The modern turf industry as we know it today started in the 1930s on the banks of the Hawkesbury River and outer semi-rural suburbs of Sydney.
The importation of Kikuyu and subsequent planting of this grass type at Hawkesbury Agricultural College in 1920 gave rise to Kikuyu being adopted for dairy pasture use throughout neighbouring areas and later in many parts of the country. The Hawkesbury Valley's climate allowed for its rapid growth and fast establishment, which quickly gave rise to the cutting of turf and runners from these properties for the continuation of its propagation; - albeit mainly for pasture establishment.
The benefits and relative ease of transplantation and establishment by this method soon led to the rise of Kikuyu not only being used for pasture but also for garden areas and so the 'instant lawn' market was born.
Pioneers of the industry including Charlie Courtney, John Polley, Gordon Johnston and Frank Turnbull harvested Kikuyu and Couch turf from various locations in the Richmond area through the 1930s. In those days long battens were placed on the ground 12"(30cm apart) and an axe was used to cut into the turf along with the battens. A spade was then used to cut under the turf, then rolled and stacked to hold in the moisture before being laden onto horse-and-cart for delivery.
Pasture or paddock turf remained the norm until the 1950's when the advent of both the horse-drawn and Victa mower allowed for the establishment of cultivated turf operations.
The principles of turf cutting have remained the same since this time however the practice has changed enormously over the past 60 years.
The introduction of the 'Ryan' Turfcutter in the early '60s, the Brouwer Turfcutter in the '80s and the development of 'sod' planters in the '90s all led towards the establishment of a highly productive and efficient 'cultivated' turf industry.
In more recent times, growers have continued to seek and embrace new technologies to make their businesses more efficient and viable. However, the industry has also faced challenges emanating from drought and subsequent water shortages. Other problems include declining industry profitability, increasing production costs and water supply concerns; product variability and consumer sustainability concerns; increasing environmental concerns; urban encroachment; a trend to smaller housing plots, gardens and lawn and; a public perception that turf is a high water and fertiliser use product.
Prior to 2006, the turf industry funded a research and development (R&D) program through Horticulture Australia Limited, now known as Hort Innovation, with voluntary contributions paid by producers, sports turf associations, the turf maintenance and landscape sector and allied suppliers. Prior to the 2006 levy introduction, there had been no marketing and promotion (M&P) program funded by the industry.
In 2006, Australian Turf Producers elected to support the introduction of a horticultural products levy for Research & Development and Marketing and a Turf industry strategic plan was developed to guide how the levy funds can be best used to benefit the industry. The industry strategic investment plans are reviewed annually and approximately every 4 to 5 years, a new strategic investment plan is developed in consultation with turf growers and Turf Australia.