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Turf rolls Rollrasen-01.jpg
Turf rolls
Golf course sod Golf bunkers Filton.jpg
Golf course sod
Harvesting sod Harvesting Sod.jpg
Harvesting sod
A typical roller mower operating on a sod grass farm. Trimax-Pegasus Sod-Turf-Roller-Mower.jpg
A typical roller mower operating on a sod grass farm.

Sod, also known as turf, is the upper layer of soil with the grass growing on it that is often harvested into rolls.


In Australian and British English, sod is more commonly known as turf, and the word "sod" is limited mainly to agricultural senses.


Sod is generally used for lawns, golf courses, and sports stadiums around the world. In residential construction, it is sold to landscapers, home builders or home owners who use it to establish a lawn quickly and avoid soil erosion. Sod can be used to repair a small area of lawn, [1] golf course, or athletic field that has died and is used as a quicker alternative to re-growing a lawn from seed. [2] Sod is also effective in increasing cooling, improving air and water quality, and assisting in flood prevention by draining water. [3]

Scandinavia has a long history of employing sod roofing and a traditional house type is the Icelandic turf house.

Following the passage of the Homestead Act by Congress in 1862, settlers in the Great Plains used sod bricks to build entire sod houses. [4] This was effective because the prairie sod of the Great Plains was so dense and difficult to cut it earned the nickname "Nebraska marble". Blacksmith John Deere made his fortune when he became the first to make a plow that could reliably cut the prairie sod. [5]

Different types of grass are used for sod installation. [6]


Sod is grown on specialist farms. For 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture reported 1,412 farms had 368,188 acres (149,000.4 ha) of sod in production. [7]

It is usually grown locally (within 100 miles of the target market) [8] to minimize both the cost of transport and also the risk of damage to the product. The farms that produce this grass may have many varieties of grass grown in one location to best suit the consumer's use and preference of appearance.

It is usually harvested 10 to 18 months after planting, depending on the growing climate. On the farm, it undergoes fertilization, frequent mowing, watering, and subsequent vacuuming to remove the clippings. It is harvested using specialized equipment, precision cut to standardized sizes. Sod is typically harvested in small square or rectangular slabs, or large 4-foot-wide (1.2 m) rolls.

The Mississippi State University has developed a hydroponic method of cultivating sod. For the very few sod farms that export turf internationally, this soilless sod may travel both lighter and better than traditional sod. Additionally, since the sod is not grown in soil, it does not need to be washed clean of soil down to the bare roots (or sprigs), so time to export is shortened. [9]


In many applications, such as erosion control and athletic fields, immediacy is a key factor. Seed may be blown about by the wind, eaten by birds, or fail because of drought. It takes some weeks to form a visually appealing lawn and further time before it is robust enough for use. Sod largely avoids these problems, and with proper care, newly laid sod is usually fully functional within 30 days of installation and its root system is comparable to that of a seeding lawn two to three years older. [10] Sod also reduces erosion by stabilizing the soil. [11]

Many prized cultivars (such as Bella Bluegrass) only reproduce vegetatively, [12] not sexually (via seed). Sod cultivation is the only means of producing additional plants. To grow these varieties for sale, turf farms use a technique called sprigging, where recently harvested sod mats are cut into slender rows and replanted in the field.

Cultivars used

Fescue grass

Tall fescue

Tall fescue (Festuca spp.) is a cool-weather group of grasses originating in Europe, commonly used as sod. It is moderately tolerant to both drought and cold, and as such is especially popular in inland temperate environments referred to in the turf and landscaping industries as the "transition zone", where summers are too hot for most cool-weather grasses, yet winters are too cold for most warm-weather grasses. Fescue is well-adapted to clay soils, moderately shade-tolerant, and somewhat resistant to disease, yet vulnerable to the diseases brown patch and Fusarium patch. It grows most actively (and thus provides the most desirable appearance) in spring and fall, and requires frequent watering during summer. Due to its bunch-type growth habit (unique among common sod grasses), it will not spread undesirably or invade adjacent areas once sodded, yet neither will it fill in voids, and periodic maintenance (such as overseeding with Fescue seed) may be required to sustain a homogeneous surface. It has poor wear tolerance compared to Bermuda grass, making it less popular for applications such as athletic fields. [13] [14] [15]

Fine fescues

Fine fescues ( F. rubra , F. ovina , F. trichophylla ) are less popular as sod than the tall fescues. As their names suggest, they exhibit much thinner leaf blades, and tolerate lower mowing heights than the tall fescues. They may be somewhat more resistant to common diseases. Otherwise, their characteristics are similar. Fine fescues are generally used in mixtures with other grasses. [16]

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass is quite commonly used for golf courses and sports fields across the southern portions of the United States. It tolerates a range of climates in the U.S., from hot and humid lagoons, inlets, and bays of the Gulf Coast, to the arid expanses of terrain like plains and deserts in the Southwest and parts of the Lower Midwest. Established bermuda grass is a network of shoots, rhizomes, stolons, and crown tissue together that usually form a dense plant canopy. This dense plant canopy can be used to propagate clonal varieties by sod, sprigs, or plugs. [17] The aggressive and resilient nature of Bermuda grass makes it not only an excellent turfgrass but also a challenging and invasive weed in land cultivated for other purposes. Its one noted weakness is its relatively low tolerance of shade. Given the economic importance of Bermuda grass (as a sod product, agricultural forage, and, at times, as an invasive weed), it has been the subject of numerous studies.

Celebration Bermuda grass:

Celebration Bermuda grass is a dark–green, fine–textured, aggressive, traffic–tolerant cultivar with high recuperative potential and drought tolerance." [18] The cultivar is a breed of Cynodon dactylon from Australia developed by turfgrass breeder Rod Riley. [19] The grass has a distinctive deep blue–green color which makes it popular on golf courses and for private home lawns throughout the southern United States. As a leading cultivar, the research on the grass is extensive. The grass was rated for the best shade tolerance by the United States Golf Association. [20] A researcher at the University of Florida noted this cultivar's, "good wear tolerance, quality, and color ratings" in the Central Florida environment. [21] The grass was the overall best–performing turfgrass in a 2–year drought resistance study commissioned by the San Antonio Water System and performed by Texas A & M extension service. [22] The cultivar was also the top–rated Bermuda grass for drought resistance in a test conducted in South Carolina. [23] Along with many golf courses across the southern United States, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers elected to install Celebration Bermudagrass in their stadium. [24]

Discovery Bermuda grass:

Discovery is a Bermuda grass that has an exceptional dark blue-green color. It also has extremely slow vertical growth which means that it only needs to be mowed once a month. Discovery has the drought resistance of a Bermuda grass but does not need to be maintained as much as other varieties. It was developed in Europe. It was made available in the United States in 2011 by Sod Solutions which owns the right to market it in the United States. [25] It grows well in all of the southern United States.


Bella Bluegrass:

Bella Bluegrass was developed by the University of Nebraska as a drought–resistant grass that would help states conserve water. It was immediately embraced by schools and homeowners in Utah who are trying to conserve water. [26] Bella is the world's first dwarf, vegetative bluegrass. It is sold only as sod, not as seed. Bella is a quick grower laterally but has very minimal vertical growth. Because it only grows to about 4 inches in height, it requires less mowing. It grows in sand, clay, muck, and peat soils, and it is currently being adopted across the northern United States. [27]

St. Augustine grass

St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) (also known as Charleston grass in South Carolina and Buffalo Turf in Australia) is warm-season, perennial grass that is a widely used. A native grass of tropical origin that extends from marshes (salt and freshwater), lagoon fringes, and sandy beach ridges.

St. Augustine lawns are a popular coarse, wide–bladed coarse lawn planted throughout many areas of the Southeastern United States This grass is found in Mexico, Australia, and in tropical parts of Africa. It is a warm-season grass that does not handle cold weather very well. The majority of this grass is planted in vegetative forms (such as plugs and sod), as seeds are not usually available due to production difficulties.

Captiva St. Augustine:

Developed by the University of Florida in 2007, [28] Captiva is a chinch bug resistant St. Augustine cultivar. It has a lush, dark-green color with a dense canopy and a massive root system. Because it has a slow leaf-blade growth and lateral spread, the requirement for mowing is reduced. Captiva has a good–excellent shade tolerance and has excellent pest resistance which means there is less need to use pesticides.



Centipedegrass was introduced into the United States from southeastern Asia in 1916. It does well in the climate and soils of central and northern Florida and is the most common home lawn grass in the Florida Panhandle. [29] Covington is a proprietary cultivar of centipede grass from Sod Solutions that grows in the southeast United States, from the west half of Texas to all of Louisiana, most of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. It is the only uniformly green centipede grass on the market. It is a low-maintenance grass, which retains its color in the fall and greens quickly in the spring. This variety is currently being evaluated by the University of Florida. [29]


Santee grass is another new proprietary selection from Sod Solutions, which is also being evaluated by the University of Florida for adaptation to Florida use.: [29]

Natural turf communities

Low growing vegetation is referred to as "turf communities" in areas where such growth is not common, as in moss-turf communities of sub Antarctica, [30] some epifauna in the sea, [31] coral reefs [32] and, in New Zealand, as species-rich communities of plants under 5 cm (1.97 in) tall, on coastal headlands, dune hollows, rivers and lakes, [33] where most of the natural cover was forest. [34] A form of turf community is a herbfield.

See also

Related Research Articles

Fusarium patch Plant fungal disease

Fusarium patch is a disease in turf grass settings also called pink snow mold or Microdochium patch. In many cool season grass species in North America, it is caused by the fungus Microdochium nivale. The white-pink mycelium on infected leaf blades is a distinguishing characteristic of the Microdochium nivale pathogen. Fusarium patch is considered economically important in the turf grass industry because of its tendency to cause significant injury to golf greens, thereby decreasing putting surface quality. Dissimilar from other snow molds, such as gray snow mold, Microdochium nivale does not need snow cover to cause widespread infection.

Lawn Area of land planted with grasses and similar plants

A lawn is an area of soil-covered land planted with grasses and other durable plants such as clover which are maintained at a short height with a lawnmower and used for aesthetic and recreational purposes. Lawns are usually composed only of grass species, subject to weed and pest control, maintained in a green color, and are regularly mowed to ensure an acceptable length. Lawns are used around houses, apartments, commercial buildings and offices. Many city parks also have large lawn areas. In recreational contexts, the specialised names turf, pitch, field or green may be used, depending on the sport and the continent.

<i>Cynodon dactylon</i> Species of grass

Cynodon dactylon, known as Bermuda grass, Dhoob, dūrvā grass, ethana grass, dubo, dog's tooth grass, Bahama grass, devil's grass, couch grass, Indian doab, arugampul, grama, wiregrass and scutch grass, is a grass found worldwide. It is native to Europe, Africa, Australia and much of Asia. It has been introduced to the Americas. Although it is not native to Bermuda, it is an abundant invasive species there. In Bermuda it has been known as "crab grass".

<i>Zoysia</i> Emerald Grass cultivar

Emerald Zoysia is a cultivar of Zoysia grass with a thin bladed leaf that forms a very lush lawn. It shares the drought and shade resistance of the other varieties.

<i>Eremochloa ophiuroides</i> Species of plant

Eremochloa ophiuroides, or centipedegrass, is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. Used as a warm season lawn grass, it forms thick sods and spreads by stolons. It is medium to light green in color and has a coarse texture with short upright seedhead stems that grow to about 3-5 inches. Native to southern China, it was introduced to the United States in 1916 and has since become one of the common grasses in the southeastern states and Hawai'i. It can also be considered a weed.

Sprigging Method for plant propagation

Sprigging is the planting of sprigs, plant sections cut from rhizomes or stolons that includes crowns and roots, at spaced intervals in furrows or holes. Depending on the environment, this may be done by hand or with mechanical row planters. Sprigging uses no soil with the plant, and is an alternative to seeding, plugging, and sodding.

St. Augustine grass Species of plant

St. Augustine grass, also known as buffalo turf in Australia and buffalo grass in South Africa, is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. It is a warm-season lawn grass that is popular for cultivation in tropical and subtropical regions. It is a medium- to high-maintenance grass that forms a thick, carpetlike sod, crowding out most weeds and other grasses.

<i>Festuca rubra</i> Species of flowering plant

Festuca rubra is a species of grass known by the common name red fescue or creeping red fescue. It is widespread across much of the Northern Hemisphere and can tolerate many habitats and climates. It is best adapted to well-drained soils in cool, temperate climates; it prefers shadier areas and is often planted for its shade tolerance. Wild animals browse it, but it has not been important for domestic forage due to low productivity and palatability. It is also an ornamental plant for gardens.

<i>Festuca arundinacea</i> Species of flowering plant

Festuca arundinacea (syn., Schedonorus arundinaceus and Lolium arundinaceum) is a species of grass commonly known as tall fescue. It is a cool-season perennial C3 species of bunchgrass native to Europe. It is an important forage grass throughout Europe, and many cultivars have been used in agriculture. It is also an ornamental grass in gardens, and a phytoremediation plant.

Magnaporthe poae is an ascomycete fungus which causes the turfgrass disease commonly known as summer patch, or Poa patch. The disease occurs mostly on Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Fescues (Festuca sp.), and on Annual bluegrass (Poa annua). Bentgrass may also become infected but shows very few symptoms and quickly recovers. Summer Patch will usually become noticeable between June and September, although small signs can appear at any time but are not noticeable because the turfgrass can recover quickly.

Brown patch Fungal disease affecting turfgrasses

Brown patch is a common turfgrass fungal disease that is caused by species in the genus Rhizoctonia, usually Rhizoctonia solani. Brown patch can be found in all of the cool season turfgrasses found in the United States. Brown patch is most devastating to: Bentgrass, ryegrass, Annual bluegrass, and Tall fescue. Brown patch is also found in Kentucky bluegrass and Fine fescue but this is rare or does minimal damage. Brown patch is known as a foliar disease, so it does not have any effect on the crown or roots of the turf plant.

Pythiumdisease, also known as "Pythiumblight," "cottony blight," or "grease spot," is a highly destructive turfgrass disease caused by several different Pythium species. All naturally cultivated cool-season turfgrasses are susceptible to Pythium and if conditions are favorable to Pythium it can destroy a whole turfgrass stand in a few days or less. Pythium favors hot and very humid weather and will usually develop in low areas or swales in the turfgrass.

Red thread disease is a fungal infection found on lawns and other turfed areas. It is caused by the corticioid fungus Laetisaria fuciformis and has two separate stages. The stage that gives the infection its name is characterised by very thin, red, needle-like strands extending from the grass blade. These are stromata, which can remain viable in soil for two years. After germinating, the stromata infect grass leaf blades through their stomata. The other stage is visible as small, pink, cotton wool-like mycelium, found where the blades meet. It is common when both warmth and humidity are high.

<i>Paspalum vaginatum</i> Species of plant

Paspalum vaginatum is a species of grass known by many names, including seashore paspalum, biscuit grass, saltwater couch, silt grass, and swamp couch. It is native to the Americas, where it grows in tropical and subtropical regions. It is found throughout the other tropical areas of the world, where it is an introduced species and sometimes an invasive weed. It is also cultivated as a turfgrass in many places.

Snow mold is a type of fungus and a turf disease that damages or kills grass after snow melts, typically in late winter. Its damage is usually concentrated in circles three to twelve inches in diameter, although yards may have many of these circles, sometimes to the point at which it becomes hard to differentiate between different circles. Snow mold comes in two varieties: pink or gray. While it can affect all types of grasses, Kentucky bluegrass and fescue lawns are least affected by snow mold.

Turf melting out Turfgrass disease caused by the pathogen Dreshlera poae

Turf melting out is caused by the fungal pathogen Dreschlera poae, in the family Pleosporaceae. It is a common problem on turfgrass and affects many different species. The disease infects all parts of the plant most commonly on golf course roughs, sports fields, and home lawns. There are two stages of the disease: the leaf blade infection and the crown and root infection Melting out occurs during the cool weather of April and May and is encouraged by high nitrogen fertility. The disease is spread by wind-blown or water splashed spores and survive in thatch.

Bacterial wilt of turfgrass is the only known bacterial disease of turf. The causal agent is the Gram negative bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. graminis. The first case of bacterial wilt of turf was reported in a cultivar of creeping bentgrass known as Toronto or C-15, which is found throughout the midwestern United States. Until the causal agent was identified in 1984, the disease was referred to simply as C-15 decline. This disease is almost exclusively found on putting greens at golf courses where extensive mowing creates wounds in the grass which the pathogen uses in order to enter the host and cause disease.

Necrotic ring spot is a common disease of turf caused by soil borne fungi that mainly infects roots (4). It is an important disease as it destroys the appearance of turfgrasses on park, playing fields and golf courses. Necrotic Ring Spot is caused by a fungal pathogen that is an ascomycete that produces ascospores in an ascocarp (6). They survive over winter, or any unfavorable condition as sclerotia. Most infection occurs in spring and fall when the temperature is about 13 to 28°C (5). The primary hosts of this disease are cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and annual bluegrass (6). Once turf is infected with O. korrae, it kills turf roots and crowns. Symptoms of the disease are quite noticeable since they appear as large yellow ring-shaped patches of dead turf. Management of the disease is often uneasy and requires application of multiple controls. The disease can be controlled by many different kind of controls including chemicals and cultural.

Gray leaf spot (GLS) is a foliar fungal disease that affects grasses. In grasses other than maize it is caused by Pyricularia grisea, which only infects perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and St. Augustine grass in places with warm and rainy climates.

<i>Zoysia japonica</i> Species of grass

Zoysia japonica is a species of creeping, mat-forming, short perennial grass that grows by both rhizomes and stolons. It is native to the coastal grasslands of southeast Asia and Indonesia. The United States was first introduced to Z. japonica in 1895. It received its first import from the Chinese region of Manchuria. Today, Z. japonica has become one of the most widely used species of turfgrass in the United States and other countries worldwide such as in Brazil, serving as a close and cheaper alternative to bermudagrass.


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How to lay turf