Advocates of sustainability have often demonized lawn care for squandering water, adding fertilizers and herbicides to the environment, and increasing our carbon footprint through gas-powered mowing. But a new research project from the
University of Minnesota
could make both environmentalists and homeowners happier in the future.
Funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 5-year project is part of a national research effort aimed at improving specialty crops. Researchers will be investigating ways to develop turf grasses that require less water and mowing, and that stay green without extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
The reduction in water usage will be especially important, since this season's lengthy drought isn't seen as a fluke by many climate experts, but as an indication of dry seasons ahead. With a more drought-resistant turf grass, public spaces and lawns could remain healthy even with significantly reduced rainfall.
The project's lead investigator, U. of M. Associate Professor of Horticultural Science Eric Watkins, says: "This project will lead to the development of new varieties of these grasses that are well-adapted to adverse conditions and more available to consumers."
As part of the research, Watkins and his team will work with scientists from Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They'll evaluate homeowner buying patterns and breed new varieties of grasses called "fine fescue" that are better at withstanding heat and disease.
As the project evolves, it's likely that a greener and more eco-friendly lawn may be coming soon to a neighborhood or park near you.
Source: Eric Watkins, University of Minnesota
Writer: Elizabeth Millard