creston also grow forage
HOW MUCH FORAGE SEED DO WE PRODUCE?
BC produces about 16% of the Canadian production of forage and
grass seeds. This is about 5,700 tonnes per year. This volume of
seed could easily seed 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of hay
land or pasture.
HOW IS FORAGE SEED PRODUCED?
Farmers plant most forage seed in their fields in rows about 15cm
apart. Once the plants become established they will grow every year
without having to be replanted. The farmers harvest one seed crop a
year, usually in late July to early September. After a few years
grasses get overgrown and turn into a huge lawn. To get it to
produce seed again farmers will plow up the field and let the grass
regrow. In this way they get a few more years of seed production
before they again have to plow or move on to other crops.
WHAT DOES FORAGE SEED LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
Grass seed is fine and small. Much of the grass seed BC farmers
produce ends up in small bags of lawn seed in home and garden stores
in the United States. The rest of the grass seed and most of the
legume seed is bought by other farmers who plant it in fields where
they want to have hay or pasture to feed their horses, cattle or
other grazing animals.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FORAGE SEED LEAVES THE FARM?
Farmers transport the seed they harvest from the field to their
farms where they store it in bins. When they wish to sell it, they
load it back on a truck to take it to a seed cleaning plant in one
of the nearby towns. Here it is cleaned and put on to large trucks
to be transported either directly to a boat heading to Europe, or
directly to a seed company in Canada or the United States. Seed
companies take our seed and either sell it directly to farmers, or
else they mix it with other kinds of seed, package it in small bags,
and sell it to stores all over North America as lawn grass seed.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE FORAGE SEED PRODUCER FACE?
To produce seed that other farmers will use as seed, a farmer
must have the crop inspected by someone from Agriculture Canada both
in the field and again once the seed has been harvested. The
inspector checks to make sure there aren't any weeds in the field
and that the crop is pure (no other crops in it). The seed is
checked for germination potential as well. To get the field clean
enough for the inspector, farmers must often spend days walking
through their crop pulling up weeds and other plants that shouldn't
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING FORAGE SEED?
- Forage seed producers
- Seed companies
Interesting Fact About Forage Seed:
BC produces about 40% of the creeping red fescue seed grown in
Canada. Most of it ends up in lawns, golf courses and along
highways in the eastern U.S. or in pastures in England.
- Contacts and other resources:
- BC Grain Producers
- BCMAL -
Grain and Oilseed Information
- Canadian Seed Growers' Association
Peace Region Forage Seed Association
- InfoBasket: Your Portal to Agri-Food Information on the Internet