By Mike Jiggens
The turf industry, like just about any other green industry, is dependent upon Mother Nature to help it along. Turfgrass needs water to survive and thrive. When Mother Nature fails to produce, irrigation is needed, yet water sources might not always be plentiful.
This results in great angst among turfgrass managers during periods of extended drought, when government ministries and local conservation authorities are also restricting the amounts of water that can be used when sources get dangerously low.
Drought was a serious issue in many parts of Ontario in the summer of 2016, and sod producers are feeling the pinch. Fields seeded to Kentucky bluegrass in the fall of 2015 didn’t fare as well as anticipated, forcing producers to cut into their inventories. This has resulted in a shortage of available sod earmarked for the commercial and municipal sectors.
Sod producers are holding their breath that what was seeded last fall will have the chance to mature this summer – with the help of Mother Nature – perhaps being pushed through more aggressive fertility and irrigation.
It is unusual for the industry to be plagued by back-to-back catastrophic growing years, and sod producers are crossing their fingers for a
In the meantime, contractors hoping to provide instant lawns for newly constructed homes and commercial properties need to ensure they are first in line and are prepared to commit to volumes. Greg Skotnicki, president of the Nursery Sod Growers Association of Ontario, said those not prepared to commit are taking their chances.
The reality, too, is that sod prices are likely to increase this year as a result of the projected shortage and the additional inputs that have had to go into the crop.
“If they’re (contractors) bidding on jobs, I think they definitely need to contact their sod supplier to arrange pricing, and I wouldn’t go on the assumption of what you paid last year is what you’ll pay this year,” he said.
Owners of newly constructed homes want an instant lawn and may not be enamoured by the prospect of having to pay significantly more for that immediateness. By the same token, they don’t wish to seed their lawn because of the wait involved and the expense of watering it in. If their home is move-in ready in early summer, seeding certainly won’t be their preference.
Alliston sod producer Tom Brayford said this spring will be pivotal and that if it is a disaster, “it’s really going to be a crunch we haven’t seen before.”
Both Skotnicki and Brayford share their thoughts about this potential scenario in this issue. –