Are you planting a new lawn from seed or want to overseed your existing lawn? There are so many bags of grass seed at hardware stores, box stores, and online. Ever wondered how that seed is manufactured, grown, and harvested? Where does grass seed come from?
Most grass seed is grown and harvested by grass seed growers in Oregon, but if you keep reading you’ll learn some interesting details about the process of producing commercial grass seed.
Grass Seed Growers
Grass seed producers (or growers) focus on producing viable seed in strong varieties. They must consider how in-demand a seed species is, as well as how much a seed will cost to produce.
Experienced grass seed producers recognize they’ll have an easier time growing clean seed than trying to clean up seed later on (after it’s been harvested).
That is because after grass seed is mature, its quality is pretty much set in place. In other words, there’s almost nothing a producer can do to improve its quality at that point.
The highest quality seed tends to come from operations that specialize in growing seed. In other words, producing seed ought to be the farm’s primary enterprise.
Over the years, there have been many advances in the technologies producers use in developing grass seed.
The grass seed producers that do well have the right growing conditions for outstanding quality, as well as conditions that keep production costs down.
For a seed producer to do well, they must:
- Use appropriate management and growing practices
- Provide the right watering levels and frequency
- Use suitable soil types
- Ensure beneficial conditions during the growing season
- Safely remove all damaging weeds
- Plan for dry and warm weather in which to harvest the seed
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Places Where Grass Seed is Produced
The largest and most important seed production source is grass crops specifically cultivated and grown to be used and sold as seed.
A significant source of grass seed includes tame grass pastures found in areas of the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern United States.
Oregon is Important in Grass Seed Production
The state of Oregon is the largest cool-season turf grass and forage producer on the planet. The state has almost 1,500 farms producing grass seed.
The vast majority of all perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass, fine fescue, and bentgrass seed in the United States is produced in Oregon.
There are also limited amounts of tall fescue, orchardgrass, and Kentucky bluegrass produced in this state.
In particular, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known as the world’s “grass seed capital.”
Willamette Valley’s climate makes it ideal for grass seed growing. This region has moist and wild winters, as well as dry summers.
The environment of the Willamette Valley is perfect for the production of top-quality seed.
This promotes healthy seed development, as well as a successful harvest.
Grass seed growers utilize special machine technology made for small seeds.
There are more than 390 seed conditioning plants found within this area. These plants get grass seed ready to go to market after the harvest.
What Does Flowering Mean When It Comes to Grass Seed?
A flower cluster called an inflorescence is what generates grass seeds. A grass plant starts to produce flowers after it has adequate leaf blade growth.
After a grass plant has got to the requisite size, it has longer stems and starts growing inflorescences. It does this when it has the right kinds of environmental factors, such as sunlight exposure and temperature.
Flowers from an inflorescence may have both female and male reproductive organs together. In some cases, they will be separate in their own flowers.
Generally, flowers start to produce seed after they’re fertilized by way of pollen. This pollen will be from a grass flower that has genetic compatibility.
The seeds of many grass species will start developing after pollen fertilizes the flower’s ovaries. Wind or insects usually bring the pollen to the female organs.
There are certain kinds of grass that generate seed by way of apomixis, a different process. Apomixis is a process during which seed production occurs after the release of pollen stimulates the ovary.
This happens without fertilization. When apomixis happens, the result is cloning of parent plants.
What are Stolons?
Certain species of grass use stolons for reproduction. This means they use vegetative reproduction, with lateral stems that appear coming from the crown at the plant’s base.
Stolons (sometimes called “runners”) grow out instead of up, and produce nodes where new plants can form. When the stolon touches exposed soil, it’ll grow roots, and create leaves, forming a new plant.
There are some grass species that may spread by not only stolons but rhizomes, too.
If you have a grass species that uses stolons, you’re especially prone to developing a thatch problem on your lawn.
What are Rhizomes?
Grass which spreads via rhizomes spreads laterally beneath the soil.
The lateral spread is similar to what you see in the stolon-spreading sedge pictured above, but the lateral movement takes place under the soil’s surface via rhizomatous root growth.
Like stolons, rhizomes are a means of vegetative reproduction. A rhizome is a stem that grows underground, and it emerges from the plant’s base in the same way a stolon does.
Tillers, a type of new shoot, emerge upwards through the soil surface and come from the rhizome.
Seed production can happen from the inflorescence of each tiller that emerges from the grass.
Grass in a dry climate probably won’t spread via rhizomes, as it will lack the necessary resources.
How to Choose Grass Seed
Now you know where grass seed comes from and how it’s produced, it’s time to choose the right type of grass seed for your property.
Be aware that if you want to grow your lawn from seed instead of going with sod (which gives you an instant lawn), you’ll have to be patient.
Grass seed takes time to grow, and it may take a few years for your lawn to be well and truly established.
Of course, seed is more affordable than sod, and that comes in handy if you have a large property. However, you’ll find growing from seed extremely labor intensive if you have a large property.
You should choose a grass seed that is appropriate for your region and climate.
For example, if you live in a northern part of the country, you should choose a cool-season grass variety. Likewise, if you live in the south, you should choose a warm-season grass seed.
Spreading the Perfect Amount of Seed for a Beautiful Lawn
Now that you know how grass seed is produced and where it comes from, it’s time to select the best grass seed for your property.
Use my lawn size measuring tool and my grass seed calculator to determine the exact amount of seed you’ll need for your project.
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