An Environmentally Friendly Lawn Beckons


A great number of homeowners yearn for a perfect, green lawn, but this can be problematic when, for instance, there is drought in the United States and hosepipe bans are a possibility in the United Kingdom. Not only that, but the use of fertiliser and pesticide is discouraged. While green, lawns can be decidedly ungreen, figuratively.

Studies have connected pesticide use in schools with illness in staff and students and use at home with a greater prospect of childhood leukemia. Pesticides can even kill. While use of agricultural chemicals declined by 12,189 tons in the United States from 1992 to 1997, chemicals used on lawns grew by 7,747 tons.

Researchers at two US universities hope to find a solution. Scientists at Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota will strive for five years to make environmentally friendly lawns that are less prone to disease and drought and better for homeowners economically.

These scientists have been granted USD2.1/GBP1.29/EUR1.62 million by the US Department of Agriculture to discover how to make fine fescue, a species of grass that is highly drought-tolerant. It’s native to Europe and used worldwide as grazing pasture, ornamental landscaping and, yes, home lawns. This is the stuff of environmentally friendly lawns.

Austin Grimshaw, a research technician at the Center for Turfgrass Science of Rutgers’ Noo Joizee Agricultural Experiment Station, expounded that his team was attempting to make grass that was low maintenance, less vulnerable to disease and more wear-tolerant. His colleague, Stacy Bonos, further explained that fine fescue requires virtually no water or fertiliser to maintain density and retain that highly desirable green hue, and so would be an environmentally friendly lawn.

Fine fescue grows best in humid climates, seaside areas and places of high elevation. Overwatering can cause it to thin out or even expire. It requires the occasional dry spell if it is to flourish.

Part of the endeavour, trilled Bonos, was to understand what homeowners and groundskeepers desire from a lawn and how best the product could be marketed. Many people don’t maintain their lawns themselves and know not what chemicals are used, but there is a demand. As landscaper, John Melby, disclosed, people, particularly mothers, care about the chemicals used in lawns. He became aware of the environmental cost of a green lawn when he attended a conference in Chicago, which left him struck with the realisation, “I just realized that, my gosh, what I’ve been doing 30-some years is damaging the environment.”

Rutgers has delivered classes in environmentally friendly lawn care.

Source: (1) Journal Times

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

Leave a Comment: