Learning all about SOD!
This summer we conducted FarmChat Fridays in partnership with Buchanan County Farm Bureau, Delaware County Farm Bureau and Riverbend AITC! We covered topics on pigs, crop spraying, sod, fish, strawberries and more! Check out the recordings on our Facebook page @linncoag! Iowa agriculture is more diverse then what first meets the eye. One type of farming that I knew very little about was growing sod. We embarked on a journey to find out all the details!
First stop: Seven Cities SOD.
Seven Cities was founded in 1966 when Norman Frye was looking to diversify his farm. Seven Cities is a 650 acre farm near Davenport, IA. They grow a low mow blend of Kentucky Bluegrass that consists of four different varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass seed. In 1993, they incorporated "big roll" production which helped decrease the amount of hand rolling and physical labor needed on the farm. About 1- 1.5 inches of sod/soil are harvested. The roots of Kentucky Bluegrass expand out to the side and not down so majority of the roots are left undamaged and can easily re-root in the new destination.
It is best to harvest when the temperatures are a bit cooler but it is still important to install as soon as possible, especially when the temperatures rise above 70 degrees. The harvester is similar to a knife that slices bread. It slides under the grass and below the roots. The machine then rolls it into a bale and the farmer can then move it with a skid loader or tractor.
Most of the farm is irrigated to help keep the grass green and healthy. Fertilizer is also applied throughout the growing season to maximize plant growth. Seven Cities plants in a crop rotation of grass and soybeans. This helps fixate nitrogen in the soil to a form the grass can use the following year. It also increases the microbial activity in the soil. To watch the video visit: Seven Cities Sod FarmChat - YouTube
Second stop: Iowa State University
After learning about what it takes to grow sod we thought it would be awesome to chat with someone from an athletic field to explore maintenance. Who better to chat with then specialists with Iowa State University! Josh and Adam gave us a tour of the outdoor field, indoor and outdoor practice field and equipment shed.
In the 1970s Jack Trice was actually a synthetic turf field but in the 90s, Iowa State thought it was best to have a real field being that it is safer for the athletes and ISU is an agriculture school. The current sod was installed in 2008 but ISU is in the process of growing the sod to be used in the coming few years.
Maintenance is a daily job! Instead of increasing yields like in row crops, they are looking to increase footings or root depth. Soil tests are done on a regular basis to determine how much fertilizer needs to be applied. The soil is a sand base which helps with drainage. We don't want a clay soil because when it rains it is important that the field drains quickly. This will help protect the field when athletes are running across. Sand soil is less compactable and encourages the roots to grow deep.
The grass is mowed often and therefore the field is painted before each game. Josh and his team ensure the field is painted the same for every game by following a GPS map that is created in the beginning of the season. Check out this soil sample, overtime some of the paint seeps into the soil and dyes the sand particles.
Making sure the field looks perfect for each games is a lot of work but it makes it all worth it when the football players score a touch down and the field is viewed all over TV!
Being in the middle of the football field at Jack Trice Stadium was such an amazing opportunity. If you want to learn more check out our conversation with Josh and Adam! Jack Trice FarmChat - YouTube