A look back on 2020
This year started off with a lot of excitement and opportunity as a new decade began. But just a few months into 2020, COVID-19 shut down normal day-to-day operations and many businesses had to adjust. Sod Solutions pivoted and, like many others, found new ways to grow. Relationships are core to the turfgrass industry and shifting many of those virtually was unfortunate but necessary.
Over the course of the year Sod Solutions Professionals completed 20 professional jobs, held several educational webinars and lunch & learns and overall saw many successes among our grass varieties in 2020.
“This year, Sod Solutions has continued to expand on our relationships from over the past 25 years to serve as a professional and educational resource in the industry,” said Erin Wilder, executive director of business and professional development. “We have learned an incredible amount throughout this year and we have so much potential going into 2021.”
Of the many notable projects completed by SS Pro in 2020, Wilder mentioned a few interesting successes from throughout the year:
- Celebration® Bermudagrass was reinstalled at LSU’s Tiger Stadium. Sod Solutions enjoyed working with Mark Lee and his team.
- Opportunity to work with South Florida’s Action Sod for several successful job installations.
- A Latitude 36® Bermudagrass croquet court was installed in a residential backyard in Washington, D.C.
- Longtime Major League Baseball turf manager and sports field professional, Luke Yoder, installed Innovation™ Zoysia grass into his residential lawn.
“We had many successes with Innovation this year in both professional and residential installations. I am thrilled about the potential of new bids and projects in the new year,” Wilder shared.
Although new golf course construction and renovation work was delayed this year due to the pandemic, rounds were way up in many cases as golfers wanted to get out of the house and into a “safe” outdoor environment.
“Before the pandemic, not many people had several spare hours to go play a round of golf. In fact, golf was on a steady decline in the number of rounds being played,” Wilder shared. “The pandemic has actually caused a tremendous turnaround in the entire golf industry. With more people not traveling or attending their usual extracurricular activities and events, they have spent more time golfing.”
Wilder explained that most golf course superintendents she has spoken to have hit a record-breaking number of rounds and traffic this year. Social distancing guidelines pushed more cart traffic and most courses didn’t see a decline in rounds even through the traditionally slow seasons.
Sod Solutions grasses were able to handle the wear and tear of more golf rounds this year and superintendents have complimented the varieties being able to withstand the extra golfers on their courses.
“Golf has had a phenomenal advantage and grown throughout the pandemic. In the past the industry has discussed ways to get younger generations in this sport and now it has increased among all age groups,” Wilder added.
She explained that many sports and commercial applications where Sod Solutions varieties currently exist have had the ability to complete maintenance projects this year they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do if events and games had not been canceled.
“This year gave turf managers an opportunity to improve their sports fields during down-time of usage. They could complete aerification and grooming practices that will have a positive impact on their playing surface,” Wilder said.
She anticipates it will take several years for sports to comfortably fully return due to the coronavirus.
Throughout the year, Sod Solutions has worked diligently on two large bermudagrass research programs that will take sports grass into the next two decades.
Roberto Gurgel, executive director of research, explained both the Celebration X and Turf Research Bermuda California (TRBC) projects are going well.
The Celebration X project is seeking to develop a bermudagrass off of a Celebration progeny that has reduced seed heads, less thatch and is more cold hardy. Several of the experimental lines have been entered into the current National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) trials.
“We have had a lot of success with the Celebration X project with Mississippi State University throughout 2020. We look forward to how this venture and the current NTEP trials will provide more information on the grass varieties,” Gurgel said. “We hope to produce more desirable varieties from these projects and I believe they’ll be able to be used in different applications such as residential, golf and sports grass.”
The TRBC project in partnership with Oklahoma State University seeks to find a bermudagrass with a perfect variety for the California market; one that showcases excellent winter color and/or early green-up, improved drought tolerance for the western climate and good blocking ability.
“We were able to evaluate the top lines for drought, for spring green-up and for fall color retention in the TRBC project this year,” Gurgel shared. “Also, we have narrowed down from over 100 varieties to the best three experimental line candidates for selection.”
In 2021, Sod Solutions will test these lines in several locations in California to see how they perform as a commercial variety evaluating how they grow in, harvest and block.
“2020 has been a year to remember. Our prayers go out to all who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For those affected, there have been health concerns, difficult family impacts and many business challenges. No matter which side of the political or philosophical side of the issues you are on, the year has been one of major impact and change,” said Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner.
Wagner explained the company will continue to examine every aspect of the business and look for ways to pivot in order to serve organizations and the general industry better. As we move into 2021 with a bullish approach, Wagner said “pivoting” and service” will be two areas of focus to propel customers and Sod Solutions into a successful 2021 and beyond.
“The rapid changes to our daily lives this year has prompted all of us to rethink strategies moving forward. We must pivot to be successful and safe while providing service to the industry that is beneficial to the highest degree possible,” Wagner said.
Early 2021 will look very different from the start of 2020 as the big three trade shows including Sports Turf Manager Association (STMA), Golf Industry Show (GIS) and Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) have either been canceled or moved to a virtual meeting format.
“Communication and interaction will continue to look very different early in 2021. This shift is just one example of dramatic changes to industry norms that require pivoting in order to adequately serve the industry,” Wagner added. One of the ways those changes are implemented is through Turf Logistics farm management software which provides the technology for contactless e-commerce order management.
Sod Solutions welcomes the opportunity to assist your business in making a service-oriented pivot along with us in 2021.
This Turf Talk was written by Cecilia Brown.