ECOLOGICALLY SOUND LAWN CARE FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Abstract:Current turfgrass management practices in the U.S. contribute to a number of environmental problems. Typical practices generate large amounts of solid and hazardous waste, and use (often waste) large amounts of water during the summer months when supplies are lowest. Since the 1940's typical lawncare practices have also included intensive use of synthetic chemicals including water-soluble fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. A review of current science suggests that these practices may be harmful to human health and to aquatic ecosystems, including threatened salmonid populations. They also negatively impact the turfgrass ecosystem, contributing to significant declines in populations of beneficial soil organisms, decreased nutrient cycling, soil acidification and compaction, thatch accumulation, and diminished resistance to diseases.
Interviews with turf professionals around the Pacific Northwest region and a review of scientific and technical literature indicate that a proven alternative approach exists. It is based on observation of the entire soil and grass ecosystem, appreciation that turfgrasses are sustained by the activities of soil-dwelling organisms, and understanding that this grass community is a dynamic equilibrium among many plants, invertebrates, and microbial organisms. This equilibrium can then be shaped to support the natural vigor of the grass plant and the beneficial soil organisms, and to minimize pest problems, by application of proper cultural practices. These best practices create healthier, easier to maintain lawns, and will also greatly reduce the environmental impact of lawns in this region.
Seattle Public Utilities and its regional partners are now working to educate residents and landscape professionals around Puget Sound about these best practices for lawn care. Strategies include neighborhood meetings, training volunteers, partnering with professional and citizen organizations, advertising, media events, and professional training and certification.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2000
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