Eco-friendly approach to turf maintenance
Posted: Jun 23, 2015
Increasing popularity of sports like baseball, golf and football is building more and more athletic fields. Apart from sports, outgrowing the traditional lawn grass. From decades people use to prefer natural grass, but all of a sudden the artificial grass is blooming the market. Choosing natural grass or artificial grass is the major issue nowadays? Let's have a glance of myths, facts and dynamics of turf industry.
What are artificial turfs?
Artificial turf are gaining popularity these days. Artificial grass is nothing but a green plastic indoor-outdoor carpet made up of fibers composed of polyethylene lubricated with silicone. Layer of fibers and sand serve as an "infill" to add shock absorbency. At regular interval times infill must be replenished.
Natural grass plays a vital role in balancing the environment, future generations can enjoy and benefit the pollution free environment. Natural grasses cost of investment and maintenance is far better than the artificial grass.
Role of IPM in turf grass
(IPM) Integrated Pest Management is a management system which guides usage of pesticides on crops, turf and ornamental grass. These days it is gaining popularity in the turf and ornamental grass industry. IPM mingles all the control measures to keep pest damage below the threshold level..
Apart from damaging the pests at a tolerable level, the main target is to maintain aesthetic values and playability. These priorities depends on the purpose of grass. When it comes to sports the playability is the first priority, then comes the aesthetic value. For instance, presence of weeds or pests on turf affects the fate of the match by disrupting the flow of a ball. For gardening, aesthetic values are given the priority. For instance, landscape gardens or homes prefer turf for aesthetic values and soil stabilization.
Strategies of IPM results in effective pest control by judicious use of pesticides. Along with pesticides, IPM calls for alternative methods like sanitation, mechanical or biological control and structural maintenance.
IPM program represents an effective use of pesticide but not pesticide free grass.
Environmental effect by chemical Inputs on Turf
More than 90% of sprayed pesticides and fertilizers are impacting on non-target species as they spread all over the surface. By means of air it spreads to neighboring areas and by water runoff or rain water it pollutes the ground water body, which directly or indirectly affects the wild life and aquatic species. Air, water and soil are directly affected by the chemical inputs. Other issues arise during production, packaging, transporting and disposal of chemical inputs. Burying or burning the containers adversely affects the environment.
Water runoff from the turf sites to wet lands or other water bodies causes environmental problems. Excessive nutrients or pesticides are washed away with the water runoff, when this water along with chemicals enters into the water bodies, they result in contaminating the ground water along with polluting the environment and threatening the wildlife species.
Water runoff causes soil erosion. All the soil particles along with chemicals form the sediment in water bodies and reduce the sunlight availability to the aquatic species. They also end up in creating turbidity problems.
Excess application of nitrogen leads to the increase of soil acidity.High levels of phosphorus can cause nutrient enrichment (eutrophication) in water bodies cause excess growth of algae and plants, during this process they affect the water quality by depleting the available oxygen content. This threatens the aquatic species and wildlife.
Can these measures help in controlling the pollution?
Fertigation- It isdelivering the fertilizers through irrigation system. This technique supply nutrients based on the rate of absorption by roots. This leads to the high consumption of available fertilizers by turf, which in turn reduces the amount of nutrients entering the water bodies. These measure works only if it is an accurate irrigation system because it avoids over and under application of nutrients.
Vegetative buffers- buffers are designed to intercept storm water runoff and reduces stream bank erosion. They help in maintaining water quality of neighboring areas. Buffers slowdowns the storm water runoff, contributes to recharge the ground water, filters the sediments and nutrients along with providing the space to permeate the soil by runoff. They prevent the soil erosion by slowing runoffs. More than 90% of sediments are reduced by these buffers.
Organic fertilizers- they are the derivatives of plants and animals. They are biodegradable substances such as green wastes, manures, bio solids and bone. They depend upon the rate of microbial break down. Organic nitrogen undergoes decomposition in the soil to form ammonia and nitrate. They even enrich the soil condition by adding the manures, green wastes and bio solids.
Native vegetation- It plays an important role in nutrient stripping, bank stabilization and wildlife habitat. Some of the grasses acts as buffers such as switch grass, they intercept runoff and have long roots to encourage infiltration, minimize erosion, and stabilize stream banks. They filter surface water and ground water before entering the system. Priority should be given by the native grasses as they require limited inputs of fertilizer and water.
All these remedies help in controlling the 90% of environmental pollution.
Natural grasses are improvised with
- Density and color
- Heat and cold resistance
- Drought and diseases resistance
- Shade tolerance
Hidden Facts of natural grass
- Lawns have higher conversion rates of carbon dioxide to oxygen than any other forest areas.
- Lawns are 60 times greater than air conditioners in cooling effect.
- Lawn has the highest rainfall absorption capacity than any other crop fields, it is six times better than wheat fields and four times better than a hay field.
Let's have a look on the myths and facts of artificial turf and natural turf.
Are you following the myth or the fact?
Affordability & investment
Considering the investment, People believe in the myth that artificial is more beneficial due to its longevity. But the fact is natural grass fields are less expensive to construct than artificial turf. For instance- synthetic turf cost US$ 8- $11 per sq. ft. and natural grass with sand cap costs US$3- $5 per sq. ft. though artificial grass last forever, they don't have the capability to regenerative properties as natural. Apart from this, if it lost the smoothness and other properties it costs additional for removal and disposal of artificial turf.
Then considering the maintenance, there is a false belief that artificial requires less care which in turn reduces the cost. But what actually happens artificial requires equipment for dragging, cleaning, infill additions and carpet repair. When comparing the artificial and natural grass, artificial is a bit low in maintenance. Rounding up the construction and maintenance revenue, natural grass is a cost-effective solutions.
Durability & wear
Comparing the durability and wear of the grasses, Due to presence of synthetic fibers in artificial turf, they believe it can endure endless usage without any maintenance. But the fact is artificial needs a semi- annual maintenance like cleanup of thrown objects or liquids, repair and restoration from wear, all these are same as natural grass. During the correction of problems, synthetic turf fields are sprayed by diluted fabric softener, which smells like an old tires. Players feel the surface slippery due to the softeners. Another fiction regarding the durability, they believe artificial durability is higher than the natural grass. The fact is natural grass has a capability of self-repair with enduring a wide variety of conditions than ever.
Major issue in artificial turf is applying lines with paint on it. This paint spreads sooner and leads to slippery condition and disturbs the lines. They found out "tuft in" for creating lines during manufacturing, but the lines vary according to the game. This is again increases the cost of artificial turf.
Artificial grass susceptible to weeds, damage and unevenness. Even correction of such errors is an expensive process.
"Natural grass are capable of regenerating the repaired turf easily"
Artificial surface is more sterile and suitable for playing at any time. The updated turf minimizes the skids and falls, all these are the false fictions in the turf industry but the fact is artificial grass traps the unsanitary body fluids and lead to infection. They temperatures of it are more than the natural temperatures, which in turn result in burning. All these are the additional problems.
The major false belief is professionals prefer artificial turf. But from football to baseball to Soccer teams refuse to play on artificial turf. It not only affects the fate of game but also injures the human body.
"With a continuous effort to increase the sustainability, artificial turf is directing in a wrong way."
Despite of all the advancements in the artificial turf, it cannot replace the natural grass. As the improvisation is going on, it adversely affects the output of match or players. All the professional players prefer natural grass as it brings into their life.
There are many factors to be considered while choosing the turf. Which one better suits you?
North America and Europe are the matured markets currently for the turf and ornamental inputs and still continues to grow. Maximum growth of this market is soon to be witnessed in Asia Pacific region during the forecast period on account of rising awareness among the consumers, increasing demand on sports and landscape gardens.
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