2015 sod producers report from North Carolina

In March 2015, North Carolina State University conducted a survey to examine inventory and pricing of North Carolina sod. Dr. Grady Miller, Professor Crop Science and author of the report, suggested North Carolina State University and A&T State University intend to conduct similar surveys annually to determine and track relative inventory levels and project price changes for the year.

The survey results (a portion of which are highlighted here), reported on inventory levels, pricing, extent of certified grass grown, cost of freight, fuel surcharges, sales by industry segment (landscape contractors, homeowners, golf courses, sports/athletics, brokers and retail garden centers) and total acreage in production.

The following is just a small portion of the survey findings:

Supply of bermudagrass is low, even with larger growers.

The price of bermudagrass and zoysiagrass is most likely to increase.

Growers are currently adding acreage.

The primary markets for North Carolina sod producers are landscape contractors.

North Carolina Sod Producers Association (NCSPA) records suggest the 20 completed surveys represent about half the sod farms in North Carolina.

Through the survey NCSU obtained estimates of the inventory for bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, tall fescue, St. Augustinegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass based on estimated sales and the availability of sod as excellent (more than 10% of demand), adequate (equal to demand), or poor (more than 10% shortage).

Pricing information included the farm price and the price for truckload orders delivered to the closest urban market or within 100 miles of the farms. All costs were reported as price per square foot of sod.

Bermudagrass was being grown by 15 (75%) of the surveyed producers. Only 7% of these producers rated their inventory as adequate; none indicated it was excellent. For 2015, 93% of all bermudagrass producers projected having less than adequate supplies. No growers with greater than 800 acres expected an adequate supply of bermudagrass.

Zoysiagrass was being grown by 16 (80%) of the surveyed producers. Sixty-three percent of these producers rated their inventory as adequate to excellent. For 2015, 37% of all zoysiagrass producers projected having shortages. Only one grower, with greater than 800 total sod acres, projected low inventory.

Of the producers surveyed, 14 (70%) are growing centipedegrass. Seventy-one percent of these growers reported they had adequate to excellent inventory. Twenty-nine percent of all centipedegrass growers anticipated a shortage during 2015.

Of the producers surveyed, eight (40%) were growing tall fescue. Seventy-five percent of these growers reported they had adequate to excellent inventory. Twenty-five percent of all tall fescue growers anticipated a shortage during 2015.

Of the producers surveyed, 10 (50%) are growing
St. Augustinegrass. Fifty percent of these growers reported they had adequate to excellent inventory and fifty percent anticipated a shortage during 2015.

Only five of the producers surveyed (25%) reported growing Kentucky bluegrass. Based on NCSPA grower data, these growers (with perhaps an exception of one or two growers) are producing a sod comprised of a Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue mixture, not a 100% pure Kentucky bluegrass sod. Of the group that responded to this survey, 60% anticipated an insufficient inventory of the grass during 2015.

Of the survey respondents, only 5% indicated they reduced sod production acres during 2014 (20% average reduction). It was not known whether this reduction was due to acres being taken out of turfgrass production and converted to other crops or left fallow or whether land was sold. The same percentage of respondents indicated they would have a reduction in 2015, with the average reduction of only 2%. While a few reported reductions, 75% indicated they had increased acres during the last three years. The average percentage increase was 14%.

Dr. Miller’s full report can be viewed at: