After having to throttle down for more than a week due to periods of pounding rainfall and spotty hail, mid-Willamette Valley farmers put combines back to work in area grass seed fields over the weekend. They are looking forward to several days with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s and only a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday. "It's very early in the season, but it doesn't appear the rain caused many problems," said Oregon State University seed specialist Clare Sullivan. "There were patches of hail that appear to have affected some fields. Rain wise, I haven't heard anyone complaining about that."
The hail may have shattered some seed heads, loosening the seed prematurely from the shaft of the plant that had been swathed and was in the drying stages before being picked up by a combine. Sullivan said it's also too early to say whether unusually warm weather — several days in the high 90s a month ago — had a detrimental effect on seed size. "Usually, extreme heat will speed up the ripening process, which can result in lighter weight seed," she said. "But I think that by the time the hot weather arrived, the plants were already ahead of last year in their growing cycles and were going through their physiological changes." Sullivan said the rains have also helped keep the regrowth grasses green. It's interesting to see the contrast of the bright green grass under the swath rows," she said. Oren Neuschwander started harvesting grass seed fields near Eicher Road Monday afternoon and said that, so far, things were looking good. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in May that about 118,000 acres in Oregon are devoted this year to annual ryegrass, down about 4 percent from 2015. The number of acres of perennial ryegrass is expected to remain unchanged at about 97,000 acres. The USDA reported that numbers in 2015 were lower then usual due to drought conditions. Growers also reported heavy damage from winter cutworms, mice and slugs.