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Expect slightly higher sod prices this year

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If seeing the turfgrass during the Super Bowl has you itching to unfurl sod for a new lawn, it will likely cost a bit more than usual, according to a report by the University of Georgia.

Price increases for sod could range from 2 to 8% over 2019 prices, according to Clint Waltz, UGA Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist and crop and soil sciences professor. While still greater than 2019 prices, bermudagrass will have the lowest increase in price relative to other species. “Growers are not forecasting a significant price increase in early 2021,” he said.

The price data comes from an annual survey of producers coordinated by the Georgia Urban Ag Council. Due to an insufficient sampling size of the turfgrass industry, there was not a 2020 sod survey, so results were compared to 2019.

“With potentially thin inventories for bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and centipedegrass, it can be speculated that prices will be greater than the increases forecast in this survey,” said Waltz. “It’s hard to predict consumer demand for grass in early spring. But if spring 2021 has strong sod sales similar to how the coronavirus pandemic affected spring 2020 sales, already low inventories could be pressured further, resulting in producers adjusting prices accordingly.”

The average price for certified grass, labeled to ensure pure variety quality, increased to 3 cents per square foot.

The supply of most warm-season turfgrasses may be limited in the first part of the year. In early 2021, bermudagrass may be in shorter supply than in previous years.

Freight rates per mile shipped to Atlanta, or within 100 miles of the farm, are higher, ranging from $3.76 to $6.00 and averaging $4.24. A separate freight rate is charged by nearly half of the respondents, more than reported for 2019. 

On par with recent years, production is also projected to increase with a cumulative total of approximately 600 additional acres planned by about a third of the producers who responded to the survey.

There has been a 3-4% annual increase in production over the past three years, Waltz says, based on data from the Georgia Farm Gate Value Report and the Georgia Crop Improvement Association.

The farm gate value for turfgrass was $118 million in 2018, the highest it has been since the Great Recession in 2008. Top counties for production were Macon, Peach, Gordon, Carroll and Cook.

Landscape contractors continue to be the perennial leader for sales at roughly half of all grass sold. This is consistent with national trends where landscape contractors are the largest marketing channel for horticulture and specialty crops, Waltz reports. Existing developers and golf courses follow behind in second and third rankings for top sales.

To view the complete 2021 Georgia Sod Producers Inventory Survey, visit www.GeorgiaTurf.com.

Josh Paine is a marketing specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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