Turf cultivation makes up large amount of state farmland - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Growing grass is big business in North Carolina

BLADEN COUNTY (WECT) - North Carolina is one of the most diversified agricultural states in the nation. The state's 52,000 farmers grow over 80 different commodities. 

With the emphasis on eating healthier, produce is taking up a good deal of that farmland, in addition to corn, which is used for livestock feed. 

More turf grass is grown in North Carolina than corn, wheat, tobacco and peanuts combined. 

In 1970, on a high bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River, Oakland Plantation began operations as a turf farm. That year, five employees had just three acres under cultivation. Today, over 2,000 acres of sod is harvested from the Bladen County operation. 

"We have four different Bermudas, we have two St. Augustine grasses and we have three Zoyia grasses" said Rick Neisler, General Manager of Oakland Plantation Turf Farm. 

North Carolina ranks eighth in the country in the production of turf grass, with 12 different species being grown and harvested. But since the state is located in an agricultural transition zone, both cool season and warm season grasses can be grown successfully, depending on what part of the state the turf farms are located. 

"Centipede has been a staple grass in eastern North Carolina for a long time" said Neisler. "It likes the soils here. It is a low maintenance grass. While the Zoyia grasses have made improvements in the last few years with a big comeback, of course, St. Augustine is preferred along the coast because of its shade tolerance." 

And when it is hot and dry, irrigation is a must. Turf farmers pump thousands of gallons of water onto the grass every day, to help maintain growth and integrity.

So if you lawn is not looking as good as you would like it to be, a visit to one of the state's turf farms can turn that ugly yard into the best looking in the neighborhood, in just a few hours of work and lots of watering.

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