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Progressive Magazines

Sod farm in NevadaSoil depletion a problem?

Sod farmer Russell Kenison is taking a pro-active approach . . .

by Leon Leavitt

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WINNEMUCCA, NV  ~ At first glance, sod farming in the dry arid Nevada desert seems out of place, but with warm temperatures, water, and proper nutrients, it is a viable enterprise.That's what Russell Kenison has discovered on his 110-acre northern Nevada turf farm. His sod market is primarily the area between Wendover and Reno, although occasionally some sales have been made in the Lake Tahoe area.


Even though there are a lot of hybrid grasses on the market, Russell has stayed with a common variety called Newport. Grass seed characteristically is long and flat. Russell plants his seed at the rate of 125 lbs/acre via the broadcast method, followed by harrowing.


Everything that he plants this year will be harvested the next year. Russell says that he has to be done by the middle of September in order for the new growth to come up and cover the ground, and still survive the non-irrigated winter. The stand also has to be established strong enough to survive the harsh winds that frequently occur.


When Russell first started in the sod farm business in 1985, they could plant the seed and harvest it within three or four months. Over the years, the soil had become depleted to the extent that it took about a year and half before there was enough root base established in order to market the product. Over the years, he has used sulphur fertilizers to counteract the salts in the soils. 

Russell explains,"We worked the ground really hard in those first years, and within two or three years, we didn't have the option (of earlier harvests), because we took out whatever was in there to make it happen.The lack of the biologicals being present was probably the biggest reason; we took so much of them out that they went dormant on us."


Then a couple of seasons ago he heard about applying a microbial blend of nutrients (from Healthy Soil- Bactifeed) to his sod via injection into the sprinkler system. He signed up on their program and says,“I have a lot more root now than I used to have.”


Russell shares his story: “When I make 1/2” to 3/4” cut (harvest),I take 5/16”of dirt, so the rest has to be root. You can take a piece of the sod and shake it; there is very little dirt that falls out-but you'll notice there is a lot of root.That's the reason behind getting something that makes root. That's what these (Bactifeed) microbials have done for me-by assisting the soil so the plant will root like it's supposed to.If it doesn't root, then I can't cut it, because I don't net (a lot of turf farms apply netting, to keep the cut together when there is considerable dirt



The bottom line for Northern Nevada Turf Farm is a reduction in the amount of fertilizer applied and “a whole lot more growth." Russell is happy with the microbial approach and says, "This stuff is bringing us back.I think by next year, we'll be able to harvest within a year and get back to the program that we were on before, because it is helping the soil so much."


Their soil depletion has been put in reverse, and he's gaining back the soil condition needed for optimum sod production.


I discovered that there is usually an answer to most production problems, and not the same solution applies to everyone. I enjoy visiting with farmers who"think out of the box”and dare to be innovative. Russell Kenison is one of them.

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