Controlling weeds on playing fields, parks and lawns without herbicides
Posted by admin on 1st July 2019

Turfgrass covers more than 40 million acres of land in the continental United States, including lawns, parks, commercial landscapes, sports fields and golf courses. It is the single largest irrigated crop in the nation.

Turfgrasses are grass species with qualities that make them well suited for these uses. They tolerate frequent mowing, withstand intense traffic and form dense, uniform surfaces. They create places to play sports or relax outdoors; reduce soil erosion; reduce dust and mud problems around homes, schools and businesses; and create clear sight lines along highways.

Often, however, the turfgrass industry is criticized for using significant quantities of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Pesticides have come under especially intense scrutiny as concerns increase over potential health risks.

In many places pesticide legislation has advanced faster than alternative pest control methods. As a researcher specializing in turfgrass and soil sciences, I’m interested in new options and have developed a completely new method and tool for turfgrass management that kills weeds without applying chemicals.

Turfgrass treated mechanically for weeds with the Weedbine (left) and untreated (right).
Jason Henderson, CC BY-ND

Herbicides and health

Americans use considerable quantities of herbicides on nonfarmlands, such as lawns, gardens, golf courses, sports fields and public parks. In 2012 such uses accounted for 54 million pounds of herbicide active ingredient – that is, the weed-killing portion of herbicides.

Concerns over pesticides’ potential health impacts have been well publicized in recent years. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Pediatric Society and other health organizations advise limiting children’s exposure to pesticides both in utero and after birth.

According to these experts, children are most vulnerable to ongoing low-level doses of pesticides because they are growing and developing rapidly, and consume more food and fluids per pound of body weight than adults. They also have more frequent contact with the ground outdoors and floors indoors, and are more likely to ingest residues through frequent hand-to-mouth activity.

In response, Connecticut has banned use of lawn care pesticides on school grounds at public and private pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. New York state has banned pesticide use on school grounds, daycare centers and athletic fields through grade 12. Many U.S. municipalities have banned pesticide use in parks, open space parcels and public rights of way

Internationally, eight of Canada’s 10 provinces have restricted use of “cosmetic” pesticides. Many cities, states and nations worldwide are banning or restricting sales of glyphosate-based products in response to ongoing concerns about this widely used herbicide’s health effects.