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Weather causes turf challenges, benefits
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- June rains made it hard for turfgrass producers to do any work, but weather the rest of the year has been good to the industry.
Wayne Wells, turfgrass specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said rains made mowing impossible at times and made conditions poor for lifting sod.
"There were some leaf diseases caused by the rain, but surprisingly we have not had much insect or disease problems this year," Wells said. "I think growers have been pretty pleased with what they've been able to do this year."
Turf acreage remained relatively constant this year and prices finally have stabilized.
"We're seeing some shifts. We lost one large grower and another may be selling, but others have expanded and basically made up the acreage," Wells said. "This is a time of stabilization, and we're finally seeing more stable prices."
Wells said wholesale prices do vary based on demand, variety and volume purchased. Bermudagrasses are selling for about 90 cents to $1.25 a square yard, zoysia for about $2 a square yard, and centipede and St. Augustine for about $1.50 a square yard. Retail prices typically are at least 50 percent higher.
"Those who are buying sod are still getting a good value for their money," Wells said.
New home construction, municipal athletic facilities, high school football field replacement and a few new golf courses have created the most demand. Wells said homeowners have helped by replacing existing lawns.
"Demand hasn't been real exciting, but it is better than it was at this time last year," he said.
Some new varieties are gaining popularity. Among these are Bermudagrass varieties MS Choice, also known as Bullseye, and TifSport; TifBlair, a centipede variety; Palmetta, a more cold-tolerant St. Augustine variety; and Zoysia cultivars Palisades, Empire and Empress.
Dan Crumpton III is the owner of Oasis Sod Farm in Clarksdale. He has been in business for almost six years and has 320 acres of Bermudagrass and zoysia that he sells to the Memphis, DeSoto County and Oxford markets.
"Demand is ahead of last year," Crumpton said. "The economy is getting better and people are not as skeptical about what is happening."
He said June rains cut back on his irrigation costs but made it very difficult to mow in a timely manner.
"We pretty much didn't do any work for three weeks in June," Crumpton said. "Growing conditions in July have been great with plenty of heat and enough water."
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