Forage Seed Production in Manitoba

Canada has a history of producing quality forage seed that goes back to the early part of this century. Industry growth of the forage and turf seed production industry has gone from a very low value in 1971 to a value well over $25 million today at a farm gate level. Production occurs on over 100,000 acres with over 60 per cent of the production exported to the USA and Europe. The total value of the forage/turf seed industry in Canada is far beyond $100 million, as it spins benefits through employment, seed processing, handling and marketing.

Manitoba has some 100,000 acres of forage seed in production. This represents approximately 30 per cent of Canadian forage seed acres. The Manitoba forage and turf seed industry is well served by the presence of seven major Canadian seed trade firms, four of which are headquartered in Manitoba. The Manitoba forage seed industry is valued at more than 25 million at the farm gate with more value accrued through processing, marketing and handling.

Manitoba, as part of a Canadian industry development project is well on the way of its goal of doubling the value of the forage and turf seed industry. Seed production systems have been developed for new crops such as perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and turf grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. The project has published production manuals for these crops. This will enable further development of a turf and amenity grass seed industry in Manitoba production into the future.  Cooperative efforts include herbicide development, variety testing and agronomics including fertility, stand renovation and establishment methods. In addition, cooperation in communications is ongoing through the industry publication "Forage Seed News".

Tall Fescue

Seed production of tall fescue is has grown significantly in Manitoba over the last 5 years with seed varieties being grown both for turf and forage use. Tall fescue offers an excellent crop option as a short lived perennial in a cropping rotation with 2 years of seed production for most turf varieties and longer for forage types. Tall fescue in a seed production system produces a significant amount of forage material as an addition to seed. The tall fescue variety "Courtney", a forage type selected in Manitoba, has good winter hardiness and is a very productive forage grass. In conjunction with a seed crop, tall fescue straw can be harvested and fall regrowth can be grazed.


Timothy has long been an important forage seed crop for Canada, and the Interlake region of Manitoba in particular. Manitoba has historically produced some 60,000 acres of timothy seed annually, but this has dropped to below 30,000 acres in recent years due to dramatically lowered seed prices.

A new development in western Canada is the production of timothy hay for export sale, primarily to Japan. Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of export quality hay is harvested in Manitoba each year. The product is only of the highest quality timothy hay which is double compacted to enable economical shipping. Compacting plants across Manitoba to process the timothy hay for export markets, giving Manitoba producers the option of growing timothy hay for export sale. This industry is seen as another market opportunity and potential area of growth as export demand is filled. The production of quality timothy seed for export market needs remains a prime interest.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass has been developed as a new seed crop in western Canada in a short term production system as a winter wheat alternative. Seed production of this crop in western Canada has been limited in the past where winter survival has been a problem, but as a one year seed crop, seeded in late summer, it has growing potential as producers across Manitoba are looking for alternatives to traditional annual cereal crops.

Annual Ryegrass

This is a new crop being developed across western Canada for seed production. This crop along with perennial ryegrass is of great interest because they offer not only options for new forage seed crops, but also the option of very different cropping systems in that they are annuals or short term perennials. The interest from cereal and oilseed seed growers is high. Work with growers is now underway to develop refined seed production systems under western Canadian conditions. Annual ryegrass also offers exciting options for producing forage along with the seed.

Turf Grasses (Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescue, Sheep Fescue and Chewings Fescue)

These turf grasses continue to offer diversification options in Manitoba. Experience has shown that good seed production can occur but they are very high in management requirements.