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Quantification and Implications of Soil Losses from Commercial Sod Production


Abstract and Figures

Commercial sod farms occupy about 1.62 x 10(3) km(2) of the landscape of the United States. Land managers generally consider sod farms on an equal footing with other, sustainable agricultural land uses. We measured soil losses associated with sod harvesting in farms in the northeastern United States. Sod harvest resulted in soil losses ranging from 74 to 114 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1), considerably higher than the tolerable soil loss of 6.7 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1). Soil losses were proportional to time under sod production, with soil removal rates of 0.833 cm yr(-1). We estimate that sod harvesting in the United States results in the net, permanent loss of 12.0 to 18.7 Tg of agriculturally productive soil from sod farms-and associated ecosystem services-every year. The soil losses reported here have important implications in terms of land use planning, transactions involving the purchase of development rights, and tax deductions for soil depletion.
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SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 74:892–897
Published online 10 Feb. 2010
Received 24 June 2009.
*Corresponding author (
© Soil Science Society of America, 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison WI 53711 USA
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Quanti cation and Implications of Soil
Losses from Commercial Sod Production
Soil & Water Management & Conservation
ommercial sod production is an emerging agricultural industry worldwide as
a result of rising a uence in developed and developing countries (Aldous et
al., 2007). In the United States, sod is produced in all 50 states, with approximately
162,000 ha dedicated to sod production (Morris, 2006)—an area comparable to
that planted to tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) (National Agricultural Statistics
Service, 2008)—and a total annual value greater than US$3.1 billion (Haydu et
al., 2006). Turfgrass provides environmental services that include amelioration of
erosion, glare, noise and air pollution, and heat buildup in urban and suburban
landscapes (Beard and Green, 1994). Although these bene ts may be experienced
at both the sod farms and in areas where the sod is eventually planted, they may
come at the expense of mining of soil as an unintended consequence of sod harvest-
ing practices. Furthermore, because soil associated with sod harvest is transported
to nonagricultural areas, there is a net loss of agriculturally productive soil from
the landscape.
In commercial sod production, conventional harvesting (by sod cutting) in-
volves removing a layer of soil just below the thatch layer of the turfgrass, which can
result in the permanent depletion of soil resources. To date, anecdotal reports from
trade organizations, government agencies, and university researchers regarding soil
losses from sod harvesting o er con icting information, with studies suggesting
that sod harvesting does not result in net soil loss (Charbonneau, 2003; Skogley
and Hesseltine, 1978; Turf Resource Center, 2009) and that it does causes signi -
cant soil loss (Carr, 1996; Sheard and Van Patter, 1978).  e striking di erences
in surface elevation commonly observed between sod  elds and historic cemeteries
found within these  elds suggest that soil losses are substantial (Fig. 1). Because
sod farms are generally considered on an equal footing with other agricultural land
uses by land managers, we suggest that the long-term e ects of sod farming on the
loss of agriculturally productive soil and associated ecosystem services need to be
quanti ed and incorporated in land use planning decisions.
David Millar
Mark Stolt
José A. Amador*
Dep. of Natural Resources Science
Coastal Institute–Kingston
Univ. of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881
Commercial sod farms occupy about 1.62 × 10
of the landscape of the United States. Land managers
generally consider sod farms on an equal footing with other, sustainable agricultural land uses. We measured soil
losses associated with sod harvesting in farms in the northeastern United States. Sod harvest resulted in soil losses
ranging from 74 to 114 Mg ha
, considerably higher than the tolerable soil loss of 6.7 Mg ha
. Soil
losses were proportional to time under sod production, with soil removal rates of 0.833 cm yr
. We estimate that
sod harvesting in the United States results in the net, permanent loss of 12.0 to 18.7 Tg of agriculturally productive
soil from sod farms—and associated ecosystem services—every year.  e soil losses reported here have important
implications in terms of land use planning, transactions involving the purchase of development rights, and tax
deductions for soil depletion.
SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
We conducted a study to determine the soil losses associated
with the conventional harvest of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa praten-
sis L.) sod, the most commonly harvested sod in the northeastern
United States. Estimates of soil loss were made using two inde-
pendent methods: (i) measurement of the mass of mineral soil
associated with harvested sod, and (ii) measurement of changes
in depth to sand and gravel deposits in sod  elds in operation for
di erent amounts of time relative to adjacent forested land.
Study Sites
Four commercial sod farms (designated A, B, C, and D) all in
Washington County, RI, were studied. Sampling was limited to ar-
eas with slopes 3% that were mapped as Agawam (a coarse-loamy
over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, active, mesic Typic Dystrudept),
Bridgehampton (a coarse-silty, mixed, active, mesic Typic Dystrudept),
and En eld (a coarse-silty over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, active,
mesic Typic Dystrudept) soils (Soil Survey Sta , 2007).  ese soils are
characterized by glacio uvial deposits (strati ed sands and gravels; out-
wash) overlain by silt loam (loess) and  ne sandy loam textured eolian
deposits (Fig. 2) (Rector, 1981). Agawam, Bridgehampton and En eld
series soils within the 0 to 3% slope range constitute the highest per-
centage (5, 29, and 31%, respectively) of land under sod production in
Rhode Island.
e sod  elds we studied had been in production between 4 and
40 yr at the time of sampling (Table 1). Previous land uses included
potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) farming, pasture, and woodlands.
Sampling areas at each farm ranged from 19 to 183 ha. Land use history
and number of years in sod production were obtained from interviews
with sod farm operators.
Sod strips were collected from all the sod farms on the same day
in September 2007, at least 1 wk a er the last irrigation event to en-
sure equivalent moisture conditions among sites. At each farm, three
sod strips (0.5 by 1.8 m) were collected during routine harvesting along
a 150-m transect with a 50-m interval between each strip. Sod strips
harvested at the beginning of each pass tend to be variable, and may not
be representative of strips collected along the rest of the pass.  us, all
sod strips collected in this study were done so a er several strips were
harvested at the beginning of each pass by the sod harvester.
e sod strips were carefully placed in individual plastic bags
to minimize soil loss during transport, and processed on the day of
Fig. 1. Difference in surface elevation between a sod fi eld and a
historical cemetery found within this sod fi eld in southern Rhode
Island. Elevated cemeteries like the one pictured here are found in
many of the sod fi elds in this area. Similar elevated cemeteries were
not observed within other adjacent land uses, suggesting that the
difference in elevation is related to soil loss.
Fig. 2. Morphological features representative of the soil mapping
units used in this study. Arrows indicate the interface between the
eolian mantle and stratifi ed sand and gravel deposits in soil from a
forested area and adjacent sod fi eld.
894 SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
collection.  ree adjoining, 30- by 30-cm squares were traced on the un-
derside (soil side) of each strip and a 10-cm-diam. cup cutter was used to
remove a sod plug from each square section.  e sod plugs were placed
in sealable plastic bags and stored at −10°C.
Estimates of Soil Loss from Analysis of Sod Strips
e mass of mineral soil associated with sod strips was determined
by loss-on-ignition (Soil Survey Laboratory Sta , 2004). Each sod plug
was placed in a mu e furnace at 550°C for 4 h.  e mineral content of
the plant material portion of the harvested sod was determined to be
14 g kg
of total sod piece mineral content by loss-on-ignition. Inputs
of mineral material through incorporation of biosolids, commonly
used as fertilizer in this area, were also determined. Biosolids from New
England Organics (Portland, ME), the main source of biosolids used
on Rhode Island sod farms, had a mean mineral content of 350 g kg
as determined by loss-on-ignition. Based on an estimated biosolids ap-
plication rate of 6.72 Mg ha
, the input of mineral material to the
soil was estimated to be 2.35 Mg ha
e net soil removal rate by sod harvesting (M
, Mg ha
was calculated using the following equation:
net mineral mineral
MM Mαβ=−
where M
is the total mass of mineral material removed in sod
(Mg ha
), α is the fraction of M
associated with plants, and
β is the mass of mineral material added in biosolids (Mg ha
e thickness of soil removed as a function of the number of sod har-
vests (D
, m) based on M
was calculated using the following equation:
where n is the number of harvests, M
is the soil loss rate
(Mg ha
) (from Eq. [1]), and ρ
is the soil bulk density (Mg m
measured from the soil surface (just below the turfgrass thatch layer) to a
depth of 10 cm at 10 randomly selected points using a 30-cm-long by
5-cm-diam. split core sampler.
Estimates of Soil Loss from Morphological
Soil Properties
Depth to the contact between the eolian deposits used for sod
production and the underlying sand and gravel (Fig. 2) was measured
in areas mapped as En eld soils at Sod Farms A, B, and D in  elds
that had been in commercial sod production for approximately 3, 20,
and 30 yr, respectively. Measurements were made using a bucket auger
along two, 50-m, parallel transects spaced 20 m apart that extended
across the sod  elds and into the adjacent forest (Fig. 3).  e transects
were approximately perpendicular to the border between the sod
eld and forest. Samples were taken every 5 m along each transect (11
sampling points per transect). Additionally, samples were taken along
two, 50-m, parallel transects, one in the forest and the other in the
sod  eld. e transects were 10 m from the forest–sod  eld boundary
and ran approximately parallel to this boundary. Samples were taken
at 5-m intervals along each transect (11 sampling points per transect).
Di erences in bulk density in the top 10 cm of the sod  elds and
adjacent forests caused by land clearing were used to account for soil
thickness di erences due to soil collapse.  e average bulk density from
0 to 10 cm on sod  elds and forest sites was 1.34 and 0.77 Mg m
, re-
spectively.  e di erence in bulk density of 0.57 Mg m
between these
two land uses translates into a 7.4-cm decrease in soil thickness, account-
ing for 90% of the 8.3-cm discrepancy between calculated and observed
values observed in  elds in production for 3 yr.  us, soil collapse was
accounted for by subtracting the 8.3 cm due to collapse from the di er-
ence in soil thickness between forest and sod  elds.
Statistical Analyses
A one-way analysis of variance was used to compare soil loss rates
among sod farms based on sod strip analysis, with means separation ac-
complished using Tukey’s highly signi cant di erence test. Di erences
between sod  elds and adjacent forests in terms of depth to glacio uvial
deposits were evaluated using Student’s t-test.
Soil removal rates by sod harvesting based on the mass
of mineral soil in the harvested sod ranged from 74 to
114 Mg ha
, with signi cant di erences observed between
the highest (Sod Farm D) and lowest (Sod Farm C) values (Fig.
4).  e only apparent di erence between these two farms is the
number of crops harvested: three sod crops were harvested in
Sod Farm D, whereas Sod Farm C had ?30 crops harvested.
Table 1. Time in sod production, sampling area, and previous
land use of sod farms.
Time in sod
Sampling area Previous land use
yr ha
A 33 43 potato
B 20, 30 79 woodland
C 39 183 pasture, potato
D 3, 35 19 woodland, pasture
Fig. 3. Sampling scheme used to measure depth to the interface between
the eolian materials used for sod production and the underlying sand and
gravel deposits.
SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
ese data may be interpreted to indicate that the amount of soil
removed per harvest decreases as the total number of harvests
increases. Sod Farm A had about the same number of harvested
crops as Sod Farm C (?30), however, and its soil removal rate
was not statistically di erent from that of either Farm C or Farm
D. Furthermore, the topography and soil mapping units were
the same for both Farms C and D. It appears that variables other
than those measured in our study were responsible for the di er-
ence observed between Farms C and D.
e rates of soil removal reported here are more than an or-
der of magnitude higher than the tolerable soil loss (T value) of
6.7 Mg ha
published by the NRCS for these soils (Rector,
1981).  e T value refers to the maximum rate of soil erosion that
may occur and still permit a high level of crop productivity to be
obtained economically and inde nitely (Schertz and Nearing,
2002). Assuming an average of one harvest per year, these soil
loss values are well within the 61 to 105 Mg ha
ported by Skogley and Hesseltine (1978) for sod grown in south-
ern New England.
Direct, independent measurements of the depth to sand
and gravel deposits were made in sod  elds in production for ap-
proximately 3, 20, and 30 yr, and compared with those of adja-
cent forested areas (Fig. 5). Data from transects on sod farms in
production for di erent lengths of time all showed a statistically
signi cant, lower thickness of the eolian mantle relative to those
of adjacent forested areas, suggesting that substantial soil loss has
occurred as a result of sod production (Fig. 6). In addition, the
longer a sod  eld had been in production, the more pronounced
the di erences in thickness were relative to the adjacent forest.
e mass of mineral soil removed during harvest (M
, Eq.
[1]) and ρ
values were used to develop an independent estimate
of the thickness of soil removed.  is resulted in estimates of
2.8, 14.3, and 27.2 cm of soil removed from sod  elds in produc-
tion for approximately 3, 20, and 30 yr,
respectively (Fig. 7). A er accounting
for soil collapse (from di erences in ρ
between forest and sod  eld soils), esti-
mates of soil loss based on sod strip analy-
sis (Fig. 4) were similar to those obtained
from the measurements of solum thick-
ness in sod farms and adjacent forest (Fig.
5 and 6), suggesting that both are reason-
able methods for determining soil removal
rates on land used for sod production.
e data from both sets of estimates
were  t to a linear model (r
= 0.9868)
using the following equation:
where D
is the depth of soil (cm) at time
t (yr), R is the rate of soil thickness loss
(cm yr
), and D
is the depth of soil
(cm) before sod production. Based on
our data, R is −0.833 cm yr
and D
is 0.09 cm.  is value of R is lower than
the 1.2 to 1.6 cm of soil that is reported
by some to be removed with every sod
harvesting event (Cockerham, 2007) but
considerably higher than the mean value
for soil loss due to erosion from conven-
tional agriculture of 0.394 cm yr
Fig. 4. Mean (n = 9) net soil removal rates from harvesting in four sod
farms in Washington County, RI. Values with the same letters were
not signifi cantly different (P 0.05). Bars represent one standard
deviation. Dashed line indicates the soil loss tolerance (T) value
(Rector, 1981).
Fig. 5. Transects of depth to sand and gravel deposits in a forest and adjacent sod fi eld for fi elds in sod
production for approximately 3, 20, and 30 yr in Washington County, RI. Data for transects that were
perpendicular (left panel) and parallel (right panel) to the boundary between the forest and sod fi eld
are shown. Note that the depth to sand and gravel deposits is closer to the soil surface in sod fi elds.
896 SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
ported by Montgomery (2007). Given an average depth to sand
and gravel deposits of 83 cm for this soil mapping unit (Fig. 5),
the model predicts complete loss of the eolian mantle 96 yr af-
ter the onset of sod production (Fig. 7). Because sod  elds are
traditionally plowed to a depth of 30 cm, however, management
problems associated with the incorporation of sand and gravel
materials with eolian deposits can be expected a er ?60 yr of
sod production.
e time course for management problems to develop
may be unique to soils with the speci c morphological features
studied here (e.g., eolian mantle over strati ed sand and gravel
deposits formed in a glaciated landscape; Fig. 2). Regardless of
geographic location or soil morphology, however, soil removal
is an intrinsic part of conventional sod harvesting, such that sub-
stantial soil losses will always be associated with these operations.
Because the amount of soil removed is constrained by the thick-
ness of the cut sod—and most sod producers try to minimize this
thickness to lower transportation costs (Perez et al., 1995; Turf
Resource Center, 2009)—the rates of soil removal reported here
probably represent a lower limit of soil removed by conventional
sod harvesting operations.
Our results have implications for the long-term sustainabil-
ity of sod production as it is currently practiced in the United
States, and to the function of commercial sod farms in rural and
suburban landscapes. Land for sod production and open space
are both in high demand in suburban areas, the former to pro-
vide landscaping materials for new construction, the latter be-
cause of a desire to conserve the rural character of the landscape
(Geoghegan, 2002; Machado et al., 2006). As such, sod farms
are considered desirable as open space, on a par with other agri-
cultural operations and with woodlands. Although commercial
sod farms may meet the de nition of open space, the soil min-
ing aspects of sod production do not appear to be taken into
account by land use managers and environmental regulators.
Conventional sod farming clearly results in considerable net per-
manent depletion of agriculturally productive soil, a nonrenew-
able resource, relative to other agricultural and nonagricultural
land uses.  is should be an important element in making deci-
sions about the function of sod farming in the land use planning
process. Clearly those areas to which the sod—and associated
soil—is transported and planted accrue a number of bene ts,
including amelioration of erosion, glare, noise and air pollution,
and heat buildup (Beard and Green, 1994). Such bene ts, how-
ever, come at the expense of a permanent loss of agriculturally
productive soil from sod farms.
Agricultural land in suburban areas is o en the subject of
transactions known as purchase of development rights (Daniels,
1991). In these transactions, a government or private organiza-
tion interested in open space preservation purchases the rights
to develop a parcel of land, with the seller maintaining owner-
ship of the land but bound by contract not to develop it, and
the purchaser of the development rights being responsible for
ensuring the owner adheres to the contract. Such transactions
are common in areas with high development pressure due to de-
mographic and market forces (Daniels, 1991). When the intent
is to preserve productive agricultural land as part of the suburban
landscape, sod farming falls short of the requirement for long-
term sustainability of current practices that is part of the criteria
for the purchase of development rights by federal (e.g., Federal
Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 1996) and
state agencies charged with the stewardship of soil resources. On
the other hand, if the intent is to simply preserve open space, the
soil mining associated with sod farming may not interfere with
the ful llment of this function.  ere generally is an implicit as-
sumption by the entities acquiring development rights and land
managers, however, that current agricultural practices will not
have signi cant, long-term e ects on the provision of ecosystem
services by the purchased land—an assumption that, in light of
our results, does not appear to be warranted for sod farms. Soil
Fig. 6. Mean (n = 9–11) values of depth to sand and gravel deposits
in forest and the adjacent sod fi eld for fi elds in sod production for
approximately 3, 20, and 30 yr in Washington County, RI, based
on transect data (Fig. 5). Bars represent one standard deviation.
*Signifi cant difference between forest and sod fi eld (P 0.05).
Fig. 7. Relationship between depth to sand and gravel deposits and
years in sod production based on measurement of mineral soil loss
with harvested sod and on direct measurements of depth to sand and
gravel materials. Data from both sets of measurements were fi t to a
linear model (r
= 0.9868) using the equation: D
= Rt + D
(Eq. [3]),
where D
= depth of soil (cm) at time t (yr), R = rate of soil thickness
loss (cm yr
) and D
= depth of soil (cm) before sod production. For
these data, R is −0.833 cm yr
and D
is 0.09 cm.
SSSAJ: Volume 74: Number 3 • May–June 2010
loss from sod harvesting is inextricably linked with a diminishing
capacity of the land to carry out many of its functions within
the landscape, including crop production, water in ltration and
storage, retention and recycling of nutrients, C sequestration,
and consumption of greenhouse gases. Sod farms do provide eco-
systems services, such as reduced soil erosion, C sequestration,
and wildlife habitat (Beard and Green, 1994; Milesi et al., 2005).
Unlike agricultural practices that preserve the soil and its func-
tions over the long term, however, the bene ts of commercial sod
farming are  nite, constrained by the rate at which the soil on
which the sod is grown is depleted by harvesting.
e permanent loss of soil also presents problems in the
context of land leased for sod farming, in which the owner is
not compensated  nancially for the loss of soil resources as a re-
sult of sod harvesting. In addition, there are implications with
regard to whether tax deductions may be taken by sod famers,
or land owners that lease land to sod farmers, for soil deple-
tion. According to Revenue Ruling 79-267 of the U.S. Internal
Revenue Service (Internal Revenue Service, 1979): “ e amount
of naturally occurring soil exhausted with each sod harvest can-
not be established, and a deduction for cost depletion is not al-
lowable.” Contrary to these assertions, our data show that the
amount of naturally occurring soil removed with each sod har-
vest can indeed be established, suggesting that reconsideration of
this ruling may be warranted.
Assuming a total area of sod harvested each year of 162,000 ha
(Morris, 2006; National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2008) and
based on the soil removal rates reported in this study (Fig. 4), we
estimate that between 12.0 and 18.7 Tg of soil is permanently
removed from agricultural land by sod harvesting in the United
States every year. Development and enforcement of criteria that
explicitly require preservation of soil resources as a condition for
the purchase of development rights by private and government
entities would contribute substantially to preventing the loss of
soil resources from commercial sod farming. Soil loss associated
with sod farming may also be ameliorated by the adoption of sus-
tainable sod farming practices, such as growing sod on recyclable
organic materials over plastic sheeting (Decker, 2001), and a shi
to more traditional means of establishing turf, such as seeding or
hydroseeding, by landscaping professionals and consumers.
Our results show that soil removal associated with the con-
ventional harvesting of Kentucky bluegrass blend sod results in
a net loss of agriculturally productive soil that is more than an
order of magnitude larger than the tolerable soil loss value.  e
data also show that soil loss is directly proportional to years un-
der sod production.  is information needs to be taken into con-
sideration when evaluating the costs and bene ts of sod farming.
Speci cally, our results suggest that decisions concerning the
land use planning process, transactions involving the purchase
of development rights, and tax credits for soil depletion should
incorporate the soil loss associated with conventional sod har-
vesting practices.
is research was funded in part by a grant from the USDA-NRCS to
M. Stolt and J. Amador. We wish to thank the anonymous land owners
for access to their property.  is paper is contribution no. 5232 from the
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Turf Resource Center. 2009. What is turfgrass sod? Available at www. (veri ed 19
Jan. 2010). Turf Resour. Ctr., East Dundee, IL.
... The quantity of soil and nutrient lost is not well quantified. The few studies show sod harvest causes 74 to 115 Mg ha −1 year −1 of soil loss in the USA (Millar et al. 2010;Griffith et al. 2020), 304 Mg ha −1 year −1 in South Africa (Tesfamariam et al. 2009), and 180 Mg ha −1 year −1 in Turkey (Ozdemir et al. 2020). According to Tesfamariam et al. (2009), 297 kg ha −1 of N and 170 kg ha −1 of P can also be lost with sod harvest. ...
... According to Tesfamariam et al. (2009), 297 kg ha −1 of N and 170 kg ha −1 of P can also be lost with sod harvest. The soil removal from sod harvest may appear small in terms of depth, but over time, the loss may be evident though elevational differences between the sod farm and surrounding landscape (Millar et al. 2010). ...
... The amount of soil loss due to sod in this study was about 2 times higher than that reported by Millar et al. (2010) for sandy loam to silt loam soils, and 1.09 to 1.60 times higher than that reported by Tesfamariam et al. (2009) for a clay loam. The findings of this study, however, were similar to soil losses observed by Ozdemir et al. (2020) for a sandy clay loam soil. ...
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The rapidly increasing population of urban centers leads to the increasing need for greenspaces. Sodding of turfgrass provides instant greenspace, but it removes soil from sod farms. The extent of such removal has not been widely quantified. The amount quantity of soil and organic matter lost with sod harvest and the associated cost of nutrients lost from six sod farms in the Marmara region of Turkey were determined. Soil loss ranged from 166 to 243 Mg ha−1 year−1, while the associated organic matter loss ranged from 1 to 6 Mg ha−1 year−1. The amount of soil loss increased with increases in gravimetric water, clay, and silt contents, and duration under sod harvest, while it decreased with an increase in sand content. Annual nutrient lost ranged from 117 to 449 kg ha−1 for N, from 2 to 18 kg ha−1 for P2O5, and from 21 to 175 kg ha−1 for K2O. Replacing the nutrient lost would cost about $134 ha−1 year−1 for sandy soils and $444 ha−1 year−1 for fine-textured soils. Soil lost with sod harvest was 134 times higher than that from agricultural lands by erosion in the region, although the area under sod production is much smaller than that under croplands. Similarly, organic matter loss was 4 to 5 times higher than the accumulation rate under established turfgrass in golf courses and lawns in locations with similar climate. Overall, sod harvesting results in significant and costly soil, organic matter, and nutrient loss, which, although small in area, can be an important component of total soil erosion.
... While the investment in maintenance can be substantial, turfgrass can confer soil fertility benefits by enhancing soil carbon (C) via rhizodeposition, release of root exudates and root turnover, which in turn promote microbial growth and activity. While long term improvements can take years to accrue (Kerek et al., 2002;Townsend-Small and Czimczik, 2010;Chen et al., 2019), soil amendments also can provide more timely soil health benefits and are especially important for sod industries, where topsoil removal during translocation can deteriorate soil quality (Millar et al., 2010). Added value from soil amendments that are passed to the consumer include potential water-savings and/or improvements in soil health. ...
Turfgrass landscapes are commonly maintained using deficit irrigation. Here we follow-up a prior study, which surveyed turfgrass establishment in plots amended with biochar or compost or a mixture of both and unamended control plots. Following establishment, the plots were differentially irrigated at either full (85% ET o replaced) or deficit (50% ET o replaced) levels for four years and sampled for analysis. Relationships between soil chemical parameters and microbial community biomass and profiles based on phospholipid fatty acid analysis and high throughput sequencing of bacterial/archaeal 16S rRNA genes were determined. Compared to the unamended control soils, compost amended soils with or without biochar underwent greater shifts in soil physiochemical and biological properties than those receiving biochar. Although the impact of compost on the microbial community lessened with time, even 5 years after its incorporation, compost amended soils had increased microbial biomass by 127% and 157% in full and deficit irrigated plots compared to unamended plots. Bacterial/archaeal communities compositionally were more divergent in response to deficit irrigation in the unamended soils than in those amended with compost or biochar. Both soil amendments resulted in reduced relative abundances of ni-trifying bacteria and archaea. In compost-amended soils many taxa associated with plant growth promotion and carbon cycling increased in relative abundance, whereas no such effect was observed with biochar. Altogether, these results provide mechanistic insights into how organic amendments affect turfgrass systems and their associated soil microbial communities under full and deficit irrigation regimens.
... Al cosechar el césped, se pierde la capa más orgánica del suelo, depreciándolo en forma significativa (Valenzuela, 2003;Millar et al., 2010). El sistema actual de producción de césped, provoca la degradación del suelo lo que se traduce en una baja sustentabilidad de producción y de cualquier actividad agrícola posterior. ...
Tracking changes in the quantity and variability of soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks associated with different land uses over time is a critical step in understanding decadal-scale impacts of soils on climate change, and can be an important reality check for more complex modeling efforts. In this study, we used a Bayesian statistical framework to quantify and compare SOC stocks among common southern New England land use types (sod farms, silage corn, forest, and turfgrass), including sod fields in continuous production for different periods of time (approximately 10, 20, and 30 years). Further, we modeled the export of SOC associated with sod harvesting, propagating uncertainty from observations to export estimates. Despite unsustainable annual rates of soil removal (74 to 114 Mg ha⁻¹), SOC stocks for sod fields in production for different time periods were not credibly lower than those of the other land uses examined. Mean exported SOC from sod harvest ranged from 1.67 to 3.23 Mg ha⁻¹, which was enough to entirely deplete the 0–30 cm SOC stock in approximately 30 years. These results suggest that organic C inputs to the upper 30 cm of sod farm soils, from subsoil incorporation during post-harvest tillage and belowground net primary production, may have been maintaining SOC by offsetting loses over several decades. This is unlikely to continue, however, if the eolian mantle that characterizes these soils is depleted due to the cumulative impact of sod harvest on soil removal.
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The concept of ecosystem services (ES) has risen to prominence based on its promise to vastly improve environmental decision‐making and to represent nature's many benefits to people. Yet the field has continued to be plagued by fundamental concerns, leading some to believe that the field of ES must mature or be replaced. In this paper, we quantitatively survey a stratified random sample of more than 1,000 articles addressing ES across three decades of scholarship. Our purpose is to examine the field's attention to common critiques regarding insufficient credible valuations of realistic changes to services; an unjustified preoccupation with monetary valuation; and too little social and policy research (e.g. questions of access to and demand for services). We found that very little of the ES literature includes valuation of biophysical change (2.4%), despite many biophysical studies of services (24%). An initially small but substantially rising number of papers address crucial policy (14%) and social dimensions, including access, demand and the social consequences of change (5.8%). As well, recent years have seen a significant increase in non‐monetary valuation (from 0% to 2.5%). Ecosystem service research has, we summarize, evolved in meaningful ways. But some of its goals remain unmet, despite the promise to improve environmental decisions, in part because of a continued pre‐occupation with numerical valuation often without appropriate biophysical grounding. Here we call for a next generation of research: Integrative biophysical‐social research that characterizes ES change, and is coupled with multi‐metric and qualitative valuation, and context‐appropriate decision‐making. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
Sod production has been criticized as being unsustainable because of the soil export that occurs at each harvest. Wastewater treatment residuals (biosolids) disposal is often limited by nutrient or metal accumulation in the soil. Biosolids‐based sod production may be a solution to minimize soil loss and land‐apply wastewater residuals. The objectives of this study were to assess biosolids‐based sod production impact on import and export of nutrients, heavy metals, carbon, and to quantify soil loss from sod harvest with and without biosolids. Anaerobically digested, dewatered sludge (Cake) and Cake mixed with sand and sawdust (MetroMix) were applied at three rates based on estimated plant available nitrogen (PAN). An additional treatment mimicked conventional sod production practices that rely on synthetic fertilizer. All biosolids rates and sources increased Mehlich‐3 extractable phosphorus (P) to >175 mg kg−1 in the harvested sod, which could contribute to P runoff or leaching at the site of establishment. Heavy metal concentrations from both biosolids sources were below EPA loading limits and would require over 200 years of regular application (22 Mg ha−1) to exceed EPA maximum cumulative loading limits. Biosolids at 22 Mg ha−1 did little to reduce soil mineral matter loss compared to conventionally grown sod. After two sod production cycles, soil carbon increased by 50% in the surface soil (0‐10 cm), but was reduced at a depth of 20–30 cm. While high P concentrations in the biosolids limit repeated applications, moderate use of biosolids may alleviate reliance on synthetic fertilizers for N and P. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
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Commercial turfgrass cultivation is one of the main ornamental industry world-wide, however, successive turfgrass sod cutting from the same site remove surface soil leading to decline soil organic matter, impair soil fertility and cause environment degradation. The present study was aimed to investigate the applicability of poultry abattoir sludge compost (PASC) and biochar (BC) on the establishment of turfgrass by evaluating plant growth performance and mitigation of soil loss by organic waste amendments. The experimental study was designed on the soil which had originally low-organic matter content and previously used as a turfgrass sod harvested site in a sandy loam soil. Incorporation of PASC to soil improved the physicochemical properties in terms of bulk density (BD), water holding capacity (WHC), cation exchange capacity (CEC), pH, total nitrogen, total organic carbon (TOC), and organic matter (OM) by 37 (± 2)%, 45 (± 3)%, 55 (± 3)%, 21 (± 2)%, 48 (± 2)%, 90 (± 10)%, and 96 (± 4)%, respectively. PASC-amended treatments enhanced the turfgrass growth rate more than the BC due to its increased nutrient availability. Incorporation of 100 Mg ha–1 (mega gram per hectare) PASC in surface soil with or without BC decreased the mineral soil removal rate by the half of the respective soil (control) treatments. The results of the present study confirmed the utilization of PASC and BC as promising agro-industrial-based fertilizers in turfgrass sod production for sustainable soil and nutrient management.
Sod production is more like commodity-based agriculture. The goal is to generate the maximum production in the shortest period of time, with a minimum input of resources. Kentucky bluegrass is the primary cool-season species used for sod production because of its rhizome system and excellent sod-forming characteristics. Soil testing should be a prerequisite for any turf establishment operation. Seed quality is of the utmost concern to sod producers, and seed producers have responded by producing "sod quality" seed. Mowing is another management practice that can be used to favor underground tissue growth and sod development to help bring sod to the point where it can be harvested as early as possible. Weed, disease, and insect control will be similar for sod production to those practices used on the same turf species in the region. The use of sod netting placed just below the soil surface at planting is a highly specialized method of sod production.
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The turfgrass and lawncare industry in the United States continues to grow rapidly due to strong demand for residential and commercial property development, rising affluence, and the environmental and aesthetic benefits of turfgrass in the urban landscape. Economic sectors of the industry include sod farms, lawncare services, lawn and garden retail stores, and lawn equipment manufacturing. Golf courses were also included in this study as a major industry that depends upon highly managed turfgrass for golf play. Numerous studies have been conducted on the economic impacts of the turfgrass and lawncare industry for individual states or regions; however, this research is the first to report results for the entire United States. This is EDIS document FE632, a publication of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Published April 2006. FE632/FE632: Economic Impacts of the Turfgrass and Lawncare Industry in the United States (
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American society derives many benefits from farmland and is often willing to pay to preserve it from urbanization. We present an innovative framework to support farmland preservation programs in prioritizing conservation investments. The framework considers the full range of social benefits of farmland and improves the application of decision analysis methods to the process. Key factors for ranking farms are: 1) social objectives and priorities, 2) how much farmland value is expected to be lost to development if not preserved, 3) how much farmland value is already secured in the agricultural region, and 4) how much it will cost to secure the farm's benefits. The framework can be applied strategically over an entire region or to rank a set of applications from landowners. We demonstrate our framework using three criteria in the Bay Area/Delta bioregion of California.
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Turf grasses are ubiquitous in the urban landscape of the United States and are often associated with various types of environmental impacts, especially on water resources, yet there have been limited efforts to quantify their total surface and ecosystem functioning, such as their total impact on the continental water budget and potential net ecosystem exchange (NEE). In this study, relating turf grass area to an estimate of fractional impervious surface area, it was calculated that potentially 163,800 km2 (+/- 35,850 km2) of land are cultivated with turf grasses in the continental United States, an area three times larger than that of any irrigated crop. Using the Biome-BGC ecosystem process model, the growth of warm-season and cool-season turf grasses was modeled at a number of sites across the 48 conterminous states under different management scenarios, simulating potential carbon and water fluxes as if the entire turf surface was to be managed like a well-maintained lawn. The results indicate that well-watered and fertilized turf grasses act as a carbon sink. The potential NEE that could derive from the total surface potentially under turf (up to 17 Tg C/yr with the simulated scenarios) would require up to 695 to 900 liters of water per person per day, depending on the modeled water irrigation practices, suggesting that outdoor water conservation practices such as xeriscaping and irrigation with recycled waste-water may need to be extended as many municipalities continue to face increasing pressures on freshwater.
Turfgrass sod production is the commercial growing of turfgrasses for transplanting into lawns, sports fields, golf courses, and other swards. Preparing turf to become a sod product requires the application of fundamental turfgrass management plus cultural practices unique to the needs of the crop.
The use of public money to purchase development rights to privately held land has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to preserve agricultural land and open space. Several states and counties have devoted substantial dollars toward the purchase of development rights (PDR). The majority of PDR programs are found in the Northeast, and are particularly popular in urban fringe areas where farmland and open space are under intense pressure for conversion to urban or suburban uses. It is unlikely, however, that PDR programs alone can preserve a critical mass of farmland. Indeed, a number of states have chosen not to use PDRs among their growth management techniques. Although PDR programs are likely to remain controversial because of the sizable costs involved, they do offer more permanent farmland protection than zoning or property tax breaks and provide private landowners with compensation in return for restrictions on development.
Turfgrasses have been utilized by humans to enhance their environment for more than 10 centuries. The complexity and comprehensiveness of these environmental benefits that improve our quality-of-life are just now being quantitatively documented through research. Turfgrass benefits may be divided into (i) functional, (ii) recreational, and (iii) aesthetic components. Specific functional benefits include: excellent soil erosion control and dust stabilization thereby protecting a vital soil resource; improved recharge and quality protection of groundwater, plus flood control; enhanced entrapment and biodegradation of synthetic organic compounds; soil improvement that includes CO2 conversion; accelerated restoration of disturbed soils; substantial urban beat dissipation-temperature moderation; reduced noise, glare, and visual pollution problems; decreased noxious pests and allergy-related pollens; safety in vehicle operation on roadsides and engine longevity on airfields; lowered fire hazard via open, green turfed firebreaks; and improved security of sensitive installations provided by high visibility zones. The recreational benefits include a low-cost surface for outdoor sport and leisure activities enhanced physical health of participants, and a unique low- cost cushion against personal impact injuries. The aesthetic benefits include enhanced beauty and attractiveness; a complimentary relationship to the total landscape ecosystem of flowers, shrubs and trees; improved mental health with a positive therapeutic impact, social harmony and stability; improved work productivity; and an overall better quality-of-life, especially in densely populated urban areas.
Introduction Producing Sods in Soilless Media Development of the Concept Producing Mature Sods over Plastic Producing Sods for Golf Greens Solving the Problem of a Stable Continuum Subsequent Proposals in the Genre Manufacturing Sods New Machinery Future Potential Summary Literature Cited
The preservation of open spaces has become an important policy topic in many regions. Policy tools that have been used include: cluster zoning; transferable development rights; proposed land taxes to fund purchases of remaining open spaces; and private organizations that buy land. This paper develops a theoretical model of how different types of open spaces are valued by residential land owners living near these open spaces, and then, using a hedonic pricing model, tests hypotheses concerning the extent to which these different types of open spaces are capitalized into housing prices. The empirical results from Howard County, a rapidly developing county in Maryland, USA, show that “permanent” open space increases near-by residential land values over three times as much as an equivalent amount of “developable” open space. This methodology can be used to help inform policy decisions concerning open space preservation, such as effectively targeting certain areas for preservation, or as a means of creative financing of the purchase of conservation easements, through the increase in property taxes, resulting from the associated increase in property values.