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Turfgrass Industry Thriving In State
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The product is often trampled and always underfoot, but that's because the turfgrass industry is alive and thriving in the state.
With its 2.5 million acres of turfgrass, the industry has a more than $728 million impact on Mississippi's economy. Annually, the industry's gross sales reach about $375 million.
The turfgrass industry employs almost 6,000 full-time and nearly 14,000 part-time workers. Maintenance of the turfgrass costs more than $353 million in materials and labor.
"As a commodity, turfgrass is not a large industry, but as a service industry, it is very significant in the state," said Dr. Euel Coats, professor of weed science at Mississippi State University. "You basically only establish turfgrass one time, and the rest is service and maintenance."
The turfgrass industry encompasses turfgrass producers, producers of turfgrass products, service firms, wholesalers and retailers, and consumers of turfgrass and related products.
John Cobb, who with his wife Nell owns Mississippi Grass Nursery in Hattiesburg, attended a July 22 turfgrass field day at MSU.
"I use the research done by Mississippi State because in commercial business, we don't have the time or the facilities to do our own research," Cobb said.
The Cobbs' business was started about 25 years ago with help from MSU. Today, the Cobbs still turn to the university for information and research on the turfgrass industry.
The state's turfgrass is found at residences, golf courses, churches, parks, cemeteries, roads, airports and more. Just 3,504 acres are in commercial sod production.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist, said sod producers harvest about 4,000 square yards per acre. Sod farmers sell Bermudagrass for about $1 a square yard, centipede for about $1.25, St. Augustine for $1.50 and Zoysia for about $2 a square yard.
MSU has about 12 acres of turfgrass test plots. Researchers test all aspects of turfgrass, including weed control methods, soils and soil amendments, fertility, and plant growth regulators.
Based on these results, evaluations and guidelines are set for others in the industry use. The university also sponsors field days and short courses in the further attempt to aid the industry.
Lyle Blausey, a formulator with The Andersons from Maumee, Ohio, was at MSU for the field day. Blausey's firm puts herbicides in a form most easily used for certain treatments.
"We seek the university's expertise on turfgrass as we try to find the methods that work best for us," Blausey said.
Dr. Mike Goatley, associate professor/agronomist, said with 110 students, MSU is one of the three largest of the nation's 25 to 30 universities offering a four-year degree in turfgrass management. The degree is a bachelor of science in plant and soil sciences with an emphasis in golf and sports turf management.
"A unique feature of the turf management program is the mandatory cooperative education requirement," Goatley said. "We require all our students to get three semesters of on-the-job work experience."
The turf management program complements the professional golf management degree offered in the MSU College of Business.