Learning what it actually means to grow Certified turfgrasses was one of the first realizations to hit me when I came to work at NG Turf. To me, certification means purity; genetically and aesthetically. To a normal person this may mean nothing. To a person who grows it and the person who buys it, this means everything.
If you’re a buyer of turfgrasses, here’s why certification is important:
A buyer can purchase Certified Tifway 419 Bermuda from Sod Producer 1. In a few months, the buyer may need one more pallet to finish the project. He calls Sod Producer 1, but they are out of Tifway 419. So he calls his second option, Sod Producer 2. Come to find out, Sod Producer 2 only sells Certified Tifway 419 as well. The buyer knows that he is getting the same sod, true to variety with no other types of grass in his sod all because of its certification.
To be “certified” means having your fields inspected four times a year by the Georgia Crop Improvement Association (GCIA) and its trained inspectors. If they find another variety of grass in the field, it may be shut down and called “contaminated.” Producing certified varieties of turfgrass is not cheap, to say the least. The sod farm must grow the turfgrass varieties under rigorous guidelines designed to promote ongoing varietal purity and uniformity.
The farm also needs a person working full time who can tell “off-types” apart from the growing grasses, sometimes two people if the farm is big. If an off-type is found, that part of the field is further inspected for more off-types. The areas where the off-types are found would then be killed off with a non-selective herbicide (ie: Roundup). A close watch would be kept on the area during re-growth to make sure the off-type did not reappear.
There is also the documenting portion of the certification. Every piece of certified grass, whether it is ten pieces or a whole pallet, must have a hand-written certificate expressing the certification of the turfgrass variety. This certificate must be written by a person who has been to a class about certified turfgrasses taught by a trained professional. This certificate will include the amount of grass and the field it was cut from. This will aid in the GCIA keeping track of how much certified turfgrass is sold in the state of Georgia.
There are many reasons to buy certified turfgrass: varietal purity, a standard of excellence, and having the highest quality sod available from a sod producer. If you want the best for your home lawn, commercial installation, golf course or sports field, ask for “Blue Tag” certified turfgrass when you buy sod, and make sure you get the certificate stating that your grass was grown in accordance with growing standards set by the GCIA.