With today’s ecological concerns, many more people choose sod for its immediate environmental benefits. The U.S. Congress has acknowledged these positive benefits to our environment. “Turfgrass sod in urban areas and communities can aid in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, mitigating the "heat island" effect, reducing energy consumption and contributing to efforts to reduce global warming trends.”
A Natural Filter - One of the biggest concerns regarding urban water quality is run-off contaminants from hard surfaces, such as roads and parking lots. Run-off can be reduced by establishing new lawns and turfgrass areas. The biology of turfgrass makes grass an effective tool for the biodegradation of all sorts of environmental contamination. Turfgrass purifies the water as it moves through the root zone and down into our underground aquifers. Soil microbes help break down chemicals and naturally occurring contaminents. The root filtration system is so effective that rain water filtered through a healthy lawn can be as much as 10 times less acidic than water running off a hard surface. These filtration properties are also the reason grasses are used to help recycle reclaimed water. Reclaimed water cannot be returned to most municipal water supplies or released into streams, lakes or oceans; but it can be irrigated onto turfgrass where it's cleaned as it passes down through the root zone. Twelve percent of U.S. golf courses are already using reclaimed water for their turf grass irrigation.
Soil Erosion - Soil erosion is one of the most pressing environmental problems facing the U.S. today. Nearly 6 billion tons of soil wash or blow away each year. On average, soil erosion costs between $6 and $16 billion a year in the U.S. Exposed soil on new construction sites is especially vulnerable. Sodding a construction site is the fastest way to hold valuable top soil in place. In short, in urban areas turfgrass is the most cost-effective method for controlling wind and water erosion. Turf roots work to bind the soil more effectively than any other plant because each grass plant has an extensive root system. (Up to 90% of the weight of a grass plant is in its roots.) Healthy turf areas absorb rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field. A thick healthy lawn reduces runoff to nearly zero. A sodded lawn will absorb greater amounts of rain than a seeded lawn; even after three years of growth.
Oxygen Production - There are several movements in urban areas of the U.S. to increase plant life in heavily populated areas. These movements are seeking to increase food production, minimize water run-off and to improve air quality. Air is cleansed by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Green plants absorb carbon dioxide and water and use the energy from sunlight in photosynthesis which produces carbohydrates for the plant to live off of. The byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen. Oxygen production is the name of the game for your lawn. In numbers, a 10,000 square foot lawn produces enough oxygen to meet the every daily oxygen needs of 16 people.
Nature’s Air Conditioner - On an average Iowa summer day (roughly 85º F), a natural grass lawn will be 30º cooler than asphalt, 40º cooler than an artificial sports turf field, and 14º cooler than bare soil. The lawn of a home has the cooling effect of about nine tons of air conditioning (the average home uses 2.5 tons per 1500 square feet). The cooling effect of irrigated turf reduces the amount of fossil fuels that must be burned to provide electricity which powers air conditioners.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint - A study conducted by Dr. Ranajit (Ron) Sahu, an independent environmental and energy expert and university instructor, shows that responsibly managed lawns sequester, or store, significant amounts of carbon, capturing four times more carbon from the air than is produced by the engine of today’s lawnmowers. The findings are based on several peer-reviewed, scientific studies and models where carbon sequestration had been measured in managed and unmanaged turfgrass. The study, titled "Technical Assessment of the Carbon Sequestration Potential of Managed Turfgrass in the United States", goes on to report that to maximize carbon intake benefits, lawns and other turfgrass areas must be actively managed by doing the following:
- Choosing quality turfgrass species right for your area
- Mowing your lawn high to develop deep roots
- Keeping your mower in good shape
- Leave your clippings on your lawn
- Watering responsibly
If one compares a well managed lawn to a poorly managed lawn or unmanaged grasslands, the net carbon intake of a well managed lawn is five to seven times higher than the carbon output of mowing. Dr. Sahu says the key is to actively manage your lawn to improve its carbon intake, and not letting it ‘go to seed’ and into a dormant state. Click here for a summary paper written by Dr. Sahu: Lawn Benefits - Ron Sahu.pdf
Turf Farm Practices Regarding Sustainability
Blue Grass Enterprises recognizes sustainability, the integration of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability, as a critical and never-ending goal. We embrace sustainability as, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It is also a focus on the “triple bottom line”- people, planet and profit (a practice recognized and endorsed by the EPA).
The idea of a sustainable turf farm is a viable one. In fact, we are already putting sustainable practices in place today.
Here are just some of those practices we’ve developed:
- Field Management - At any one time, we have at least 80% of our ground in either oxygen producing turfgrass or a cover crop (where we have recently removed sod) - all year long. This practice prevents soil erosion while naturally replenishing the soil with beneficial nutrients.
- Soil Testing and Management - Any nutrient applications are done only after careful soil testing is completed, alerting us of any natural nutrient deficiencies that may exist in the soil. State-of-the-art soil analysis, software and machinery are used to accurately administer applications with rates based upon where the nutrients are actually needed.
- Chemical Applications - Chemical applications are applied sparingly with a long term approach in mind. A great example of this philosophy is our grub control procedure: Finding a grub in our sod field does not automatically trigger an application of insecticide to the whole field. We inspect the whole field, determining trouble spots and how many grubs exist within a square foot. If the count is within sustainable limits (fewer than 10 larvae per square foot) we will not treat. Grubs are natural and research has found that a few grubs in the turfgrass does not harm the sod.
- Water Conservation - Our soil seed bed is prepared with maximum rain absorption in mind. We aerate regularly to minimize run-off once a crop is mature. Our fields are not on regular watering schedules. We irrigate only based on need. This strategy produces three tangible outcomes: the plants become heartier (able to withstand drought better); we conserve a natural resource; and it helps us keep our prices low.
- Energy & Fuel Conservation - We upgrade equipment and facilities regularly in order to conserve electricity, water and fuel. This is a win-win scenario as these are environmentally sound principals and conservation allows us to keep our prices low.
- Soil Conservation - One question we repeatedly hear is, “Do you need to haul in more topsoil after each harvest?” The answer is no. Most people think that the black/brown bottom layer to the sod is all soil. In reality, most of what you see there are the sod roots clinging to organic matter. On average, less than 1/4” of topsoil is harvested with each cutting. We harvest a field every two years and the organic material (grass clippings) we put back into the soil increases our topsoil layer by at least a 1/8” each year, we’ve never had to have topsoil hauled in. In fact, research has shown that turfgrass is actually one of the best soil producing crops one can grow.
- Biodegradable Netting - We use Conwed’s Ecocycle Netting on our big rolls. Click here for more information - Ecocycle Turf Netting.pdf