Front Cover
 Table of Contents

Group Title: Economic Information Report - University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences ; 02-6
Title: An agronomic and economic profile of Florida's sod industry in 2000
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00026460/00001
 Material Information
Title: An agronomic and economic profile of Florida's sod industry in 2000
Series Title: Economic information report
Physical Description: iii, 25 p. : ill., maps, charts ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Haydu, John J
Satterthwaite, Loretta N
Cisar, J.L ( John L )
University of Florida -- Food and Resource Economics Dept
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Mid-Florida Research & Education Center
Publisher: University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Food and Resource Economics Dept., Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Mid-Florida Research and Education Center
Place of Publication: Gainesville FL
Apopka FL ;
Publication Date: [2002]
Subject: Turfgrasses industry -- Economic aspects -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Turfgrasses industry -- Production standards -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Turfgrasses -- Varieties -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 25).
Statement of Responsibility: John J. Haydu, Loretta N. Satterwaite, John L. Cisar.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "July 2002."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00026460
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002830722
oclc - 50188787
notis - ANW1098

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
        Page i
    Table of Contents
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
Full Text
'John J. Haydu
Loretta N. Satterthwaite
John L. Cisar

Economic Information
Report EIR 02-6

An Agronomic and Economic Profile of

Florida's Sod Industry in 2000

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Florida Agricutural Experiment Stations
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Food and Resource Economics Department
Mid-Florida Research and Education Center

July 2002

An Economic and Agronomic Profile of Florida's
Sod Industry in 2000

J.J. Haydu, L.N. Satterthwaite and J.L. Cisar

University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, Apopka, FL
and Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL


Information is presented on production, employment, marketing, and product quality and price as a
result of a survey of the Florida sod industry for the year 2000. Total sod production in Florida
was estimated to be 79,820 acres. Sixty-five percent of Florida sod acreage is St. Augustinegrass,
79 percent of which is Floratam, with Palmetto and Floralawn at 7 percent and 6 percent,
respectively. Bahiagrass comprised 23 percent of sod in production in 2000 and bermudagrass
and centipedegrass were at 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Over two-thirds (70%) of
Florida sod production occurs on sandy soils. The majority of sod production is in south Florida.
Harvested sod accounted for 67 percent of the sod in production and large-sized farms harvested
the highest percentage of their production acres (75%). The in-field value for all varieties totaled
$438 million, while harvested sod was valued at $307 million. Levels of mechanization and
employment remained the same over the last four years for the majority of sod farms. The survey
showed that 97 percent of all producers expect to maintain or increase current sod production,
indicating optimism about future demand.

KEY WORDS: sod production, harvested sod, farm size, mechanization, farm income, farm
expenses, marketing, shipping




ABSTRACT ................ .............................................. i

INTRODUCTION ............................................

METHODOLOGY ........................................................... 2

RESULTS .................................................................. 3
Acres Grown and Harvested ................................................. 3
Sod Prices, Industry Value, Price Determination, and Costs of Production ............. 10
Components of Farm Income ............................................... 14
M marketing ............................................ ...................15
Harvesting and Brokering ............................................... 15
Shipping ............................................................. 17
Sod Quality ........................................................... 19
Employment, Mechanization and Farm Expenses ................................ 20
Firm and Industry Problems ................................................ 22

SUMMARY ......................................

.......... 24

REFERENCES ............................................................. 25


Table 1. Number of respondents to the Sod Survey 2000, the production acreage reported in
each group and expansion factors used to determine 'real' numbers .............. 3
Table 2. Total expanded acres of sod grown in Florida in the year 2000 by farm size (small:
0-499; medium: 500-999; large: 1,000-1,999; very large: >2,000), soil type (sand vs.
muck vs. clay) and grass variety ................................ ....... 5
Table 3. Acres of sod harvested in Florida in 2000, by farm size and grass variety. .......... 7
Table 4. Acres of sod planted and harvested in 2000, by farm size and per farm, and ratio of sod
harvested to sod planted. ............................................... 8
Table 5. St. Augustinegrass production in 2000, presented by farm size and grass varieties. ... 9
Table 6. Sod farm acreage, percent harvested, price per square foot, and unweighted harvest
value in Florida in 2000 by major grass variety. ......................... 10
Table 7. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employment figures for various-sized sod farms in
2000 and changes in employment numbers compared to four years ago .......... 21
Table 8. Changes in mechanization on various-sized sod farms in 2000 compared to four years
earlier. ........................................................... 21
Table 9. Changes in operating expenses of various-sized sod farms in 2000 compared to four
years earlier......................................................... 22


Figure 1. Types of grasses grown in Florida shown as a percent of total production ...... 4
Figure 2. Reported acres of sod production in various regions in Florida in 2000 ........... 6
Figure 3. Top four St. Augustinegrass types grown in Florida in 2000 shown as a percent of
total St. Augustinegrass production. Other includes Raleigh, a mix of other
unspecified grass types, and Delmar in descending order of acres in production .. 9
Figure 4. Percentage of total costs per acre attributable to specific sod growing and selling
activities ........................................................ 12
Figure 5. Sod mower with a 36-foot swath. ..................................... 13
Figure 6. Sod harvester cutting rolls for landscape use. ............................. 13
Figure 7. Considerations made by Florida sod producers when determining the selling price of
sod .............................................................. 14
Figure 8. Partitioning of farm income by Florida sod producers in 2000 ................. 15
Figure 9. Seasonal harvesting pattern of Florida sod in 2000 .......................... 16
Figure 10. Sod pieces stacked on a pallet consisting of 500 square feet. Sod pallet being picked
up to load on a truck. A truck loaded with sod ready for shipping. ............. 17
Figure 11. Distribution of sod sales throughout Florida and the average percent of their total sales
for all growers who sell sod in specific regions ............................. 18
Figure 12. Depiction of how Florida sod was utilized (left) and to whom sod producers sold their
product (right) in 2000 ............................................... 19
Figure 13. Weighted responses of survey participants when asked about the three most important
problems faced by the respondent's business .............................. 23
Figure 14. Weighted responses of survey participants when asked about the three most important
problems facing the sod industry ........................................24

An Economic and Agronomic Profile
of Florida's Sod Industry in 2000
J.J. Haydu', L.N. Satterthwaite2 and J.L. Cisar3

Florida is the fourth most populous state with 15.8 million people in 2000 and has a growth
rate of nearly 2.3 percent annually (2000 Florida Statistical Abstract). Due, in part, to these two
factors, sod has become an increasingly important component of Florida's urban landscapes.
However, the same warm weather that has drawn people to Florida is also both a boon and a bane
to turfgrass management creating ideal conditions for vigorous sod growth, but also providing
an environment conducive to the proliferation of pests and diseases. The affinity homeowners
have for green lawns, combined with the need for high-level maintenance, has resulted in a very
large, robust and economically important turfgrass industry. Results of a comprehensive economic
impact study conducted in 1992 (Hodges et al., 1994) underscored the diversity and magnitude of
the industry. The total turfgrass area used and maintained in Florida in 1992 was about 4 million
acres with 75 percent of this area in the residential (household) sector. Turfgrass industry
employment was 185 thousand full-time and part-time workers or 130 thousand full-time
equivalents. Water used for turfgrass irrigation in the commercial sectors was about 1.8 billion
gallons per day with 58 percent from groundwater sources. Consumers spent $5 billion on
turfgrass maintenance or about $1,200 per acre. Sales of turfgrass products and services by
producers and commercial distributors totaled $6.5 billion with $2.1 billion in cash expenses for
purchased items. Turf-related (non-land) assets in equipment, irrigation installations and buildings
had a book value of $8.6 billion. Value-added to Florida's economy by all sectors of the turfgrass
industry totaled $7.3 billion with golf courses contributing 35 percent, and service vendors and
households contributing 21 percent each.
Market demand is another approach to gauging economic importance. Demand for sod can be
roughly estimated by examining the number of new housing starts. The University of Florida's
Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR, 2001) estimated 108.2 thousand single
family housing starts and 48.9 thousand multi-family housing starts in 2000. Assuming 0.33 acres
per household (which includes both individual lot and "common areas") for single family units,
this figure translates into 35,706 acres of sod required annually for this market. Assuming half the
acreage (0.165) for multi-family housing units (including common areas), this equates to 8,069
acres, for a total of 43,775. An additional 25 percent of sod not included in this calculation is
targeted for other outlets, including golf courses, commercial and non-profit institutions, and the
re-sodding market for existing homes (Figure 12 of this report), making total annual demand in
2000 of 54,719 acres statewide.
In late 2001, another University of Florida survey on sod production and marketing was
completed. The purpose of this study was to provide sod businesses, allied firms, industry
leaders, university researchers and specialists, and state policy makers with current agronomic and

Professor and Extension Economist, and 2 Senior Statistician, respectively, Mid-Florida Research and Education
Center, Apopka, FL, 2725 Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703-8504, tel (407) 884-2034, fax (407) 814-6186,
email jjh@mail.ifas.ufl.edu.
3 Professor, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, tel (954) 475-8990, fax (954) 475-4125, email

economic information on this important agricultural sector. This report begins with a discussion of
the methodology employed in the survey and then examines research findings in the areas of
production, employment, marketing, product quality/price information and perceived firm- and
industry-level problems.
The sample for the 'Florida Sod Production Survey-2000' was constructed from several
sources the Florida Turfgrass Association membership, members of the Florida Sod Growers
Cooperative, the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' Turf Dollars
and Sense newsletter mailing list, the University of Florida's Department of Environmental
Horticulture turfgrass web page, names provided by County Extension Agents around the state, and
a compilation from previous lists of sod survey recipients. The objectives were to develop as
complete and accurate a list as possible and to obtain a statistically representative sample of
Due to the quantity of information requested, mail surveys were the instrument of choice.
Three mailings were conducted, at roughly twelve-week intervals beginning in February 2001.
One hundred thirty four questionnaires were sent in the first mailing; however with numerous
additions and subtractions to the mailing list, the number of actual sod producers was reduced to
125. The most common reasons for elimination from the list were: firms had gone out of business,
addresses were undeliverable (addressee unknown or forwarding order expired), or respondents
did not fit our definition of a sod producer they were plug producers or in a business related to
sod such as distribution, landscape services, or a nursery business that sold sod. A total of 60
completed surveys were eventually returned, representing a 48 percent response rate.
To facilitate comparisons over time, questionnaires were designed to be consistent with three
earlier sod surveys. However, adjustments were made for questions from the previous studies that
had been unclear or provided marginal responses. The questionnaire was divided into four major
sections production, marketing, product quality, and firm and industry problems. The data
from the returned questionnaires were entered into a Quattro Pro spreadsheet for compilation and
Results of the 2001 survey indicate that 60 growers produced approximately 51,000 acres of
sod in 2000 (Table 1). However, since the survey responses did not represent total industry
production, several procedures were used to develop an industry-wide estimate. First, by
comparing returned questionnaires with the population lists, it was determined that all producers
in the largest firm-size category those with more than 2,000 acres of sod were included
within the survey sample. The largest growers are also commonly known by other producers and
state trade associations who further confirmed numbers in this class. With the largest group
accounted for, the remaining 65 producers were assumed to comprise 45 small (69% of 65), 13
medium (20% of 65) and 7 large-sized firms (11% of 65). This assumption was based on the
authors' working knowledge of the industry and the fact that in most agricultural sectors, a small
number of larger producers generally account for the majority of the output. Adding the new farms
to each size category (e.g. small firms: 45 + 33 = 78), then dividing by the number of original
respondents in each farm size, an expansion factor was generated for each farm size group (e.g.
small: 78 + 33 = 2.364; medium: 25 + 12 = 2.083; and large: 15 + 8 = 1.875). These figures were
then used to expand the sample aggregates for all major variables being estimated.

Table 1. Number of respondents to the Sod Survey 2000, the production acreage reported in
each group and expansion factors used to determine 'real' numbers.

Acreage Number of Assumed number Expansion
Farm size (acres) reported respondents of farm size factor
Small (1-499) 7,204 33 78 2.36
Medium (500-999) 7,543 12 25 2.08
Large (1000-1999) 12,182 8 15 1.88
Very large (22000) 24,240 7 7 1.00

Total 51,169 60 125

Acres Grown and Harvested
Information on Florida sod production by grass type is shown graphically in Figure 1. More
detailed information is presented in Table 2 on total sod acreage, farm size, soil type and grass
varieties. Using the appropriate expansion factors, total sod produced in Florida in 2000 was
estimated to be 79,820 acres. Of this total, 65 percent (52,222 acres) was comprised of St.
Augustinegrass, 23 percent (18,078 acres) constituted bahiagrass, bermudagrass represented 6
percent (4,556 acres), while centipedegrass followed at four percent (2,962 acres) and area of
zoysiagrass was 2 percent (1,538 acres). This information suggests that St. Augustinegrass,
although still very important, has lost some ground in the last four years since previous results
indicated that in 1996 St. Augustine accounted for 72 percent of grass types grown (Haydu, et. al.,
1998). Additionally, bahiagrass production more than doubled in the last four years. This
increase in bahiagrass production may be primarily due to the construction of new roads and the
refurbishment of existing roads and highways by Florida's Department of Transportation.
Bahiagrass is useful as a roadside cover because it is highly drought tolerant, requires little
maintenance and, with its deep root system, offers effective erosion control.
A farm size analysis is also presented in Table 2. All farms were grouped into four size
categories based on acres in production and are defined as follows:
Small = 0-499 acres
Medium = 500-999 acres
Large = 1,000-1,999 acres
Very large = 22,000 acres
Firms comprising the two largest farm size categories generated the majority of industry output -
nearly 60 percent of all sod produced. Farms in the largest category comprised 30 percent of the
total with the second largest group constituting 29 percent. Stated differently, the largest 18
percent of firms produced nearly three-fifths of total industry output. Medium-sized growers
contributed another 20 percent and the smallest growers supplied 21 percent of statewide

Figure 1. Types of grasses grown in Florida shown as a percent of
total production.

How has the distribution of grass varieties changed within farm size categories over the past
four years? For the smallest farms, the share of St. Augustinegrass in production rose from 52
percent in 1996 to 65 percent in 2000. Bahiagrass also became more prominent, with its share
increasing from 9 to 15 percent. Bermudagrass declined from 13 to 6 percent, as did centipede by
falling from 24 to 12 percent. Trends for St. Augustinegrass production by medium-sized firms
remained essentially unchanged at roughly 65 percent for both periods. However, production of
bahiagrass grew from zero to 15 percent, while acreage of centipedegrass declined from 15
percent to a 6 percent share, and bermudagrass remained more or less unchanged. Firms in the
large category also experienced changes in the proportions of grass varieties grown. St. Augustine-
grass production fell from 83 percent in 1996 to 59 percent in 2000. Conversely, bahiagrass more
than doubled from 15 to 33 percent. Finally, the share of St. Augustinegrass grown by the largest
producers also declined, from 82 to 73 percent, whereas production of bahiagrass increased to
nearly one-fourth of the total. Other grass varieties for the two largest categories of sod producers
remained virtually unchanged during the four years. In summary, across all firm sizes, the loss of
St. Augustinegrass production was largely replaced by an increase in bahiagrass production, most
likely fueled by a strong demand from Florida's roads and highways.


` _. -? ::__ c .. .. _,:

Table 2. Total expanded acres of sod grown in Florida in the year 2000 by farm size (small:
0-499; medium: 500-999; large: 1,000-1,999; very large: >2,000), soil type (sand vs. muck
vs. clay) and grass variety.

Acres in production
Farm size/
Soil type St. Augustine Bahia Bermuda Centipede Zoysia Other Total Percent
Small 21%
Muck 950 85 0 109 14 0 1,158
Sand 9,884 2,482 960 1,442 300 135 15,203
Clay 184 0 71 414 0 0 669
Subtotal 11,018 2,567 1,031 1,965 314 135 17,030
Medium 20%
Muck 1,631 0 0 0 98 0 1,729
Sand 7,290 2,252 1,714 860 260 179 12,555
Clay 774 7 94 94 3 0 972
Subtotal 10,058 2,262 1,851 997 362 179 15,709
Large 29%
Muck 8,454 373 291 0 142 34 9,294
Sand 5,072 7,116 1,093 0 150 116 13,547
Subtotal 13,526 7,489 1,384 0 292 150 22,841
Very large 30%
Muck 9,580 0 0 0 0 0 9,580
Sand 8,040 5,760 290 0 570 0 14,660
Subtotal 17,620 5,760 290 0 570 0 24,240
Muck 20,615 458 291 109 254 34 21,761 27%
Sand 30,286 17,610 4,057 2,302 1,280 430 55,965 70%
Clay 1,321 10 208 551 4 0 2,094 3%
Total 52,222 18,078 4,556 2,962 1,538 464 79,820
Percent 65.4% 22.6% 5.7% 3.7% 1.9% 0.6%

Sod is grown on either sand (mineral) soils or "muck" (organic) soils. Of the roughly 80
thousand acres, 70 percent was produced on sand with the remainder located on muck (27 percent)
or clay soils (3 percent). Muck soils are typically found in Florida's Everglades Agricultural
Area (EAA) that lies below Lake Okeechobee in the very southern part of the state, and the low-
lying fields surrounding Lake Apopka in the central region. In terms of acreage, the large majority
of small- and medium-sized farms were located on sand soils 89 percent for small farms and 80

Figure 2. Reported acres of sod production in various regions in Florida in 2000.

percent for medium farms. On the other hand, the share of total production on sand or muck for the
larger two farm sizes was more equally distributed with 59 percent of sod grown on sand by large
farms and 60 percent for very large. Placement of sod farms in the state was obtained by asking
survey respondents to note in which of eight map regions, roughly based on telephone area codes
(combined in some instances), their farms were located. Unexpanded acreage located by this
procedure is shown in Figure 2 and suggests that the majority of production is concentrated in
southern Florida.
Acres of sod harvested in 2000 by grass type and farm size are presented in Table 3. The
information in this table sheds light onto three areas firm-level efficiencies in production and
sales, market conditions impacting demand, and the (total) wholesale value of the industry. First,
knowledge of acres harvested is useful for calculating the turnover rate or the relationship between
sod sales and sod inventory (the ratio of harvested to produced acres) for a given year. Production
efficiency is related to two factors, net area stocked per acre (gross area minus areas taken up by
roads, drainage ditches/canals and grass left in ribbons for re-propagation) and the amount sold
relative to the amount produced as influenced by market demand. Strictly from a technical
standpoint, net production area per acre should be relatively constant from year-to-year, except
during extended periods of high rainfall or drought. The former could impair harvesting activities
and the latter could negatively impact both the supply and demand for sod. Second, market
demand also influences quantities harvested in a given year. During periods of strong demand, the
total harvestable area should be harvested and sold. Demand for sod is linked closely with
housing starts, which is impacted by the general condition of the local and regional economies.

Acres of Sod in Production 2000


1,966 "%r-



Acres of Sod
Unexpanded total = 51,080



Table 3. Acres of sod harvested in Florida in 2000, by farm size and grass variety.
Acres Harvested
Farm Size St. Augustine Bahia Bermuda Centipede Zoysia Total
Small 8,551 1,486 580 416 172 11,205
Medium 6,526 1,512 1,539 491 269 10,337
Large 10,373 5,523 954 0 216 17,066
Very large 13,611 950 187 0 417 15,165
Total 39,061 9,471 3,260 907 1,074 53,773
Harvested Percent of Production a 75% 52% 72% 31% 70% 67%
a Total percent of production (67%) is weighted. It was calculated by multiplying the percent of
production harvested for each type of grass by the percent of total production planted in that
particular type of grass [e.g. St. Augustine = .75 of production acreage is harvested x 65.4% of
total production acreage (see Table 2) = 49%] and summing the resultant percentages.

New developments constitute roughly three-quarters of Florida's total sod market (Figure 12).
The supply of sod is the other side of the equation affecting demand and price. The greater the
difference between supply and demand, the higher the potential price and the more incentive
producers have to maximize their turnover rates. In periods of high supply and low demand, the
opposite situation would occur. Recall that the demand for sod in 2000 was estimated at 52,923
acres, based on housing starts and other factors. The supply of sod was estimated to be 53,773
acres, using harvested acres as a proxy (Table 3). Consequently, supply and demand for sod were
fairly closely matched in 2000. Third, because sod must be sold immediately after harvest due to
perishability, acres harvested also represent farm gate sales (producers will not cut their sod
unless a sale has been firmly established) that in turn can be used to estimate the wholesale value
of the industry. This last item is discussed later in this manuscript.
Since sod requires year-round maintenance and care, farmers should strive to maximize
harvested acres to reduce unit costs and increase profitability. For example, an inability to sell
sod that has reached a marketable stage increases expenses through costs imposed by routine
maintenance such as fertilization, weed and pest control, irrigation and mowing. This is
particularly true for St. Augustinegrass, which is susceptible to root decline (Turgeon, 1985). This
root "die-back" adversely affects the visual quality of St. Augustinegrass and, therefore, the grass
is generally not sold until new root growth begins in the spring, implying a 3- to 4-month dormancy
period. Consequently, sound management practices would encourage a timely and thorough
harvesting of mature sod fields to avoid unnecessary maintenance costs.
In this study, 67 percent of all sod grown was harvested; however, the percentage of each grass
type harvested varied widely. Centipedegrass was harvested at the lowest rate, 31 percent of
production, while bahiagrass was harvested at 52 percent of production, probably due to the very
dry year for Florida. All farms tend to focus on St. Augustinegrass, which has the highest harvest
rate (75%) and ranges from 90 percent of total production for very large farms to 61 percent of
total production for large farms. Zoysiagrass while only 2 percent of production is
harvested at 70 percent of production acreage and all sizes of farms maintain and harvest it.
Perhaps this is because it remains the highest priced grass grown in Florida.

Harvest ratios (Table 4) for various sized farms had a marginally wider spread (63%-75%)
than they did four years ago (69%-75%). From conversations with industry leaders, a 75 percent
harvest rate is considered reasonable from an efficiency standpoint. Only large-sized farms were
able to achieve a 75 percent harvest ratio in 2000. Very large farms moved from 75 percent in
1996 to the lowest harvest ratio (63%) in 2000. One may speculate that, once again, the drought
conditions in Florida contributed to these lower harvest ratios; the survey did not address reasons
for less harvesting, but several respondents made comments about the drought as a reason for
fewer acres harvested in 2000 compared to 1996.
St. Augustinegrass is the most widely used grass in Florida and, consequently, the most
economically important for the industry. A varietal breakdown of St. Augustinegrass is presented
as a pie chart in Figure 3. Floratam was the most dominant variety produced in 2000, comprising
79 percent (41,419 acres) of total St. Augustinegrass production. Far down the scale, Palmetto
was the second most popular variety representing just 7 percent (3,635), followed by Floralawn
with 6 percent (3,061 acres) and Bitterblue with 3 percent (1,701 acres). The remaining St.
Augustinegrass varieties Raleigh, other, and Delmar comprised 5 percent, with Raleigh
being the only named variety accounting for over 1 percent of the total, as shown in Table 5.

Table 4. Acres of sod planted and harvested in 2000, by farm size and per farm, and ratio of sod
harvested to sod planted.
Acres planted in 2000 Acres harvested in 2000
Acres harvested/
Farm size Total Per farm Total Per farm Acres planted
Small 17,030 218 11,205 144 66%
Medium 15,709 628 10,337 413 66%
Large 22,841 1,523 17,066 1,138 75%
Very large 24,240 3,463 15,165 2,166 63%
Average 639 430 67%

An interesting question is why Floratam continues to hold such a commanding grip on the
market? Are other varieties that much inferior? In a recent market study of sod buyers (develop-
ers, landscape firms, sod layers and retail nurseries unpublished data), respondents stated that
although many of the other grasses were good varieties, replacing a "tried and true" product that
was considered to be an industry standard was unlikely to occur. This reluctance stems from the
high initial investment absorbed by the buyer (purchase and installation cost) in addition to
numerous risks associated with the landscaping business. For instance, in a new housing
development project, landscaping is the final activity in a long list of tasks obtaining permits,
site preparation, installing water and sewer, constructing roads and building the homes. After all
this is completed, the landscape operation can begin, which involves land preparation, installing
irrigation and drainage systems, and establishing landscape plant material. At the very end, sod
installation occurs. Given all these activities, it is not hard to understand that cost over-runs and
delays are common. From a producer's viewpoint, this can make planning extremely difficult and
increase the risks associated with switching to other varieties that do not have a proven record.

Figure 3. Top four St. Augustinegrass types grown in Florida in 2000 -
shown as a percent of total St. Augustinegrass production. Other
includes Raleigh, a mix of other unspecified grass types, and
Delmar in descending order of acres in production.

Table 5. St. Augustinegrass production in 2000, presented by farm size and grass varieties.

St. Augustinegrass acres in production
Farm size Bitterblue Delmar Floralawn Floratam Palmetto Raleigh Other
Small 163 236 91 9,482 554 240 252
Medium 399 0 469 7,356 745 1037 55
Large 785 0 2,501 9,194 830 0 215
Very large 354 0 0 15,387 1,506 0 373
Total 1,701 236 3,061 41,419 3,635 1,277 895

S6% i


Sod Prices, Industry Value, Price Determination, and Costs of Production
Sod Prices. Farm gate sod prices received by producers in 2000 are shown in Table 6.
Prices ranged from a low 5.8 a square foot for bahiagrass to a high of 24.90 a square foot for
zoysiagrass. The price of St. Augustinegrass was in the middle of this range at 14.60 per square

Table 6. Sod farm acreage, percent harvested, price per square foot, and unweighted harvest
value in Florida in 2000 by major grass variety.

Total acres in Percent of production Average Harvest value
Turfgrass varieties production acres harvested price/ft2 $ millions
St. Augustine 52,222 75% $0.146 $249.1
Bahia 18,078 52% $0.058 $23.8
Centipede 2,962 31% $0.160 $6.4
Bermuda 4,556 72% $0.114 $16.3
Zoysia 1,538 70% $0.249 $11.7
Total 79,356 $307.2
a Harvest value, assumes percent of gross production acres sold based on results of this study,
calculated as {(production acres x percent area harvested) x (43,560 ft2 x price/ft2)}.

Industry Value. Prices were used to calculate the value of the sod industry in 2000. Harvest
value, the quantities actually sold in 2000, were estimated at $307 million. This value places sod
well within the top-ten agricultural commodities in Florida. Eighty-one percent of harvest value
was attributable to St. Augustinegrass ($249 million), the same share as in 1996. However, since
1996 bahiagrass ($24 million) has replaced bermudagrass as the second most valuable sod
commodity, and zoysiagrass ($12 million), with four percent of the market has moved into fourth
place in front of centipedegrass ($6 million), which holds only a two percent share of the market.
Price Determination. Given the price differentials across varieties, one might expect
producers to concentrate on the highest-priced grasses as seems to be the case with zoysiagrass
and its advance in market share. However, why produce so little zoysiagrass when its unit value
exceeds St. Augustinegrass by nearly 70 percent? One answer has to do with supply and demand,
and potential market share. From the demand side of the equation, St. Augustinegrass has been the
preferred grass for home lawns, which constitute 75 percent of all turfgrass used in Florida
(Figure 12; Hodges et al., 1994). St. Augustinegrass, and particularly Floratam, has dominated the
market because it provides value to consumers in terms of desirable product attributes. Some
useful attributes of a good turfgrass include visual attractiveness, good recuperative potential, a
certain degree of utility conserving the soil, allowing infiltration of water and filtering of
pollutants and easy maintenance. Regarding the latter, an ideal turfgrass would: entail little
mowing and not be hard on equipment, require minimal irrigation and fertilization, be resistant to

pests and diseases, not be too invasive, and be tolerant to cold and heat stresses. Although St.
Augustinegrass is not a perfect variety, it has provided these features more consistently over time
than other grasses, hence it has succeeded in preserving its "market share". Producers will
naturally be drawn to the grass that is easiest to sell while still providing a reasonable and steady
On the supply side of the equation, yield, costs and profitability are the critical variables.
Grass varieties differ in yields, but yield effects on profitability can be offset by other factors. The
interval of sod production is from harvest-to-harvest. A fast-growing grass such as bermudagrass
has high variable costs due to the extensive use of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, mowing, etc.) over
a short time frame. At least two harvests of common bermudagrass are achievable within a year,
as opposed to one for St. Augustinegrass. The interval of sod production also affects fixed costs
(e.g., land, buildings, and overhead or administrative costs). Generally speaking, shorter
production periods imply greater yields per unit time, implying further that fixed costs on a yield
basis (square feet or yards) will be reduced. Exceptional species, such as zoysiagrass, that
generally require more intensive management zoysiagrass is more susceptible to pest and
disease problems than St. Augustinegrass over long production intervals (typically 1.5 years or
more), will generally be more expensive to produce. Hence, price is only one aspect regarding the
economic feasibility of sod production. Pest and disease susceptibility also make it less desirable
for homeowners who prefer low-maintenance grasses.
Earlier it was noted that the supply of sod (relative to demand) also impacts prices. An under-
supply of sod (relative to demand) would imply higher prices while an over-supply would suggest
lower prices. Although this research did not explicitly attempt to determine the relationship
between supply and demand for Florida sod in 2000, rough estimates can be obtained. Recall in
the introduction that the University of Florida's BEBR ascertained that there were 157.1 thousand
single and multi-family housing starts in 2000. From this, it was estimated that 43,775 acres of
sod would be needed to serve this market. An additional 25 percent of sod from other market
outlets, such as golf courses, commercial and non-profit institutions, and the re-sodding market for
existing homes (Figure 12 of this report), brought total annual demand in 2000 to 54,719 acres
The supply of sod can be estimated using harvested acres as a close approximation. From
Table 3, this figure was determined to be 53,773 acres. Comparing this figure with demand, it is
apparent that both supply and demand were matched quite closely in 2000. When supply and
demand are equal, economic theory suggests that an "equilibrium point" has been reached.
Equilibrium is a situation in which supply and demand are in balance. At an equilibrium price, the
quantity demanded by individuals is exactly equal to that which is supplied by all firms (Nichol-
son, 1985). However, at the time of this writing (early May 2002), market prices for most
varieties have fallen modestly from their high in 2000, indicating that supply may currently be
exceeding demand.
This observation is supported by the survey when respondents were asked to comment on
future production levels. Over half (50%) of all producers expect to increase sod acreage, 47
percent indicated they would maintain current levels of production, and the remaining 3 percent
said they would reduce their acreage. The intention of so many producers to increase production
levels indicates they are still optimistic about future demand. Although the price of St.
Augustinegrass increased only from 13 /ft2 in 1996 to 15/ft2 in 2000, this followed a steady rise
from 80 in 1992. All other major grass varieties have also seen a price increase from 1996 to

2000 zoysiagrass increased from 180 to 250; centipedegrass increased from 100 to 16; and
bahiagrass also rose 10 from 4 years ago (from 50 to 6) with the exception ofbermudagrass.
Bermudagrass, whose price increased by one-third from 9z to 12 from 1992 to 1996, remained
about the same with an average price of 11 in 2000. Interestingly, mediums-sized farms, which
produced the most bermudagrass (40% of total) in 2000, had the lowest average price for it while
all other farm sizes charged above the average price per square foot.
Costs of Growing and Selling Sod. A newly included section of the survey attempted to better
understand costs of being in the sod business, without asking producers to spend extensive time
reviewing financial records. In order to do so, respondents were asked to estimate the percentage
of total costs per acre that are attributable to various growing- and marketing-related activities
(Figure 4). Principal costs associated with these activities include materials, labor and equip-
ment. Growth activities accounted for 65 percent of total costs and include land preparation (11
percent), fumigation (5 percent), planting (10 percent) and production (39 percent). Production
activities are the largest share because they represent on-going work that begins after planting and
continues until harvest, a period of 6-12 months, depending on the grass variety. Principal tasks
would consist of fertilization, pest and weed control, mowing (Figure 5) and irrigation.

10% Fumigation

Land prep
Production 11%



Figure 4. Percentage of total costs per acre attributable to
specific sod growing and selling activities (initial site
preparation such as stump removal, ditch construction,
pump installation, etc. are not included).

W ..*.

Figure 5. Sod mower with a 36- F 6
foot swath. Figure 6. Sod harvester cutting
rolls for landscape use.

As defined in this report, marketing activities accounted for the remaining 35 percent and
include harvesting, sales/marketing, and freight. At nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of total
expenses, harvesting comprised two-thirds of the "after-growth" costs. Harvesting involves the
use of expensive equipment (Figure 6) and considerable labor and does not occur until the sale has
been made. Sales and marketing also included collections of accounts receivables and averaged 7
percent of total costs; freight constituted the remaining 5 percent.
Finally, producers were asked how they determine the price they charge for their product
(Figure 7). They were given 3 choices plus an open-ended "other" category and asked to rank
each selection in order of importance. A first-choice ranking was given four points, second place
ranking received three points, third place was two points and fourth choice was scored as one
point; then total number of points for each choice by all respondents was added to determine the
'weight' assigned to that choice. Interestingly, the majority of producers (48%) indicated the
"selling price of other producers" as the principal pricing method (total weight ranking of 185).
"Cost of production" was ranked first by 37 percent of producers (weighted at 148); "quality of
my sod" was classified first by 17 percent of growers (weighted at 144), and the "current market
situation/demand" was written in as the most important pricing strategy by 10 percent of the
respondents. Second, third and fourth round rankings are also shown in the stacked bar. Given
these results, it is apparent that sod producers use several inter-related methods to arrive at prices
for their product.



Z 10

. i I I
Cost of production Other
Selling price of 'others' Quality of my sod
Considerations when determining prices

Figure 7. Considerations made by Florida sod producers when
determining the selling price of sod.

Components of Farm Income
Although most (74%) income was generated by sod sales, the same percentage as growers
responding in the 1996 survey, and 47 percent of respondents claimed it as their sole source of
income, roughly one-fourth of earned income was from related or alternative agricultural business
activities (Figure 8). Food production (cattle, citrus, dairy and vegetables) was the most important
(14%) income alternative, a significant increase from five percent in 1996. Sod-related services
accounted for nine percent of income, a drop from 18 percent in 1996. These activities included
shipping (3%), landscape contract services (4%), and other miscellaneous services such as
installation and plug/sprig activities (3%). Ornamentals production declined from three percent in
1996 to one percent of income in 2000, while an "others" category that included land leasing and
sales of silage feed, pine straw and eggs remained the same at just over 1 percent.


Ornamentals production
S 1% !

Sod production

Sod-related services
9% 1

Figure 8. Partitioning of farm income by Florida sod producers in 2000.
(Data not weighted by farm size.)

Marketing Harvesting and Brokering
Just-in-time harvesting of Florida's sod coincides with the high growth periods, which also
facilitates sod reestablishment in the landscape. Still, compared to more northern states, the
harvesting pattern for Florida sod is rather uniform throughout the year. Twenty-nine percent of
the harvest occurs during the March to May period, 26 percent takes place from June to August, 25
percent is harvested September through November and from December to February, Florida's
drier winter season, 20 percent is harvested (Figure 9). This pattern is consistent with that of the
building construction industry, which experiences peak activity during the spring-through-summer
interval. As noted earlier, the bulk of sod is used for landscaping new developments, including
residential homes, business offices and government facilities.

Figure 9. Seasonal harvesting pattern of Florida sod in 2000.

Most Florida sod producers (80%) still choose to harvest their own sod rather than contracting
to outside firms, although the percentage dropped from 89 percent four years ago. Nearly all sod
(84%) is strip cut as it was in 1996, while the remainder (generally bahiagrass and bermudagrass)
is clear cut. With strip-cut sod, harvesting machines remove sections that are roughly 16-inches
wide, ideally leaving only a two-inch ribbon of grass between them for reestablishment from
stolons. Efficient producers try to remove only /4 to V2 inch of root zone when cutting sod since
thinner pieces are easier to handle, less expensive to transport, and tend to knit-in (produce a
thatch) quicker than thicker cut sod (McCarty and Cisar, 1989). Removing only the amount of root
zone needed for survival of the sod also leaves the producer's field in better shape by reducing
topsoil loss. Bermudagrass producers often clear-cut a field because it reestablishes from
rhizomes as well as from stolons. According to survey respondents, they harvested approximately
76 percent of each acre of St. Augustinegrass, 84 percent of each acre of bermudagrass and 75
percent of each acre of centipedegrass, leaving the remaining sod for regeneration of later crops.
This percentage, an average of 78 percent, remains consistent with findings in 1996.
To generate additional income or satisfy demand when their own production is inadequate,
some producers brokered sod. Traditionally brokers do not purchase the inventory, nor do they get
involved in financing or assume risk. The chief function of a broker is simply to bring buyers and
sellers together and to assist in negotiation. One-fifth (20%) of all producers indicated they
brokered some sod. The average quantity brokered in 2000 was 3.9 million square feet, over 2.5
times the average brokered in 1996, with a value of $248 thousand.

Marketing Shipping
Seventy percent of harvested sod is machine-stacked as opposed to hand-stacked. However,
some of the largest producers prefer to use large teams of manual labor for stacking sod. Their
reasoning is that, for large-scale operations, current farm equipment is not cost-effective large
labor teams can stack and move sod more quickly than most automatic harvesters (Cisar and
Haydu, 1991). In addition, labor often offers more working flexibility. Since many workers are
seasonal, the farm does not incur so high an annualized cost of production as it does with automatic
harvesters. Purchased machinery becomes part of a firm's fixed costs; thus, even when the
equipment is not in use, the owner is still paying for it. On the other hand, growers can employ
seasonal labor, as a variable cost of production, only when needed.
Once sod is cut and stacked, nearly 100 percent of it is shipped to its destination within 2 days.
This is due to the highly perishable nature of cut-sod. The vulnerability of sod may also explain
the relatively high incidence of truck ownership forty-four percent of respondents indicated that
they own their own transportation equipment. Regardless of the fact that roughly half of the
respondents own transportation equipment, nearly half of those responding indicated that obtaining
trucks for sod delivery at the time they were needed was sometimes a problem. Although the
information was not requested in the survey, scheduling difficulties would likely arise during the
peak selling months of spring and summer when transport demand is high for other agricultural
products as well.

Figure 10. Sod pieces stacked on a pallet consisting of 500 square feet. Sod pallet being picked
up to load on a truck. A truck loaded with sod ready for shipping. (Left to right)

Distance to markets is a critical factor for producers to consider. Sod is a heavy, bulky item
that requires prompt attention. These factors greatly impact the potential risk to both buyer and
seller. The more distant the markets, the more expensive sod is to ship and the greater the
potential for post-harvest losses. Consequently, producers located close to key markets have a
clear strategic advantage over producers located farther away. Survey respondents reported that
55 percent of their markets are within 50 miles and another 31 percent of the markets are between
50 and 100 miles away. In other words, most growers were positioned only a few hours from the
majority of their markets. Eighty percent of the growers also reported that.their markets were
staying approximately the same distance away from them. Nearly three-quarters of the remaining
growers' markets were moving closer and the other growers' markets were moving farther away.
Figure 11 depicts sod sales in Florida and clearly reflects the development 'hot spots' in the state.
The figure also highlights the in-state nature of the sod market in Florida since only 3 percent of
sales were reported as being shipped out of Florida.

Figure 11. Distribution of sod sales throughout Florida and the average percent of
their total sales for all growers who sell sod in specific regions.

New developments accounted for three-quarters (75%) of Florida's sod sales in 2000 and
:I other 21 percent of sales were for re-sodding existing developments, demonstrating the principal
linkage between Florida's population growth and the turfgrass industry (Figure 12). The distribu-
tion of buyers is also presented in Figure 12. Ten percent of sales were made to homeowners, 56
percent to landscape contractors and 17 percent were made to brokers/wholesalers. Golf courses,
retail garden centers and others (listed as Florida's Department of Transportation, building
contractors, used by self, sold to individuals or sold on site and information unavailable) each
purchased about 6 percent of the sod sold. In 1996, most growers (78%) were optimistic about
future conditions and believed that the market for sod in their area would continue to expand.
Indeed, in 2000 fifty-two percent of growers responded that there had been an increased market for
sod in their area since 1996 and 44 percent anticipated that the market in their area would continue
to increase. Forty-one percent of growers expressed that the market had stayed the same in their
area since 1996 and 30 percent felt that it would continue to remain about the same. Although only
four percent felt that there had been a decline in the sod market in their area in the last four years,
26 percent expected the market to decrease in their area in the next three years.

Average %
of their
total sales
of growers
Region % of all selling in
code Florida sales the area

850 13 49
904 8 25
352 14 34
407 20 39
813 13 35
863 7 18
941 15 49
561,954,305 6 29
out of state 3 16

Other Re-sodding
5% 21%

New development Sod Buyers
Homeowners Broker
Sod Uses
Sod Uses Garden center

i/ Landscape
56% j

Figure 12. Depiction of how Florida sod was utilized (left) and to whom sod
producers sold their product (right) in 2000.

Sod Quality
Although turfgrass quality is difficult to measure, Beard (1973) states that characteristics of
high quality turfgrass have been established over the years. The six basic components of turfgrass
quality he identifies are: uniformity, density, texture, growth habit, smoothness and color. Beard
notes that the relative importance of these features will vary according to the purpose for which the
turf is to be used.
In a more general sense, turfgrass quality can be affected at any one (or all) of five major
stages turfgrass breeding, which determines the inherent physical characteristics of the variety;
production and cultural practices employed by the grower; harvesting and stacking; shipping and
unloading; and after the buyer receives it. In this study, we were interested in factors other than
physical properties. In particular, from the producer's perspective, was quality compromised at
some point on the farm, or after the product was sold and delivered? Additionally, if damage did
occur prior to receipt by the buyer, at what stages) did it take place (during production, during
harvesting and stacking, or during shipping and unloading)?
Although no aspect of the sod production/sales cycle is without potential quality-reducing
damage, in 1996 growers believed that half of the damage occurred to sod after the buyer received

it, leaving an opportunity for the growers/shippers to improve sod quality for about half the
damaged product. In 2000, growers responded that 45 percent of the damage to sod occurred after
the buyer received it and that one-quarter of the damage (25%) occurred in the field compared to
19 percent in-field damage in 1996. This increase in the in-the-field damage may reflect the
production problems related to very drought conditions experienced in much of Florida in 2000.
Damage occurring previous to the buyer's receiving it through harvesting and stacking decreased
from that in 1996 (from 19% to 14%) and shipping and unloading damage increased in 2000 to 16
percent compared to 12 percent in 1996. These results indicate that both producers and consumers
are responsible for reducing turf quality. But more importantly, it suggests that because growers
(by their own admission) cause more than half of all damage to the turfgrass they sell, significant
room for improvement still exists. Astute growers can distinguish themselves in a competitive
market by addressing some of these quality-compromising issues.

Employment, Mechanization and Farm Expenses
As farms become larger in response to increasing pressures to reduce production costs,
agriculture continues to shift towards greater mechanization. This is due to the fact that labor in
agriculture normally accounts for a significant share of total cash expenses. This share can vary
from 15 to 30 percent, depending on the size of firm and type of commodity being produced
(USDA/ERS, 1997). Mechanical devices in agriculture are generally designed for specific
functions and for specific crops. For example, wheat harvesters cannot be used for corn and
tomato harvesters cannot be used for cotton. Additionally, this specialized equipment is also very
expensive. To reduce capital costs per unit of output, large-scale farms emphasize monocultural
production systems that can efficiently use this specialized equipment.
Labor tends to be much more versatile than machinery and is used for more complex tasks.
Hence, labor use per acre will be significantly less for a large wheat farm than for a smaller farm
producing small amounts of diversified products. Since it is a monocultural crop, one would
anticipate that there would be a significant substitution of capital for labor in sod production.
Interestingly, this is not the case. Results of this study indicate that labor remains a critical
resource in Florida's sod production industry. When asked whether labor use had changed in the
past four years, 29 percent reported that the number of people they employ had increased, while
the number of employees had remained the same for 60 percent of respondents, and 11 percent said
that labor use had decreased (Table 7).
Unlike fruit and vegetable producers who employ large numbers of seasonal workers, sod
farms have year-round production and maintenance activities and rely on permanent labor.
Seventy-eight percent of the 2,410 employees on Florida's sod farms were full-time in 2000 with
an average of 20 persons per farm (Hodges and Haydu, 2002). Eighty-three part-time workers
were employed by 16 of the 60 reporting firms, an average of 5.19 part-timers for each firm with
part-time help. However, seventeen firms, almost triple the number of firms in 1996, reported the
use of seasonal labor. This seasonal labor totaled 250 people, nearly an eleven-fold increase
since the last study. In terms of farm size, the use of permanent labor ranged from a low of 8.0
persons for small farms to a high of 67 employees for the very largest farms. The largest
producers were also the only group to indicate they did not employ any part-time help, although
they did hire some seasonal employees, which they did not do four years earlier.

Table 7. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employment figures for various-sized sod farms in
2000 and changes in employment numbers compared to four years ago.
Average number of workers employed Change from 4 years ago
Farm size Full-time Part-time Seasonal Increase No change Decrease
Small 8.0 1.8 5.2 23% 63% 13%
Medium 20.8 1.8 0.9 30% 60% 10%
Large 28.4 0.2 2.0 38% 50% 13%
Very Large 66.7 0.0 7.4 43% 57% 0%
Average 20.1 1.4 4.2 29% 60% 11%

To obtain a more complete picture of the substitution of capital for labor, a question was asked
whether the level of mechanization had changed over the past four years. One-third of all surveyed
firms indicated their farms were more mechanized now, while the remaining two-thirds stated that
the level of mechanization had not changed (Table 8). There appears to be little difference
attributable directly to farm size, based on the variability that exists across size classes. However,
four years ago the medium-sized farms reported the smallest increase in mechanization and this
time 50 percent of them reported the use of more mechanization. No respondent reported a
decrease in mechanization in 2000.
Changes in operating expenses were also examined (Table 9). Nearly all producers (87%)
affirmed that costs had grown over the past four years with an average increase of21 percent,
about 5 percent annually. In 1996, 90 percent of growers said that costs had increased; the
average increase at that time was also 21 percent for a five-year period, or a little more than 4
percent annually. In 2000, the largest cost increases were reported for the medium-sized farm
group at 50 percent or 12.5 percent annually. The smallest change in 2000, as in 1996,
occurred with the largest farms which experienced a 13 percent rise in the past four years. Five
percent of all farms reported a cost decrease with the average amount being 13 percent over four

Table 8. Changes in mechanization on various-sized sod farms in 2000 compared to four years

Mechanization on farm since 4 yrs. ago
Farm size Increased No change Decreased
Small 28% 72% 0%
Medium 50% 50% 0%
Large 14% 86% 0%
Very Large 43% 57% 0%
Average 33% 67% 0%

Table 9. Changes in operating expenses of various-sized sod farms in 2000 compared to four
years earlier.
Operating expense change from 4 yrs. ago
Percent of Average Percent of Percent of Average
growers with amount of growers with growers with amount of
Farm size cost increase cost increase no cost change cost decrease cost decrease
Small 87% 22% 7% 7% 10%
Medium 80% 50% 10% 10% 15%
Large 100% 16% 0% 0% n.a.
Very Large 86% 13% 14% 0% n.a.
Average 87% 21% 7% 5% 13%

Firm and Industry Problems
In this last section of the survey, producers were asked to identify the three most serious
problems they face from an individual business standpoint, as well as the three most challenging
problems from an industry standpoint. Results were then grouped into categories that were
representative of the types of answers. Five broad areas affecting individual businesses were
identified as financial, production-related, regulatory, personnel and marketing (Figure 13). Of
these five, clearly the most prominent (a weight of 110) related to financial concerns such as fuel
and insurance costs, excessive labor costs, prohibitive equipment costs, fly-by-night competition
and taxes. This was also the primary concern regarding individual businesses of growers four
years ago. Production considerations were second (weight of 64) followed closely by marketing
and economic concerns (weight of 62). Typical production issues were weeds, mole crickets and
insects, weather and maintenance of sod in the field. Marketing or economic concerns jumped
significantly from fifth-ranked four years ago to nearly tied for second place in 2000. Some
marketing or economic problems listed were distribution/delivery problems, availability of
product, answering questions and educating the public and government, and reliable service such
as on-time delivery and loading of delivery trucks when they arrive. With a weight of 53,
personnel-related issues were ranked fourth. These involved problems like deficient production
skills of workers and their inability to hire enough employees with a legal status. Regulatory type
concerns, ranked last with a weight of 33, falling markedly from its "tied-for-second" position four
years ago. Regulatory issues included the loss of methyl bromide, water restrictions at the
receiving end and dealing with government agencies.

Figure 13. Weighted responses of survey participants when asked about the
three most important problems faced by the respondent's business.
Most important problem counted as 3 points, second most
important problem was weighted as 2 points and the third most
important problem was given 1 point.

The five categories identified for firms are the same as the industry because of the inter-related
nature of the issues; however, their rankings differ from those of individual business concerns
(Figure 14). Surprisingly, although individual business concerns changed positions in the ranking
from four years ago, industry concerns maintained almost the same ranks with regulatory moving
into a first-place tie with production issues. The weights did change however and rankings were
much closer for the top three areas of concern. Following production and regulatory concerns
(weighted at 69 each) were financial (very close with a weight of 67), marketing (weighted at 51)
and personnel problems (weighted at 25). A few industry-related issues not expressed from the
firm perspective included the taxing of the aquifer, the quality of sod, and the need for a drought-
resistant grass from a production standpoint. Regulatory concerns included water issues, and
financial concerns mentioned included vagabond buyers running up credit. Marketing concerns at
the industry level included the strength of the economy while personnel issues at the industry level
included labor availability.

E) Production
E Marketing

O Personnel

0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Total Points Accumulated


Figure 14. Weighted responses of survey participants when asked about the
three most important problems facing the sod industry. Most
important problem counted as 3 points, second most important
problem was weighted as 2 points and the third most important
problem was given 1 point.

Roughly 125 producers comprised Florida's sod production industry in 2000 producing an
estimated 80,000 acres of sod and harvesting nearly 54,000. This figure is fairly consistent with
demand for sod that was determined to be in the neighborhood of 55,000 acres. Of the total
quantity produced, 70 percent was grown on sand-based soils while 27 percent was produced on
muck soils, particularly around Lake Okeechobee. St. Augustinegrass accounted for 65 percent of
total production, followed by bahiagrass (23 percent), bermudagrass (6 percent), centipedegrass
(4 percent) and a nearly insignificant amount of zoysiagrass (2%). In terms of St. Augustinegrass,
Floratam dominated all grass varieties.
Florida sod producers harvested and sold the majority of the grass grown, varying from a low
of 31 percent for centipedegrass to a high of 75 percent for St. Augustinegrass. Sod prices
received were consistently strong, ranging from nearly 6 cents per square foot for bahiagrass to 25
cents for zoysiagrass with St. Augustinegrass holding the middle ground at almost 15 cents per
square foot. Using these prices in conjunction with harvest figures, the study estimated the farm
gate value of sod at just over $300 million in 2000, maintaining its place as a major agricultural
commodity in Florida.

3 Regulatory

M Financial -

O Marketing

Personnel I1C

0 25 50 75
Total Points Accumulated

_ _

Although sod utilizes numerous market outlets, most (75 percent) was sold to the new housing
market, 21 percent was targeted for re-establishing existing home lawns, and the remaining went
for "other uses". To handle all the various tasks related to the production and selling of sod, the
industry uses substantial labor. The average sod farm employed nearly 20 full-time, one part-time
and four seasonal workers. This number represented an employment increase for 29 percent of the
farms compared to four years ago and "no change" for 60 percent of the farms.
Finally, producers identified several problems that affected business performance. The most
significant problems for individual businesses were financial-related issues such as fuel and
insurance costs, dishonest businesses and excessive labor costs. An ability to acquire adequate
"legalized" labor was also cited as a difficulty. Problems facing the industry as a whole were
perceived to be production-related (quality of sod and the need for a drought- resistant sod) and
regulatory-related (mainly water issues), followed closely by financial issues (such as vagabond
buyers running up credit).

Beard, James B. 1973. Turfgrass Science and Culture, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs,
Bureau of Economic and Business Research. 2001. 2000 Florida StatisticalAbstract, Thirtieth
Edition. Susan S. Floyd, Ed. University of Florida.
Cisar, J.L. and J.J. Haydu. 1991. Adjustments in market channels and labor in the Florida sod
industry. Journal ofAgribusiness 9(2): 33-40.
Haydu, J.J. and J.L. Cisar. 1992. An economic and agronomic profile of Florida's turfgrass sod
industry. Economics Report ER92-1, Food & Res. Econ. Dept, IFAS, UF.
Haydu, J.J., L. N. Satterthwaite and J.L. Cisar. 1998. An economic and agronomic profile of
Florida's sod industry in 1996. Economic Information Report El 98-7, Food & Res. Econ.
Dept, IFAS, UF.
Hodges, A.W. and J.J. Haydu. 2002. Economic impacts of the Florida environmental horticulture
industry, 2000. Economic Information Report El 02-3, Food & Res. Econ. Dept, IFAS, UF.
Hodges, A.W., J.J. Haydu, P.J. van Blokland, and A.P. Bell. 1994. Contribution of the turfgrass
industry to Florida's economy, 1991-92: A value-added approach. Economics Report ER
94-1, Food & Res. Econ. Dept. IFAS, UF.
McCarty and J.L. Cisar. 1989. Basic Guidelines for Sod Production in Florida. Florida Coop.
Ext. Serv., Bulletin 260, IFAS, UF.
Nicholson, Walter. 1985. Microeconomic Theory: Basic Principles and Extensions. Third
Edition, The Dryden Press, Chicago, IL.
Turgeon, A. J. 1985. Turfgrass Management. Reston Publishing Co., Reston VA.
USDA/ERS. 1997. Financial Performance of U.S. Commercial Farms, 1991-94. Agricultural
Economic Report Number 751.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs