TIMOTHY SEED PRODUCTIONManitoba is the largest producer of timothy seed in Canada. Manitoba's long experience in production make it an ideal production location of Timothy varieties for world needs. Most of the Timothy seed production is pedigreed seed. Manitoba produces seed for Canadian markets as well as multiplying timothy seed for markets around the world including, Europe, Japan and the United States.
The climate and soils in Manitoba are well adapted to the production of timothy, with yields of 200 - 500 lbs/ac. (225 to 560 kg/ha). Once established Timothy seed is normaly produced from the stand for 3 or 4 years; the main requirements for production of a good seed crop are good moisture throughout the growing season and available nutrients in the early spring.
Description and AdaptationTIMOTHY (Phleum pratense) - Timothy is a perennial, bunch-type grass. It is adapted to a wide range of soils but does best under cool, moist conditions. Timothy is winterhardy across Canada, except for the open prairies, and does well on moist or acid soils and on poorly-drained, peaty, and meadow areas. The best seed yields, however, are obtained on well-drained clay or clay loam soils and with high rates of applied nitrogen. The crop tolerates flooding much better than many other forage species, but is not adapted to saline conditions. Timothy should be shallow seeded into a firm seedbed due to the small size of the seed. Fields should be free of perennial weeds.
SEEDINGThe best time to seed timothy is in early spring; however an early August seeding can also produce a stand. The August seeding may be necessary to properly prepare the field, but first year seed production will generally be reduced.
The seed bed should be fine and firm so that the seed is placed no deeper than .5 in.(1 cm). Seed in 12 in. (30 cm) rows at one to two lb/ac (one to two kg/ha). Six inch (fifteen cm) row widths are not recommended as the growth becomes sod-bound in two to three years and yield drops. Seeding can be accomplished by a variety of means. Some drills are accurate enough to seed the timothy directly through the grain box, but grass seeder attachments are generally preferred. The seed can also be directly dropped onto the soil surface in front of the packer wheels and pressed in.
Companion crops are commonly used to protect the young seedlings and provide a snow trap for the first winter. Cereal crops and canola have been successfully used, although if moisture is inadequate during the growing season the timothy may establish poorly. Flax makes a good companion crop, as it offers adequate protection while allowing a considerable amount of sunlight to reach the seedlings.
WEED CONTROLWeeds can adversely affect the successful establishment of timothy. The seed field should be free of perennial weeds, especially quackgrass, Canada thistle, sowthistle, dandelions and red or alsike clover. Annual weeds can be a problem as well. There are no controls for green foxtail or barnyard grass in seedling timothy. As weed control options are limited, it is best to avoid such problems and seed timothy into clean fields.
During the cropping years, certain weeds will cause seed cleaning problems. Members of the mustard family are difficult to separate from timothy; wild mustard is a primary noxious weedand can be a severe problem. Another problem weed in timothy seed is ox-eye daisy. Ox-eye daisy is a perennial plant for which there is no chemical control. It is a prolific seed producer and spreads rapidly, and is difficult to clean out of timothy. It also is a primary noxious weed. Just one primary noxious seed in the final sample will make the seed ineligible for any of the pedigreed grades. Other problems are caused by stinkweed, green foxtail, rough cinquefoil and the clovers.
Several weed control products are now registered registered for use in seedling and established timothy seed stands. They provide controls for both grassy and broadleaf weed problems. Care should be taken in selection of cover crop when considering weed control strategies. For the most current control recommendations, rates and water volumes, refer to the Manitoba Agriculture "Guide to Chemical Control of Weeds and Plant Diseases".
FERTILIZINGFertility requirements will vary with the soil type; for specific recommendations producers are advised to have their soil tested. To obtain high yields, fertility must be available to the plant in the early spring so application of nutrients late in the Fall or as early in the Spring as possible is recommended. Do no apply fertilizer to frozen soils subject to water run-off. Work in 50 lbs/acre (56kg/ha) of nitrogen at seeding time unless the crop is sown on summer fallow. Subsequent seed crops will require about 100 lbs/acre (112 kg/ha) of nitrogen per year. most stands will require 75 to 100 lbs/ac (84 to 112 kg/ha) of nitrogen and between 27 to 45 lbs/ac (30 to 45 kg/ha) of phosphate. High rates of nitrogen may hurt yields by promoting excessive vegetative growth. Timothy requires high levels of sulphur and potassium for optimum seed yields. Grey wooded and coarse textured soils can be deficient in either of these elements, particularly if they have a history of canola or previous timothy production. A soil test will identify if these elements are required.
Good fertility levels are important to good seed yields, but they also prevent the stand from becoming too thick. A good seed stand is thin with only one to plants per square foot (10 to 20 plants per square metre). Volunteer plants spring up each year in the bare ground between each clump of plants. An application of fertilizer promotes growth of the established clumps at the expense of the seedlings, and this helps keep the stand from thickening up.
Insect ProblemsSeed yields of timothy have been reduced by a type of damage known as silvertop. The damage
appears as silvery white heads scattered among the normal green heads. The head has no seed and the seed stock is dead above the last node. Plant bugs, mites and stem-boring maggots cause silvertop by feeding and injuring the stem, thus reducing the flow of nutrients to the head. Control methods for silvertop involve removing harvest debris, burning stubble and insecticide applications.
The European skipper is a relatively new pest of timothy seed in western Canada and has caused economic damage in several agricultural regions.The European Skipper is a small orange moth that lays its eggs on timothy plants. The larvae emerge, crawl to the top of the plant, feed on the flag leaf, and then work down the stem. The european skipper is usually held in check by a naturally occurring fungus disease. Where populations warrant insecticide treatment several insecticides provide good control for this pest. Contact Manitoba Agriculture district ag offices for current recommendations.
HARVESTINGTimothy is usually swathed during late July or early August. The crop is ready when there is a trace of shattering and the heads are golden to the base. Care must be taken not to swath on the green side or yield losses will result. Rainfall during this time can be serious. Crop losses from a light rain one to five days after swathing are minimal. However, if the swaths have lain six or more days the shattering losses can be significant, particularly in a heavy rain.
Once the seed is cool and dry. germination will not change and it is ready for storage. Timothy seed is easily hulled, and germination percentage drops rapidly over time once seed is hulled. Hulling should be kept below 15% of the threshed seed. Reduce the cylinder speed to 700 to 800 r.p.m.
FALL CARE & STRAW PRODUCTION
To guard against a build-up of insect pests, straw should be taken off the field. Silver top, can be reduced in this manner. Following Timothy harvest the crop aftermath or straw produced provides an excellent source of livestock feed that can be used for cattle feed. (This sectio should be expanded and linked to a Timothy hay page)
Marketing NotesTimothy seed can be produced either under contract or as an open market commodity. Most new timothy varieties will only be available for seed production under contract as proprietary varieties. Several Canadian public varieties are available for open market production. Timothy seed production contracts are normaly for a 3 year period. Contact Seed trade firms for details on contacts, terms and prices.
- Manitoba has a team of experienced Timothy seed growers who understand the crop and can supply world markets with reliably produced high quality Timothy seed.
- Manitoba has historicly been home to 65% Canada's Timothy seed production
- Variety evaluation programs are in place with 3 test sites in Manitoba to provide the industry with data of seed and forage yield potentials under Manitoba conditions.
- Maniitoba is the headquarters to a large number of national seed trade firms with the ability to produce, contract, process and market quality forage seed around the world. A large portion of forage seed produced in Western Canada is processed in Manitoba facilities.
- The Manitoba Forage Seed industry stands ready as a seed production team through the Manitoba Forage Seed Association to produce high quality forage and turf seed for world needs.