Grass seed production is a challenging farm crop and may be extremely lucrative. Most grass seed crops are taken for two harvest years so, as well as reducing inputs, are therefore a valuable break crop especially for cereal seed producers.
The seed crop has a number of important roles top play.
It offers a further weapon in the battle against Blackgrass as different chemistry is used for Blackgrass control. The fact that the ground is not cultivated for two years also results in a big drop in viable Blackgrass seeds in the ground.
The hay that the crop produces is a valuable commodity as feed for horses and other livestock. With horse ownership on the increase this is financially lucrative as well.
The crop may also have big environmental and wildlife advantages. The cover, that the crop develops and provides over the 2 years, for insects, rodents and nesting is important for Skylarks, Barn Owls and other wildlife. The mass of root and other plant parts contributes towards soil organic matter thereby improving fertility and structure.
The seed crop is always grown under contract. The crop is planted either under-sown in the Spring or in its own right in the Autumn. Either way the first harvest is the following year. The field into which the crop is sown must not have been in grass for at least the 4 previous harvest years.
The crop is inspected during April, May or June depending on heading date. This is to check for varietal purity and to ensure that there are no crops capable of cross-pollinating within 50m.
The earliest crops are harvested in early July with the later ones continuing up to the middle of August. The seed is immediately dried down to 12% moisture for safe storage until cleaning. After cleaning the seed is tested for certification to ensure that it passes the relevant standards.