A lawn of regionally native grasses would take less resources to maintain while providing as lush a carpet as a common turfgrass used in the South, according to a study by ecologists at The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
"We created a lawn that needs less mowing and keeps weeds out better than a common American lawn option," said Dr. Mark Simmons, director of the center's Ecosystem Design Group, noting that this new approach could have a huge impact on pocketbooks and the environment.
Simmons led the study comparing common Bermudagrass to seven native grasses that will be published online this week in the journal Ecological Engineering.
Commercial and residential lawns cover about 40 million acres more American landscape than any traditional agricultural crop. But keeping that turfgrass looking good takes more time, effort and money than it could and carries an environmental price tag.
U.S. lawn maintenance annually consumes about 800 million gallons of gasoline, $5.2 billion of fossil-fuel derived fertilizers and $700 million in pesticides. Up to two thirds of the drinking water consumed in municipalities goes to watering lawns.
"Most lawns use a single grass species, which requires inputs to maintain," Simmons said. "The goal was to develop a more ecologically stable, natural alternative for lawns that are so important to many Europeans and Americans."
Simmons knew that the species co-existing in natural grasslands can thrive without human intervention from living and studying in southern England near where Jane Austen once lived, and in the grasslands of South Africa. To test whether a mixture of grasses provides a good lawn, Simmons and colleagues Michelle Bertelsen, Dr. Steve Windhager and Holly Zafian used funding from Walmart to establish multiple plots of grasses in an open field at the center.
Co-author Bertelsen is an ecologist at the Wild
|Contact: Barbra Rodriguez|
University of Texas at Austin