Friday, January 29, 2010



Lawns provide benefits to the environment.  There is an anti lawn movement being created by special interest groups across Canada.  Many organizations concerned about fertilizer inputs and other plant health care practices have done their best to change the perception that Canadians have about their lawns and other recreational turfgrass areas.

The truth is that the attempts by these groups to vilify lawns, golf courses and other turf areas in general in an effort to convince people to switch to alternative landscapes could actually be harmful to the environment.  Before you begin to dig up your lawn and pave it over or switch to an alternative landscape, you should consider some of the benefits provided by lawns.

The benefits of healthy turfgrass areas are similar to the benefits of trees and have been well documented by Dr. James Beard of Texas A&M, and other turf researchers across North America.

Some of the benefits associated with healthy turfgrass include:

- Healthy turf areas are prolific oxygen producers and help to sequester carbon dioxide.  Grass and other plants convert carbon dioxide into clean oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.  Thick healthy turf verses thin, dormant or weed infested turf is more efficient and effective in providing this benefit.
- Healthy turf helps to filter and improve air quality.  Healthy turf traps and absorbs dust and pollutants from the air helping us to breathe a little easier.
- Healthy turfgrass further helps to clean water that enters the ground.  The dense root mass and thatch layer (a thin layer of living and decomposing organic matter between the soil surface and the grass plants) and foliage acts as a natural filter helping to purify water.  Water that passes through healthy turf is generally much cleaner than before it enters.
- Healthy turfgrass also helps to moderate air and surface temperature on a hot summer day by as much as 5 degrees C.  Turf provides tremendous cooling effect through evapotranspiration or water loss through the leaves helping to moderate temperatures and reduce air conditioning needs significantly in urban environments.
- Turfgrass areas can also help to absorb and reduce noise by as much as 20-30%.
- Healthy turf provides a safe and comfortable playing surface for sports and leisure activities.
- Well kept turf reduces nuisance pests such as snakes, mice, moles and rats.
- Lawns that are well kept generally do not have as many weeds that can contribute to allergies such as ragweed.
- Healthy turfgrass areas are deeply rooted and help to stabilize soil, thus providing effective soil erosion control.

The benefits associated with healthy turf enhance our quality of life and far out weigh the benefits of weak, neglected weed infested turf or alternative landscapes.

There is a misperception in society that lawns are monocultures and that we should do more to promote more diverse landscapes.  Lawns are not monocultures.  They are usually made up of 2 - 3 species (i.e., Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues) of turfgrass which incorporate different varieties or cultivars within the species.  Even lawns that are sodded with 100% Kentucky bluegrass, generally contain three to four different varieties of bluegrass selected for their tolerances to environmental conditions and stress and their ability to grow under adverse conditions.

Although it is a matter of choice whether you prefer the aesthetics of a lawn or an alternative ground cover or landscape (i.e., rocks or pavement), the choice should not be made on the misconception that lawns are bad for the environment.  In fact, the opposite is true in that lawns provide tremendous benefits to our environment.

Article written by Darcy Olds, Bayer Environment Sciences
Turf Talk Volume 1 Issue 6 Fall/Winter 2007