The supply of proprietary dormant alfalfa seed for 2012 should be adequate, while non-dormant supplies of all kinds look to be tight, according to most major alfalfa breeding company spokespersons.
At the same time, look for alfalfa seed prices – for proprietary varieties and common or variety-not-stated (VNS) seed – to be higher.
The U.S. alfalfa seed supply looked iffy earlier in the season due to the cool, wet spring and competition from other high-value crops.
“We were a little worried,” says Forage Genetics International President Mark McCaslin. “But the late-summer weather during and just prior to harvest has been exceptional – almost ideal.”
Even so, the non-dormant seed supply is “definitely less than it has been in the past,” says Cal/West President-CEO Paul Frey.
“There is a big difference between the dormant and non-dormant markets this year. In our case, we definitely have spot shortages of individual non-dormant varieties,” he says.
A fairly substantial part of the world alfalfa seed supply is grown in Australia and sold internationally in the non-dormant category. “But Australia had a really bad production year, probably one of the worst alfalfa seed crops it’s had in a long, long time,” Frey says.
“In the U.S., it’s more because the acres just weren’t there,” he explains.
“The land area to produce the seed wasn’t there to begin with because seed producers chose to grow other crops, such as cotton, wheat or wine grapes or whatever they perceive to be either less risky to produce and/or more profitable than producing alfalfa seed.”
U.S. alfalfa seed yields overall, at presstime in late September, were at or slightly above average in Idaho and Washington State, points out McCaslin.
“Harvest is a little later in Montana and Wyoming and some of the areas farther east. But based on the weather forecast, people are pretty optimistic that we’re going to have, across the whole area, a good harvest season,” he says.
Yet McCaslin, too, predicts tighter supplies of specific non-dormant varieties.
Mike Velde, alfalfa breeder for Dairyland Seed, believes there will be very little VNS seed in the U.S. or Canada, an “average supply” of dormant proprietary seed and higher demand for non-dormants.
“People are looking for export non-dormant alfalfa and some of the normal VNS channels are not supplying it,” adds Robin Newell, Pioneer Hi-Bred International forage business manager. “So it’s going to be interesting to see how the various companies respond.
“In our case, we’re in a great supply situation whether it’s fall-dormants or non-dormants, whether it’s Roundup Ready or conventional,” he says.
The quality of previous years’ and new-crop Roundup Ready alfalfa seed is “excellent,” says McCaslin.
“We’re in a good supply situation for Roundup Ready alfalfa for dormants and non-dormants,” he adds.