Production and Management
Many Tennessee farmers, facing narrow profit margins and increasing price risk, are considering new or alternative crop enterprises. New crop enterprises are most successful if they make effective use of existing resources; are adapted to the local environment, soils and climate; and if they serve a market that is well-defined and expanding. Turfgrass sod production is one crop enterprise that may meet these criteria.
A sod production program is founded on agronomic principles. While corn, soybean and wheat production practices often result in increased grain yield, effective sod production results in healthy, dense vegetation free of most troublesome turfgrass pests. Harvested sod is a perishable commodity. Turfgrass plants and accompanying soil must be lifted, loaded, transported and installed in a timely manner.
Turfgrass sod is used to establish lawns, develop sports and recreational facilities, landscape commercial properties and cover highway rights-of-way. It is produced using much of the same equipment commonly found on crop farms, although some specialized equipment is also necessary. Tennessee’s climate and many of its soils are very well suited to producing several turfgrass species. In addition, Tennessee’s economy and population are growing, providing an expanding market for sod in residential, commercial and public applications.
Another important consideration is the financial bottom line. Is sod production profitable? This question is best answered by estimating the costs and returns associated with sod production. Production costs depend on production practices and the prices of inputs, while returns depend on sod quality and the market in which it is sold. This publication is intended to serve as an overview of commercial tall fescue- Kentucky bluegrass sod production in Tennessee. It begins with a summary of the turfgrass industry. Next, data sources and production summaries are presented. Water is a very critical element in the sod production process, so irrigation considerations are discussed in detail. The remainder of this publication presents enterprise budgets that estimate the costs and returns for tall fescue-Kentucky bluegrass sod production. Two separate budget analysis are presented — one for a 50-acre enterprise and one for a 150-acre enterprise. It concludes with a review and comparison of the enterprise budget analysis.
New or potential growers will find this publication a helpful source of both production and economic information. Existing growers can use the included budgets to help estimate their own production costs and to identify opportunities to reduce costs.
"PB1649-Commercial Tall Fescue-Kentucky Bluegrass Sod Production," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, PB1649-1M-7/00 E12-4015-00-001-01, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexcomhort/13