Florida sod farm survives 12 days of flooding

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, sod farmer Doug Carter saw firsthand a certain bermudagrass variety’s ability to survive and thrive.


Sun Turf Doug Carter
Doug Carter, owner of Sun Turf sod farm in Florida. Photos courtesy of Doug Carter

Following Hurricane Irma last summer, Doug Carter’s sod farm fields were covered with 36 inches of standing water. In a two-day period, Fort Pierce, Fla., had received nearly 16 inches of rain.

“I pulled in the gate and could not believe what I saw,” Carter, owner of Sun Turf sod farm and a licensed sod producer of PremierPRO bermudagrass, says. “My farm was 3 feet under water. The whole farm.”

As the water receded, Carter noticed many of the grasses in his fields were damaged, yet one was left unharmed. In the 12 days necessary to remove the water, the 3 acres of PremierPRO hybrid bermudagrass resurfaced with no damage whatsoever.

The Sun Turf farm is situated between cattle pasture and orange groves, which made pumping out the standing water difficult, as Carter was pumping for the adjacent properties as well. It took four days for Carter to isolate his farm from the neighboring properties to make any headway pumping out water.

“By day five, I start panicking. I know I’ve lost everything; I know we aren’t gonna make it,” Carter says. “This is my registered block, my money block. This is what I have to use to plant certified. Of course I thought, ‘I can’t even see it; it’s under water.’”

By day six, the turf farm was still submerged under 2 feet of water. On day eight, the highest points of Carter’s fields — where he had planted Celebration and Tifway 419 — began to surface, while other parts of the farm where PremierPRO was planted remained submerged for a total of 12 days.

While Tifway 419 and Celebration bermudagrass suffered severe water damage and set Carter back 15 to 60 days for production, PremierPRO was unharmed. PremierPRO was under water longer than Tifway 419 and Celebration, but thanks to its ability to survive in low-oxygen conditions and hypoxic soils, it was able to withstand 12 days under water, according to Milt Engelke, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Texas A&M University and developer of PremierPRO.

Hurricane Irma sod farm flooding

Sun Turf sod farm
Sun Turf sod farm the day after and 10 days after Hurricane Irma.

“Within two weeks of the water receding, I could have harvested and sold every square foot of that PremierPRO block,” Carter says. “I was absolutely amazed. I could not believe it.”

After the water had dried out enough, Carter sprayed the farm with fungicides. About a week after that, he was able to run equipment on it. “By day eight or 10, we were spraying for fungus and disease, more as a precautionary thing any turf farmer would do,” Carter says. On the PremierPRO, he has sprayed only once since the hurricane. “And it’s beautiful,” he says.

Based on PremierPRO’s recovery following Hurricane Irma, Carter is expanding his production of the grass to more than 50 acres by spring. “I think it’s capable of handling very wet conditions, capable of handling very dry conditions. It’s a much denser grass than some of the other bermudagrasses that are out there right now,” Carter says. “From what I’ve seen so far, in terms of the durability of it, nothing compares.”

For more information on PremierPRO bermudagrass, visit Sod Production Services.

Alyssa Sanchez is a public relations specialist with the marketing firm What’s Your Avocado?.