Cover crop seed in hands

Farmers looking to plant some cover crops this fall may encounter trouble getting seed.

Dealers say shortages of ryegrass varieties are being felt. Adam Dahmer of Advance Cover Crops in Marion, Ill., pointed to cereal rye in particular.

“Use of cereal is up right now,” Dahmer said. “It takes more pounds per acre with cereal than annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass is not a problem. Cereal rye is.”

Cliff Schuette of Schuette Seeds in Breese, Ill., sees tight supplies of both cereal rye and annual ryegrass.

“Ryegrass is short and cereal rye is short,” he said. “The prices went up, but both are available.”

The reason: Both had a short crop.

“They had a short crop in Oregon last year and this year, so that has put a whammy on annual ryegrass. The cereal rye out of the Dakotas has been short this year,” he said.

Complicating the short harvest, especially in the Dakotas, is the early harvest in the Midwest this year, which opens up more acreage to covers. Many farmers put off decisions on planting cover crops until late in the season.

“Things change so much. It’s not like corn and soybeans where we can say we’re going to plant corn and soybeans this year,” Dahmer said. “Guys change things constantly, so it’s hard to read the market. We’ve done the best we can trying to get it in. But with demand up, they’re emptying out warehouses fast.”

He said this was a year it was important for farmers to order early.

“Demand is up and we’re short on transportation. We’re making our money on selling seed, so we need to get it delivered,” he said.

Indeed, transportation — or lack of it — is a major factor in the squeezing of supplies.

“The main issue we’ve encountered is the trucking industry. That’s where the bottleneck is,” Dahmer said. “We can’t get the trucks under the loads to get them here.”

Schuette agrees.

“Trucking is a major problem,” he said. “I don’t know what the whole issue is, but I heard months ago that it’s hard to get drivers.”

Dahmer said late planting decisions can be a problem when supplies are limited and delivery is hampered.

“You’re driving across the field in a combine today and you’ve been thinking about it since summer,” he said. “You want to do 500 acres. Well, that’s half a semi load. We tell guys that they’ve got to be getting this stuff booked.”

Meanwhile, seed dealers do their best in dealing with the situation.

“I’ve been in it enough years where I try to have something on hand to weather the time that I’m short,” Schuette said. “That’s tough when I make the wrong call.”

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Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.