The turfgrass industry is a huge one. In the United States alone, its output impacts reach over $74 billion dollars! Majority of that goes into the golf course sector, followed by lawn. Turfgrass is also responsible for keeping over one million people employed, whether it be on a sod farm, in a lawn & garden store, or as a provider of lawn maintenance services. Most of those employees work in the lawn services sector. The industry is overall, a pretty safe one to enter. It usually remains fairly stable because there is always a demand for sod. The turfgrass industry is comprised of several different actors:
  • sod & seed producers
  • manufacturers & wholesalers
  • retailers & other intermediaries
  • and of course the consumer.
When it comes to consumers, there are four major categories:
  1. golf courses & athletic fields
  2. commercial & institutional
  3. non-profit
  4. households

The turfgrass industry wouldn’t be sucha commodity if it weren’t for golf courses. The sport is responsible for majority of the money that goes into the industry thanks to states like Florida, California, and of course, Texas.

Lawn Care
Lawn care also provides a substantial portion of the business that goes into turfgrass. There are a number of jobs that one can have in this industry ranging all the way from the owner of a lawn care or maintenance business to one of the technicians that actually performs the work. California, by far, provides the most jobs in this growing industry. Landscape design is also another option, which also happens to be the largest value added industry. With the implementation of more technology, jobs are being created that deal with using computers to enhance landscape design. Other jobs in the landscape design sector include horticulturist, arborist, or even a brick mason.

When it comes to equipment to take care of and manage turfgrass, Wisconsin is a leader, followed closely by Tennessee and South Carolina. If you noticed a trend in the states, it would be that they are all located in the general Midwest area. This is true because of the location of car manufacturers. There is a high density of engineers and mechanics in that area that are familiar with motors, so it makes sense for them to transfer their knowledge from cars to mowers.

Sod is considered living ground cover that can be harvested. And it’s a huge part of the turfgrass industry. Through recent years, the number of turgrass farms in the United States has been although the total acreage has been increasing. Total turfrass farms have decreased by of 11% but there has been a 6% increase in farm acres. This just means that farms are becoming more consolidated, or there are a few big farms instead of lots of small ones. Florida is, by far, the state that produces the largest amount of turf. Value-added for sod production remains fairly low across the board.

Sod sales and construction of new homes tend to follow the same patterns. When someone builds a brand new home, they typically want a yard to appear over night to complete it. What is the answer? Sod! That’s why the industries reflect each other so much. If there aren’t many new homes that need lawns, there won’t be near as much sod sold.

Texas is obviously of particular interest to us, because it’s where we live and work. The total revenue in 2009 was over $7 billion dollars with the vast majority of that being contributed to single-family households. Texas is also home to over two million acres of turfgrass. 78% of turf labor expenditures are from mowing.

There are a number of challenges facing the turfgrass industry. Water conservation is a battle that it constantly faces along with the development of more drought tolerant species. Nitrate pollution is also a concern. Another challenge is that the average consumer is looking for a low maintenance turfgrass, which is difficult to develop. And the ones that tend to be lower maintenance are often expensive so they average consumer is not able to purchase them. In regards to labor, a challenge exists because of the low pay scale associated with the industry. It’s hard to find people qualified for the skill levels needed for fertilized application, irrigation practices, and mowing equipment that are willing to work for the wages. Policy also poses issues for the industry. There are often laws about when and how much people and businesses are legally able to water their turfgrass. Also, there are a lot of issues being raised about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. There are also a slue of other laws regarding safety, fertilizers, employment, etc.

There are a number of different questions that can be posed in regards to turfgrass and sustainability. First, what should be done about turfgrasses that serve as a habitat for wildlife? Is it okay to mow or cultivate these grasses? Also, what should be done with the clipping from turfgrass? Should we leave them on top of the mowed grass or put them in a landfill? What if we were able to convert them into different bioproducts such as fuels?

There are six major fields one can enter to work in the turfgrass industry. First is the golf industry where one can maintain or manage the maintenance of a golf course. This tends to bethe career choice for people interested in turf management. Second, is themanagement of other sports fields, like football or baseball. Third, is residential or commercial lawn care. Fourth, one could work in sod production and focus their attention on the farm end of the industry. Fifth, is grounds maintenance for industrial areas or places like an apartment complex. Sixth, is sales. One could work at a lawn care store. And last, we have all of the other smaller categories such as education.

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Author: CPEEK--10C