MADISON – During the week of July 23, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will play host to upwards of 1,100 visitors who will spend much of their time looking down at the ground.
It’s not that they’re shy; they’ll just be minding their business. Members of three turfgrass industry groups will converge on Madison for a convention, symposium and trade show. A highlight will be a field day held July 26 at the UW-Madison’s O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility in Verona.
The largest contingent will come from Turfgrass Producers International, comprised of turfgrass sod producers from more than 40 countries around the world. Also participating is the Midwest Sod Council. Those two groups will join the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association, which helps fund the O.J. Noer facility and convenes there each summer.
“This is the first time that TPI and the MSC events together have been hosted by a university,” says John Stier, UW-Madison horticulture professor and turfgrass specialist. “Usually they hold it on a commercial sod farm, but they were impressed with our turf research facilities.”
Turfgrass is Wisconsin’s fifth largest crop in terms of acreage. Wisconsin has an estimated 300,000 acres of turfgrass in its parks, roadsides, home lawns, golf courses, athletic fields and sod farms. Sod farms account for about 10,000 acres.
Gross receipts from sod produced in Wisconsin yields about $25 million annually, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Wisconsin producers sell about 200 million square feet of sod annually.
Wisconsin is a big player in the nation’s sod industry, Stier adds.”We have 64 large, full-time sod operations. That’s large when you consider that Pennsylvania, with twice Wisconsin’s population, only has a couple dozen operations.
“Most of the state’s sod producers are located in the southeast corner of the state, and much of what they produce is sold in the Chicago metropolitan area,” Stier adds.