Rising ryegrass seed costs problematic for area golf courses

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.

“How much are you going to budget for next year?” said Rowland, the director of golf course operations at the 36-hole Rancho La Quinta Country Club and the president of the Hi-Lo Desert Golf Course Superintendents Association. “I increased 15 cents a pound because I thought it would go up. It went up 23 cents a pound.”

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 price for a pound of clean, high-end perennial ryegrass seed, the kind favored by most golf courses in the desert as a wintertime grass, 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.

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 cause of the cost spike is simple economics, according to a spokesman for the ryegrass industry in Oregon.

“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.”

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