Thursday, December 13, 2007

Real Benefits from Turf

Is the great Aussie lawn an anachronistic hangover from the 20th Century, which has absolutely no place in a water challenged 21st Century? Or even as several Australian politicians have claimed that the "front lawn" has to go - for all sorts of reasons, including a need for greater suburban density.

Many pundits in Australia decry having a lawn.........afterall, it needs water, but there are some real and very tangible benefits from turf areas.

Turf and ornamentals are essential to a clean environment, are aesthetically pleasing, increase appeal and property value, provide a safe, cushioned play surface for children, and instill a sense of community and pride in our surroundings.

A recent Gallup poll showed that the top five benefits of a well-maintained lawn and landscape are:

A property that helps beautify the neighbourhood.
A place of beauty and relaxation for family, employees or visitors.

A property that reflects positively on its owner.
A comfortable place to entertain, work at or visit.
A property that has increased real estate market value.

Turf -- An Environmental Hero?

There are millions of hectares of lawns that provide environmental benefits such as:

Oxygen production. - 58 square metres of lawn provide enough oxygen for one person for an entire day.
Temperature modification.- On a block of eight average houses, front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tonnes of air conditioning.

Noise absorption - soft surfaces including turf absorb sound and reduce noise in the environment due to the absorption of noise from vehicles, factories and parties. Hard areas - even pebble landscaping, cannot absorb noise, but tend to bounce sound around an area.

Allergy control. - Turf controls dust, in addition to pollen from plants that can cause serious health problems for some individuals.

Pollutant absorption.- Turfgrasses absorb gaseous pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, converting them to oxygen.

Particulate entrapment. - Turfgrasses trap an estimated 12 million tonnes of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.

Fire retardation. - Grass around buildings helps retard the spread of fire.

Water quality. - Reducing runoff, turfgrass filters the water that helps to recharge groundwater supplies. Because of its filtering capability, turf has been used for years between agricultural fields as a buffer to prevent pesticide runoff. According to a US Environmental Protection Agency's publication Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment, "Healthy grass provides feeding ground for birds, who find it a rich source of insects, worms, and other food. Thick grass prevents soil erosion, filters contaminants from rainwater, and absorbs many types of airborne pollutants, like dust and soot. Grass is also highly efficient at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, a process that helps clean the air."

Economic Impact

Given the number of households and lawns, the economic impact of such a large service industry is considerable. In the US alone, turfgrass as an industry is considered to well exceed the $25 billion mark. Additionally, it is estimated that more than 500,000 people make their living directly from the care and maintenance of turfgrass across the country. The sale of lawn care products is estimated to total more than $4 billion a year, which represents nearly one-third of all money spent on gardening in the country. These figures have been on the rise for the past several years and are expected to continue a steady climb. Data is similar for Australia, except much less due to our smaller population.

A Gallup poll concluded that a well-maintained lawn has real monetary value.

According to respondents, attractive lawns offer an appeal, which prompt potential homebuyers to visit the inside of the home. Another study indicated that homeowners realise a 15 percent increase in home value or selling price when the property was complemented by an attractive landscape.
Grass is perennial, so lawns are very durable investments.


Lawns provide important benefits to our environment and community. Many papers have been written on the subject and a summary of the key benefits noted follow.

Environment Benefits

Lawns assist in cooling cities and reduce the use of air conditioners
Lawns reduce the runoff of urban pollutants
Watering lawns also waters adjacent trees and shrubs

Carbon capture and thus greenhouse gas reduction

Social Benefits

Lawns provide a safe, high quality, play area for children
Lawns provide exercise opportunities to all ages (gardening is the second most popular form of exercise – walking is the first)
Lawns are a functional part of the family home
Lawns reduce noise and glare
Lawns diminish dust and disease
Low growing turf dissuades intruders
Lawns provide an exercise area for pets
Lawns provide beauty and relaxation to homeowners and the community

Economic Benefits

Lawns and gardens have a major impact of house prices
Soil moisture is necessary to reduce building cracking
As it grows your lawn is silently contributes to a healthier environment.

References: 1. “The Role of Turfgrass in Environmental Protection and Their Benefits to Humans” Dr James B. Beard and Robert L. Green2.
“Water in Lawns – During any period of tighter water restrictions, lawns should be treated the same as any other plant area"

1 comment:

John said...

I have to agree strongly with your comments about the use of TURF in the modern environment.
Almost 100% on sediment that lands on paving ends up in the stormater system. Over 90% of sediment and air born dust is trapped on grass and stays there.