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Everybody Wants Some, You Want Some Too

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monkeybananas1.jpgEverybody wants seed! (and Bananas) It’s time to do some Agronomy.

This fall, no matter what climate you grow grass in, you are probably going to buy some seed. It’s actually one thing that cool- and warm season Turfheads have in common: generally there is some kind of fall overseeding on some kind of playing surface. And the reason is supposed to be the same, get better grasses going for short or long term gain. Simple. But leave it to us to make it into a snake pit.

I see seed buyers making some real mistakes or just not paying attention to how they spend their money. There are a few things that I’d love to pass along.

Seed, in its innocent state is pure, simple, powder-the-baby’s-butt agronomy. The simple basic concept is perfection. Choose the plant that you want and then buy the seed to sow. Simple.  Have I said simple before? I have? Because it ought to be that. It should be that. But in actuality it isn’t.

I think everyone involved in the seed industry wants everyone involved to do the right thing. Buy what you need, get what you ask for and do it at a fair price. I’d like to think that everyone involved knows that to stay alive, be it seed farmer, seed cleaner, seed distributor or even seed breeder, they have to do a great job and make a profit. But like in any commodity-oriented market, there are factors and ins and outs in the whole process. Market conditions, climate conditions, inventory conditions and of course crop quality make seed an interesting and ever changing thing. Seed-FOL-SOL-300x213.jpg

I see seed buyers making some real mistakes> or just not paying attention to how they spend their money. There are a few things that I’d love to pass along.

1. It’s the PLS, Dude.

Pure Live Seed or PLS is a pretty simple equation. And in a lot of circles (like native seedings) PLS pounds are often talked about. Multiplying purity by germination arrives at Pure Live Seed. So, a seed lot that is 90% purity and 80% germination ends up being 72% PLS (.90 x .80 = .72). This means that with this particular sampling to get a pound of Pure Live Seed, we need 1.38889 pounds of seed. And it also means that in a pound of this particular seed, 28% of it isn’t pure or live. I don’t know about you, but paying for what I don’t want isn’t good.

The economics of this should be obvious, but they often aren’t. When someone is bragging to me about their amazing seed buy and we look a little further, we often see that the bargain was actually no deal. Here’s an example:

Seed A: 72% PLS. $.64 per pound.

>Seed B: 96% PLS. $.88 per pound.

Let’s start by looking at Cost Per PLS Pound:

Seed A:> 1 PLS Pound of 72% PLS is 1.3889 pounds of this seed. (1 divided by .72). Multiply this by the cost per pound (1.3889 x $.64) and you get $.89 per PLS Pound.

Seed B: 1 PLS Pound of 96% PLS is 1.042 pounds of this seed (1 div. by .96). Multiply this by the cost per pound (1.042 x $.88) and you get $.92 per PLS Pound.

Considering that the cost difference between PLS pounds in this example is $.03, the bargain that Seed A looked like at $.24 less, isn’t such a bargain. And probably not worth it at all when you consider how much seed is not pure and not live.

2. Poa and Blue Tags, Man!

I believe in testing and certification. I also believe in knowing what tests mean. In the case of Certified Blue Tag Seed, which is essentially a statement about genetic purity, some seeds like Poa annua and Poa trivialis are allowed. So… what does this mean? It means if you want completely Poa annua-free seed, you have to ask for it and you’ll probably want to coordinate the testing with your supplier and it takes some time. And of course you’ll have to pay for that. But if you don’t, you’ll pay later. Poa control costs what per acre? A monkey says, “What?”. Exactly.simien-mountains01-monkey-150x150.jpg

For instance, Oregon Blue Tag Certification allows for one Annual Bluegrass seed per 5-gram noxious weed sample. This means about 2300 seeds in a 25 pound pail of Bentgrass and of course 4600 seeds in a 50 pound bag of Ryegrass.

Again, there is nothing wrong with certification, but you have to understand that a Certified Lot of 55,000 pounds may not be Poa annua free. In fact, it could have 5 million Annual Bluegrass seeds in it.

3. Dude, Did You Count?

This one seems simple, but it’s often missed. And that’s OK because you, Turf Monkey, can do the math and it is as easy as knowing how many pounds of seed there are in a pound of a particular turf variety and going from there. Seed blends are done by weight. So when your favorite 80/20 Blue/Rye blend doesn’t seem to have much Rye in it, take a closer look. Maybe you should have said 80/20 Rye/Blue instead of Blue/Rye. Oh..that. Right.  It’s easy to do the seed count, close your eyes and imagine what your final stand should look like and go from there.

And of course when you are doing blends, there’s probably a piece of language you should include in your bid and for me, it looks something like this. Your mileage may vary:

“Certified, blue-tagged seed shall be supplied where a named variety is specified. Vendor shall indicate on the bid whether Certified or common seed is being offered, as well as the origin of the seed. The blue tags which are removed to mix the seed shall be given to the project’s designated agronomist in an official submission; in addition, mix tags showing the weighted averages of the ingredients shall be attached to each bag.”

I’d love to hear from any of you about what’s gone wrong or right in your seed buying. Share. It’s OK. That’s what TurfNet is all about.

Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for not only your pocket-book suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.” — George Washington


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