Looking Ahead at 2023
Below is a message from Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner with an outlook on 2023.
The writing is on the wall and it seems certain that businesses and consumers will face the headwinds of a changing economy in 2023. To prepare for the future, strategies are needed to face the challenges of inflation, labor shortages and rising interest rates. What will these changes mean for the turf and landscape industries? With inflation reaching its highest level in two decades, consumers will become more discerning in their purchasing decisions. It will become more important than ever to offer products with a competitive advantage and to develop a creative and educational digital marketing approach to win sales. As diesel fuel climbs over $5 per gallon and driver shortages continue, transportation costs will continue to have a significant impact on our industries. Developing a strategy to create efficiencies in load management and routing will save money and provide a hedge against sharply rising costs in transportation. Sod Solutions, through its various business units, has real solutions to offer in 2023 to help you succeed in spite of the changing economy.
Our Turfgrass Licensing business unit is offering a portfolio of improved turfgrass varieties balanced with tried and true options as well as newly released varieties that are on the cutting edge of breeding technology. Our field staff is available to meet with you to evaluate the needs of your customer base and introduce some new varieties that are significantly improved. Many of these newly released varieties were developed by land grant universities, often through sponsored research supported by turf farm contributors, with specific targets that include improved drought tolerance, less mowing, fewer inputs, earlier spring green-up and better winter color. Several of these grasses were developed using state-of-the-art breeding techniques. These new grasses are not just the latest and greatest but have the potential to be real game changers for growers and consumers with unique improved genetics.
Lobo™️ Zoysia and Sola™️ St. Augustine were released from North Carolina State University. Lobo Zoysia, released in November 2021, is a low-input, fast-growing zoysia with less water and fertilizer requirements. It features a fine texture and a stunning look. Released in August 2022, Sola St. Augustine follows in the footsteps of the long-standing NC State cultivar, Raleigh St. Augustinegrass. Sola adds a number of improvements including aggressive growth, shade tolerance, drought tolerance and superior sod strength in combination with turf quality. While the new line is comparable to Raleigh in terms of cold tolerance, it possesses an improved pest resistance package having better tolerance to chinch bugs and gray leaf spot.
Cobalt™️ Hybrid St. Augustine was released by Texas A&M University in January 2022. Cobalt is a fast-growing St. Augustine with excellent drought tolerance, disease resistance and shade tolerance. Its level of drought tolerance will change the way people think about St. Augustine grass and water use. Cobalt is the first hybrid St. Augustine grass developed using the embryo rescue technology where sterile polyploid germplasm (with drought and pest resistance) is crossed with fertile diploid genotypes (with superior shade, cold tolerance and visual characteristics.)
Celebration Hybrid™️ Bermuda was released from Mississippi State University in September 2022. Celebration Hybrid is an improved variety resulting from crosses of Celebration® Bermudagrass. Celebration Hybrid exhibited top-tier drought tolerance in the most recent National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) bermudagrass trials but also adds many other improved features that may make it the best overall bermuda on the market. It showcases a finer texture and better shade tolerance than its predecessor, Celebration, with fewer seed heads and with less thatch. It also has a better cold tolerance, performing well deep into the transition zone. It was trialed at golf course sites across the Southeast United States where it was favored by superintendents.
All four grasses are the result of a focused approach by breeders to develop truly improved grasses. None of this would be possible without support from growers and sponsored programs. We are confident that the industry will look back at 2022 as a historical mark when four major grasses from three separate universities changed the industry in a positive manner. Each of these grasses is uniquely suited to provide improved performance to both sod producers and end-users in a wide geographic range for a variety of market segments, including home lawns, golf, sports and commercial applications.
Technology is something everyone talks about it but what is its practical application for a sod farm? What is really needed? There are many aspects of technology that help improve efficiency and cut costs including high-tech farm equipment, smarter irrigation and management software. Our Software Technology business unit offers Turf Logistics® for order, harvest and transportation management. We believe what this platform has done for the office/owners at turf farms is comparable to what automatic harvesters have done for production. New in our technology cupboard is recently released SatQuote™️ and SatMeasure™️. These systems are targeted to the landscape industry and provide accurate measuring and professional quote generation to landscape businesses.
2022 has been a breakout year for our Sod Solutions Professionals business unit. This unit was created to drive sales of Sod Solutions’ turf brands in commercial and professional applications to the benefit of licensed growers. An increasing number of golf courses, sports fields, HOAs and other entities are increasingly engaging and working directly with Sod Solutions Professionals for their jobs.
Sod Home provides an eCommerce platform for sod, grass plugs and control product sales. In this day and age, more people expect the ability to order products online and have them delivered directly to their homes. We were on the cutting edge forefront of sod eCommerce to the industry and have seen it grow exponentially in the last five years. Learn more about our products and offerings at SodSolutions.com.
Our team looks forward to providing more information about these various opportunities in the coming year. Here’s to a successful 2023!
Tobey Wagner | Sod Solutions | President