Strong demand and tight supply – early ordering is essential

A huge demand in spring and summer reduced stocks throughout the supply chain. And a below-average 2020 harvest reveals plenty of yield variations.
Strong demand and tight supply – early ordering is essential

HARVEST: Close-to-average yields in Denmark, but a poor yield across the rest of Europe

Spring was again dry across most of Europe, which affected grass and clover harvests just about everywhere.

Denmark was the exception. Rain in May saved the harvest while the rest of Europe suffered. In Denmark most species are producing normal yields – possibly slightly above normal – although the fescues performed badly. For red fescue we are looking at lightweight seeds and a yield reduction of 10% to 15%.

In the Netherlands, tall fescue is even worse – down by 25% – while the total grass seed harvest is down by 10%.

The drought also reduced harvests in Germany and Poland. In central Europe (CZ and its neighbours), a poor result was intensified by heavy rainfall starting from a month before, and lasting well into, the harvest. This reduced yields to about 50% for many species. Reports from France say that red clover has exceptionally low yields in some areas and that alfalfa is also far below average.

Across the Atlantic in the US and Canada, seed supply is tight. In Oregon, perennial ryegrass yields were normal, but from a lower acreage; in Minnesota and Canada, yields were well down. Kentucky bluegrass is doing better – above average – while annual ryegrass is below average across the western US. The Canadian alfalfa and red fescue harvests are close to normal; the Canadian timothy harvest is poor.

After the drought and mice damage of 2019, demand for forage and for consumer turf mixtures boomed in spring 2020. The Covid-19 home lockdowns brought a sudden boost to turf consumption at supermarkets, garden centres, DIY stores and web shops. The result was low stocks at every stage of the supply chain. The subsequent 2020 European harvest, with its wide variations in yield across regions and species, is unlikely to put things right.

Early sales and shipments keep prices stable for many species

Empty shelves in customer warehouses have prompted extra sales and early deliveries this autumn, while tenders for consumer-turf mixtures are already being placed for volume deliveries next spring.

At DLF we have already stepped up a gear. To be ready for increased sales in spring 2021, our cleaning, mixing and bagging capacity is up and running earlier and more intensely than usual. Our prompt response is helping to keep prices stable.

No one can rely on imports from other countries to fill the gap. Raised prices and reduced availability are keeping import levels low. North America, for example, is short in red fescue and perennial ryegrass; New Zealand has little seed to spare after good sales to China. Also, the 2021 harvest from down-under will probably reach Europe in late spring.

TURF: Strong demand for bulk orders for season 2021

The 2020 boom in turf planting emptied shelves and generated strong early demand for the new crop. Many species sold out, while a disappointing harvest (e.g., all three subspecies of red fescue) firmed up prices. To maintain a good balance of mixture components, we compensated for a shortage of red fescues by increasing the share of smooth-stalked meadow grass.

Perennial ryegrass, a main turf component, is already short for the coming season. DLF's popular tetraploid 4turf® varieties are particularly hard to come by.

Tall fescue prices are still firm following a below-average harvest and reduced competition from North American seed, imports of which have been dampened by currency rates and import taxes.

If the excellent genetics and superb performance of any given variety are still not good enough for your needs, you should try DLF Select. This field-to-customer programme guarantees the highest levels of seed purity for turf users who expect the highest levels of performance.

To boost growth even further, try DLF Select in combination with our new ProNitro with hydroactive water management technology.

FORAGE: Strong pressure on quality varieties offering better digestibility and sustainability

Raised demand for quality mixtures produced shortages – and higher prices – for the prized varieties of perennial ryegrass at the top of regional performance lists. Even non-recommended varieties sold out. After the damage caused by drought and mice in 2019, there wasn't enough stock to go around.

The situation for high-end varieties has been made worse by the low 2020 yield from the Netherlands and a just-average crop in Denmark. Most are already sold out or close to selling out. The varieties under most pressure are those with high yields, winter hardiness and good rust-tolerance, as well as highly digestible varieties from our DLF Fiber Energy programme. They are the first varieties our customers choose for their premium mixture programmes.

Recommended varieties of meadow fescue and timothy from Europe and Canada are also in short supply. Prices are up, if offered at all.

Recommended forage varieties of smooth-stalked meadow grass (e.g. the new Chester) are in balance at last season's prices – mainly because there are so few listed varieties. There's also an adequate supply of non-recommended varieties.

Despite a lower yield for Italian ryegrass and annual ryegrass, mostly grown in Europe's continental climate zones, these grasses are still available at last year’s prices. It's much the same for non-recommended varieties from South America or Eastern Europe.

Good news for red clovers and white clovers, which we expect to be in balance. But DLF Alfalfa is still in short supply for recommended or listed varieties.

Festuloliums, Ryegrass PLUS and Tall fescue PLUS, are in demand for their sustainability and robustness in the face of a changing climate. They're also a popular substitute for other short species.

Cocksfoot is available in adequate quantities. A combination of good stocks and a good crop is keeping prices low compared to the price peak from two years ago.

OUTLOOK: Untypical times ahead: many species short, few are long

Looking ahead into our crystal ball, we see good demand for consumer turf and a slow recovery for professional turf. Many species and varieties are already short.

The forage sector is now up and running, but demand for spring 2021 depends on sward recovery after the coming winter and, as always, on spring weather.

The one big unknown for our industry – for all industries, to be precise – is the economic effect of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.

Whatever happens, it still pays to place your orders in good time and to get the best advice you can. In this era of no-congresses, speak to your nearest DLF representative. They will have the most up-to-date information and will be delighted to give you their support.