New development, parks and golf courses all look better with a rich green turf. These instant lawns are produced by sod farmers who grow and harvest grass in large quantities to be sold in home stores or directly to homeowners and contractors. The world of sod farming is a lucrative business for some and an environmental concern for others.
The basic technique of sod farming is the same as growing a lawn, just on a much larger basis. Large flat land areas are home to sod farms, making the Midwest an ideal location for growing turf. The grass is planted using special or custom seeds, water, fertilized (either naturally or chemically) and often custom grown for large commercial ventures or small domestic properties. The turf is mowed on a regular basis to keep it uniform.
Water supply is essential for growing turf. Most large sod farms use a number of sprinkler and irrigation systems to ensure comprehensive coverage. The water systems are set on timers and promote even growing across the many acres of grass.
Sod is grown throughout the year depending on the region and climate of the country. It is usually custom cut. A large home supply store, golf course or new home owner will order the turf, and it will be cut fresh and delivered. The sod is cut into long strips, typically five or nine feet in length, and rolled up. The rolled sod is stacked on the back of a truck and delivered to the buyer.
According to the Minnesota Turf Association, there are a number of practical benefits for choosing turf. Turf provides an instant lawn that can increase property values. Sod turf is a low maintenance, low erosion alternative to other types of grass. The Turfgrass Producers International explains that sod turf is good for the environment because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and increases the amount of oxygen in the air, prevents soil erosion through uniform ground coverage and helps keep the water supply clean.
Despite concerns by environmentalists that sod farming is akin to strip mining because it strips away the natural landscape, it is actually comparable to traditional crop farming when it comes to impact on the land. Soil erosion is minimal due to the encompassing coverage of the crop (i.e., grass). Four tons of organic matter per acre is created with every grow season, and the cutting only removes an inch or two of top soil, which recovers by the next season.