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Did You Buy Sod or Certified Turfgrass

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Did You Buy Sod or Certified Grass?

Before you specify or buy sod for a project, you analyze the site conditions and make a careful choice based on the unique characteristics of a particular turfgrass variety.
The success of your project hinges on the ability of that variety to perform as expected. However, contamination from other grasses or weeds could jeopardize the installation, unless you purchase certified turfgrass.

What Is Certified Sod?

The Georgia Crop Improvement Association (GCIA), a non-profit organization, has been legally designated to oversee the certification process to ensure the quality and uniformity of premium turfgrasses. Participating growers must adhere to a stringent protocol, planting on sterilized land and submitting to at least three third-party inspections each year.

Quality Control

There are no state or federal laws in place to protect professional landscapers, facility managers or golf course superintendents who unknowingly purchase contaminated sod, and there is no recourse when a turfgrass fails to perform. GCIA certification provides the only quality control in the industry.

Look for this blue tag when you buy sod.

Only about half of Georgia’s producers participate in the GCIA Turfgrass Certification program, so when you buy sod, it’s important to look for the blue tag that indicates the turfgrass has been certified by the GCIA. Also be sure to specify GCIA “blue tag” certified turfgrass when writing contracts for bids.

Benefits of Certified Turfgrass

Prices for certified turfgrasses tend to run 10% higher than non-certified, but the long term benefits offset the slight difference in cost. When you buy sod with GCIA certification, you know you’re getting high quality turfgrass, free of weeds or contaminating grasses.

The GCIA Turfgrass Certificate asserts:

  • 8The turfgrass was inspected for varietal uniformity and absence of other turf species.
  • No noxious weeds were observed in mature sod.
  • The turfgrass was grown under rigorous specifications in a field inspected by trained professionals.
  • It represents the highest quality sod available for landscapes, athletic fields and golf courses.
  • It is the nationally recognized standard of excellence in the urban agriculture industry.

How will your sod perform?

Most important, you know the certified turfgrass will perform true to variety. Cold hardiness, shade tolerance, drought resistance and all other performance claims have been scientifically verified, helping ensure successful projects and satisfied clients.

In fact, many of the most specialized, highest performing varieties are sold only as GCIA certified, including TifTuf and TifGrand Bermuda, Zeon Zoysia, and TifBlair Centipede.

Avoid Certification Confusion

The Georgia Department of Agriculture also provides a certification, but its standards are far less rigorous. The Live Plant Certificate simply promises “apparent freedom” from insects, diseases and other pests. When you buy sod with a Live Plant Certificate, the product may still be contaminated with weeds or common grasses, and may even boast false claims regarding performance characteristics.

Only the GCIA Turfgrass Certificate ensures both high quality and varietal uniformity of turfgrass. Every shipment of GCIA certified sod must be accompanied by a GCIA Turfgrass Certificate, proving that the product was produced on an inspected and certified farm. Just remember to look for the blue tag.

blue tag certified turfgrass

Learn More

To learn more about certified sod, contact our Certified Turfgrass Professionals at 770.832.8608 or


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