Tough times for turf sellers amid housing decline

By The Associated Press

STARKVILLE — The housing market decline has hurt producers of turf grass in the state, according to Mississippi State University.

Turf sales are down because of slow home sales and a lack of new construction, Wayne Wells, Mississippi State University Extension turf specialist, said in a news release. He said there is some business to be found in selling to new sports complexes, schools and golf courses undergoing renovations.

“Just a few years ago, we had about 70 producers in the state,” Wells said. “There are about 50 Mississippi sod producers now, with many diversifying some of their land until the economy improves. Some are increasing their revenues by offering installations as well.”

Mississippi State agriculture experts say the state has about 4,000 acres of turf, down about 500 acres from the last couple of years. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine are grown across Mississippi. Tall fescue, a cool-season turf species, can be grown in the extreme northern part of the state.

Dan Crumpton, owner of Oasis Sod Farm, said he has dedicated some of his turf land to growing cotton. Location is also important to his business.

Despite rising production costs and a tough economy, prices are on average 50 cents per square higher than last year. Crumpton said Bermudagrass brings $1.25 to $1.70; St. Augustine, $3.50 to $4; centipede, $2 to $2.50; and zoysia, $3 to $3.50.