THE pasture seed industry holds plenty of potential for expansion across Tasmania.
That’s according to Brenton Heazlewood, who runs the largest privately-owned pasture seed cleaning business in the State - Heazlewoods Seeds.
“The seed production side of the industry in Tasmania will keep expanding,” he said.
“Over the past decade, we’ve seen an increase in pasture seed production and it’s because of the reliability of production.
“We’ve got the right climatic conditions, which suit brassicas, clover, or ryegrass.”
And while ryegrass remains the major pasture seed grown by most producers - newer pasture varieties are creating an exciting time for seed growers and farmers alike.
The only obstacle at the moment seems to be the high Australian dollar, which is impacting on prices.
“We are very much a global industry,” he said.
“Prices have been better, but that is something most agricultural industries have to deal with.”
Seeds from the family’s company are exported to countries such as Europe, North America and Japan.
The good news for growers - many who cultivate pasture seeds as a valuable side-line business - is that seasonal conditions across the State have been extremely favourable.
“The season is looking good at the moment,” he said.
“We’ve had 7mm overnight, but another 25mm would push things along,” he said.
Mr Heazlewood grows perennial and annual ryegrass, clover and oats for seed on his 259 hectare property at Whitemore with his wife Anne and son Duncan, but says the majority of the pasture seed they process is grown under contract by local farmers for seed companies.
The family - who have been farming in the region since 1854 - also grow cash crops such as peas and opium poppies, alongside their Melton Park English Leicester and Border Leicester sheep studs.
Mr Heazlewood’s father Ivan had been growing pasture seeds for several decades, before they decided to install a seed cleaning plant in 1980.
The process was a big investment, but the family recognised a demand for the service.
Since then the business has blossomed and now processes approximately 2000 tonnes of seed annually.
“We still grow some of the seed on-farm, but 99 per cent is contracted,” he said.
The Heazlewoods have been involved in the growing of Buckwheat since 1988, which is exported to Japan and made into noodles.
The crop is now contracted out, but remains a valuable part of the business.
The pasture seed is sown in autumn and grazed through winter.
“We close the crops in October and then begin harvesting in late December and January,” he said.
“That will go right through until May and keeps us very busy.”
Harvest conditions must be dry, with warm conditions ideal to avoid high moisture, he said.
Once the seed starts coming in, the Heazlewoods clean the product to 99 per cent purity.
Afterwards, a sample is sent to a laboratory to be tested for germination and purity, and once it passes the seed company takes possession.
Mr Heazlewood says the growth of the business over the past 20 years simply comes down to business management.
“My son Duncan has taken on the more day-to-day running of the business,” he said.
“We discuss things all the time, and I can take time away and everything will run smoothly.”
There is also a pressure to be up-to-date with the latest technology.
“We pride ourselves on doing a good job and we’ve got a wide range of machinery to process a broad range of seeds,” Mr Heazlewood said.
“You’ve got to stay modern.”
And with irrigation playing a larger role on Tasmanian farms, it seems there is more room yet to expand, which is good news for the Heazlewoods.
Further still, the extra water is allowing producers to diversify and grow a wide range of crops, many who are value-adding with ever-improving pasture seed varieties.