The Grass is Always Greener

Looking for an unusual collectible? Try finding a bluegrass-stripping machine built in Missouri a century ago.

| June 2019

Original paint on this Carson header is a remnant of the era when bluegrass seed production was a cash crop in and around Missouri.

More than 100 years ago, bluegrass seed production was a popular cash crop in the Midwest, where it also spurred development and manufacture of mechanized seed strippers and threshers.

Bluegrass is not native to the U.S.; the seed was apparently brought here by early European settlers. It spread across the country with the settlers, finding its way into north central Kentucky, where it produced excellent forage for livestock and earned the name “Kentucky bluegrass.”

The rhizomatous cool season grass has adapted to climates with cool summers and cold winters. It prefers average daily temperatures to not exceed 75 degrees F. It does well not only for pastures but also for lawns and golf courses because it is disease-resistant, and has attractive color and impressive longevity.

In the 1900s near Lexington, Kentucky, bluegrass was grown not only for livestock pastures but also for commercial seed sales. Its nutrient value and ease to establish drove demand for Kentucky bluegrass seed to spread west and north. It is now grown from coast to coast in the northern U.S. and Canada. 

Rapid growth for fledgling industry

In the 1920s through the 1950s, the region referred to as the “Missouri Area” – northwest Missouri and adjacent parts of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska – became the largest commercial bluegrass seed-producing region in the U.S. 


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