The price for a pound of clean, high-end perennial ryegrass seed has gone from around 80 cents a pound last year to approximately $1.05 to $1.10 a pound this year. Woodhaven CC in Palm Desert, Calif., is scaling back on overseeding to make up for the $20,000 increase in seed costs.
Stu Rowland said he anticipated an increase in the price of ryegrass seed, the one essential ingredient in overseeding desert golf courses, for this fall, but the amount of the increase was a shock, the Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun reported.
Along with variables like rain, nighttime temperatures and opening dates for membership play, desert superintendents are having to deal with the increased price of ryegrass seed in their overseeding formulas this year. Increases of 20 percent or more over last year are putting a strain on the budgets of courses and causing superintendents to consider options about what to overseed and how much seed to put on their courses, the Sun reported.
“I increased 15 cents a pound because I thought it would go up. It went up 23 cents a pound,” said Rowland, the Director of Golf Course Operations at the 36-hole Rancho La Quinta (Calif.) Country Club and the President of the Hi-Lo Desert Golf Course Superintendents Association.
The price for a pound of clean, high-end perennial ryegrass seed has gone from around 80 cents a pound last year to approximately $1.05 to $1.10 a pound this year. That may seem a small increase for a single pound, but many desert courses can use as much as 750 pounds of seed per acre on fairways to produce a lush, green turf for the winter, the Sun reported.
Multiply that by anywhere from 100 to 150 acres of fairway and rough per course, then toss in seed for areas like tees, greens and landscaped areas, and courses are finding they are paying between $20,000 and $30,000 or even more for the trucks full of seed this year, the Sun reported.
The cause of the cost spike is simple economics, according to a spokesman for the ryegrass industry in Oregon, the Sun reported.
“We are not producing as much. Production levels haven’t gone off hugely, but they certainly saw a downward adjustment,” said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission in Salem. “The lesson learned for growers is just how quickly things can change.”
Growers in Oregon believe prices for the cool-weather grass have been held down in recent years by the recession that hit in 2008, the Sun reported.
“What we have found is how connected we are to consumer trends,” Ostlund said. “Budgets got tighter and tighter, and that really affected this industry. You had that harvest of 2008, and the recession hit, and demand really slowed, so you had a backup in volume.”
As a result, many growers in the northwest switched their fields from ryegrass to more profitable crops like wheat and corn. Lower production of ryegrass seed and increased demand for seed as the economy recovered from the recession combined to drive up the price this year in a classic supply-and-demand scenario, the Sun reported.
Rowland said the increased cost of seed has been a hot topic among superintendents, who often gather and share techniques, technology and other information. Some courses, particularly private courses, will simply continue to do things as always, using large amounts of seed to produce the lush course conditions expected by members. Other courses, particularly courses with public play fighting to make a profit, might make visible changes to their layouts, the Sun reported.
“Some guys are changing some things,” Rowland said. “They are changing rates (pounds per acre), not overseeding certain areas like driving ranges or a common area are where people are cutting back.”
At Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert, a club that has a membership but also accepts public play, General Manager Joe Simonds said the staff is working hard to make up for an approximate $20,000 increase in seed prices, the Sun reported.
“We won’t overseed the driving range, except for the target areas, and there are some lower areas that can’t be seen that won’t be overseeded,” Simonds said. “We’re doing some things like that to save a little money.”
Woodhaven has made some “minimal” increases in membership fees and non-member greens fees to make up some of the increased seed cost, Simonds said.
“It all adds up. When things like seed and water go up and everything else, you have to start doing things like these minimal adjustments in fees,” Simonds said.
With the price of ryegrass seed moving up, it’s possible that some growers in the northwest may switch their fields back to ryegrass from corn or wheat, Ostlund said. But for desert course superintendents, that possibility is part of what has become a yearly guessing game, the Sun reported.
“It’s kind of like predicting gas prices almost,” Rowland said. “That’s what it has come down to.”
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