The many ways lawns help our environment

September 4, 2010  - By

By: Jim Novak, Turfgrass Producers International

When USA Today ran an article on Aug. 17, 2010 titled, “Out of Fashion: Green Lawns”,
Turfgrass Producers International felt a need to draft a Letter to the Editor.  At issue was the fact that the article contained some misinformation and the omission of important facts regarding natural turfgrass lawns and how they benefit the environment.

(Image courtesy Jim Novak, TPI)

The article suggested that lawns are “wasteful suburban seas of green” and “incredibly inefficient, and not just from an environmental perspective.”

In drafting the rebuttal, Kirk Hunter, executive director of Turfgrass Producers International, noted that America’s residential lawns along with the natural turfgrass that covers golf courses, parks, commercial landscapes, greenbelts, athletic fields, etc., helps to cool the air, produces oxygen, filters out pollutants, captures and suppresses dust, recharges and filters our ground water supply, reduces storm water runoff. Controls soil erosion, retains and sequesters carbon, restores soil quality, dissipates heat, lessens the “heat island effect” and has been proven to improve mental and physical health.

Hunter went on to quote the findings of leading turfgrass research authorities including Dr. James Beard, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University, Dr. John Stier, Associate Professor, Department Chair, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Dr. Thomas Watschke, Professor Emeritus of Turfgrass Science,   Pennsylvania State University, and other respected green industry authorities who have addressed the often under reported benefits of natural turfgrass.

The author suggested in her article that “by changing our thinking about lawns we just might save our planet.” Her position was based on excessive use of water, pesticides and fuel usage but failed to mention new varieties of turfgrass that are more drought tolerant, have a greater resistance to pests and disease or don’t require frequent mowing. Nor does she mention advancements in technology over the last several years that have resulted in lawn care equipment that is more fuel efficient and more eco-friendly.

Research has shown that natural turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas; the roots of turfgrass have a higher plant density than native grasses which affects infiltration and decreases water runoff and increases percolation, and that natural turfgrass actually builds organic material into the soil and creates the best soils on earth.

There is no question that there is a need to educate the public on sound water conservation practices and the proper use of pesticides; but to suggest that the absence of green lawns might actually benefit our planet is false and misleading.

When you consider all of the benefits associated with natural turfgrass one would have to conclude that    – – – “Suburban seas of green just might help save our planet.”

About the Author:

Turfgrass Producers International – TPI

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