In recent years more attention than ever has focused on the environment and especially on protecting water sources from possible contamination. While these concerns are justifiable, much of the environmental “heat” has been on turf areas, especially golf courses and home lawns. Much of this negative publicity stems from misconceptions and misinformation about turfgrass ecosystems. Many people have the perception that when fertilizers or pesticides are applied to turfgrass, they either runoff contaminating surface waters or leach through the soil and pollute groundwater. In reality, the amount of pollution is insignificant in a well managed turf area while its ability to stabilize soils and act as a filter is remarkable. This is not to say that pesticides and fertilizers are not a potential pollution problem; on the contrary, over-fertilization with fast-release fertilizers, blanket pesticide applications, and other poor management practices can be a major pollution problem. These problems, however, typically occur when uninformed homeowners or poorly trained professionals attempt to care for a lawn. A knowledgeable homeowner or certified professional employing a well-timed slow-release fertility program, soil testing, aeration, proper mowing and watering, and an integrated pest management program can contribute to the goal of protecting your health, safety and natural resources with a thick, green, and weed-free lawn. In addition, having a nice lawn affords environmental benefits, too:
- Most erosion begins with the impact of a raindrop loosening soil particles, but a healthy and thick lawn protects against this. In addition, up to 90% of the weight of a grass plant is in its roots, making it a very efficient filter of tainted water. A healthy, well-maintained lawn will not only prevent erosion, but help purify water that runs off or percolates through it. Soil erosion and runoff is identified as the number one problem affecting the Chesapeake Bay.
- Healthy, dense lawns can absorb rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field. This reduces runoff of water, chemicals, and nutrients.
- The cooling effect of an average-sized lawn is equal to about nine tons of air conditioning, which is greater than a typical home’s central air conditioning unit.
- Turf reduces noise levels by as much as 30%
- Turf grass traps tons of dust and dirt that is released into the atmosphere
- Weed-free, well-maintained turf reduces pollen sources and provides a safe haven for allergy sufferers.
- A turf area just 50 feet by 50 feet absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and other gases and releases enough oxygen for a family of four.