Feature Article - March 2012
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Maintenance & Operations: Turf Management

Sustainable Turf Management
An Organic Systems-Based Approach

By Tammy York


Organic Turf Management in Practice

In the Yards for Kids program, a community health education program which aims to significantly reduce the use of one pesticides in Iowa, the city of Cedar Falls has reduced pesticide usage over the last three years. The reduction plan has saved nearly $18,000 and 300 gallons of weed killers. This effort spread to Cedar Falls community schools, Cedar Falls and Waterloo parks, and Covenant Medical Center, which also took the lead in following the reduction plan to reduce the amount of weed killer used to create healthier parks and public spaces. This effort has further gained ground with more than 21 businesses and churches participating in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo Metro area alone.

At Tufts University the on-campus pilot project involves more than two acres of campus, including an area around the residence halls, children's playground, a field used for informal sports by both college students and a community youth soccer league, and a varsity baseball diamond. Areas were selected based on the variety of demands on the turf. Areas that receive a high amount of use such as the varsity baseball diamond also have a higher need for intense turf management. Each area is being proactively maintained to ensure good turf quality without the use of herbicides or other pesticides.

The Town of Wellesley, Mass., has prohibited the use and application of toxic chemical pesticides on all Natural Resources Commission lands which includes school lands. It goes on to stipulate proactive management to understand, prevent and control potential pest problems. Control measures must be in keeping with, but not limited to, those products on the preferred list of Northeast Organic Farmers' Association's Standards for Organic Land Care, and/or the Organic Materials Review Institute of Eugene, Oregon.

Organic turf management started slowly but is gaining ground with more communities, cities and campuses, as well as residential consumers opting for less synthetic chemicals in their environments for the health of their children, themselves and the environment.