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Fig. 26-16. Biodegradable netting. (Photo by T. Samples.)


Fig. 26-17. Big-roll sod installer. (Photo by T. Samples).



Demand for tall fescue sod remains strong throughout much of the United States. Tall fescue sod now is produced and marketed by Turfgrass Producers International members in at least 40 states (Turfgrass Producers International, 2006). In 1997, about 90% of the land in sod production in the southern United States was grower-owned, with an average-sized farm operation of 140 ha (350 acre) (McCarty et al., 1999). Individual production sites are chosen by distance to targeted markets, accessibility to major highways, land and land preparation costs, soil type and depth, potential for turfgrass diseases, insects and weeds, and the quantity and quantity of available water (Holland et al., 2001). Permanent riparian buffers may be established in sensitive areas adjacent to streams, lakes, and wetlands as part of a best management program (see Chapter 27) for environmental protection on sod farms (Guertal and Han, 2002).

Kentucky bluegrass is often mixed with tall fescue (e.g., 10% Kentucky bluegrass seed and 90% tall fescue seed by weight) in an effort to improve sod color, tensile strength, and adaptation to a wide range of biotic, edaphic, and climatic conditions (Hall, 1980). Seeding rates usually range from 390 to 500 kg/ha (350-450 lb/acre). After seeding, biodegradable netting (Fig. 26-16) may be installed to improve sod tensile strength at harvest and reduce production time (Zak, 1982).

Styles of sprinkler irrigation used to produce tall fescue sod include wheel roll, hand-move pipe, solid set, center pivot, cable-tow traveling gun, and hard-hose-reel traveling gun. Tall fescue sod often is mowed several times with a rotary finish mower set at a cutting height of 5.0 to 6.5 cm (2-2.5 in) before harvest.

Tall fescue sod is harvested and transported as flat or rolled blocks (slabs), or as large rolls. One pallet of slab sod usually holds about 42 m2 (50 yd2) of sod and weighs 900 kg (2000 lb) or more. Individual slabs are often 41 cm (16 in) wide by 60 cm (24 in) or more in length. Big-roll sod is harvested in rolls 61, 76, or 122 cm (24, 30, or 48 in) wide and up to 30 m (100 ft) long. Several equipment manufacturers sell sod harvesters that cut two large rolls simultaneously, each 53 or 61 cm (21 or 24 in) wide. As big-roll sod is harvested, a layer of biodegradable reinforcement netting often is applied to the underside. Big-roll sod often is installed in large landscapes with very few obstructions. Motorized, all-terrain sod installers with rubber tracks and a load capacity of 1135 kg (2500 lb) are used to install big rolls (Fig. 26-17). Slabs are installed in smaller landscapes and in irregularly shaped planting beds. To improve sod installation efficiency, a forklift with flotation tires often is used to place pallets of sod throughout the landscape. Tall fescue sod may be installed throughout most of the year, as long as the soil is prepared properly and is not frozen (Relf, 2001). To reduce the potential for severe high-temperature and drought stresses and the risk of stand loss after planting, many producers do not market tall fescue sod in summer.


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