Eight benefits of natural grass: From Lawn & Landscape Magazine

From Lawn & Landscape Magazine on April 8, 2016:     Eight benefits of natural grass

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After celebrating Earth Day just a few days ago, we return to the subject of environmental protection and improvement by looking at the benefits of natural grass.  

By: Jerad R Minnick

Turfgrass can be found on lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadsides and many other natural and recreational areas. It accounts for over 50 million acres of maintained, irrigated natural grass in the U.S. alone. Ongoing research continues to uncover previously unidentified environmental, economic, health and safety benefits of natural turfgrass.

Below are eight benefits of natural grass:

1. Air quality
Turfgrass is a living organism. Each plant takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into simple sugars to use as food through the process of photosynthesis. As a byproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the atmosphere.
A turfgrass area measuring 2,500 square feet produces enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. An average sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year and a golf course fairway can capture 1,500 pounds per year. One soccer field can offset the carbon produced by a car driving 3,000 miles.

Because of this, Dr. Thomas Watschke of Penn State University states in “The Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass and Their Impact on the Greenhouse Effect” that “the strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas.”

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide, turfgrass traps an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.

2. Pollution filter
In 2013, an EPA Chesapeake Bay Program panel of experts concluded, based upon a review of extensive research, that a “dense vegetative cover of turfgrass” reduces pollution and runoff. More precisely, the average soccer field can absorb 50,000 gallons of water before runoff occurs. The fibrous root system stabilizes soil to reduce erosion and prevents the movement of sediment into creeks and rivers.

Additionally, studies have found the noise absorptive capacity of turfgrass is a significant part of how landscapes are effective in reducing noise pollution.

3. Stormwater management
Landscaped areas reduce pollutants from leaching through the soil into the water supply or from entering surface water runoff. Turfgrasses filter stormwater excess and reduce sediment and pollutants from entering water bodies. Turfgrass plants also redirect the flow of water, slowing it and allowing more water to be absorbed by the soil, which aids in preventing soil erosion and flooding.

Did you know a healthy, sodded lawn absorbs rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field?

4. Heat
Environmental heating is reduced by turfgrass. On a hot summer day, a well maintained turfgrass area will be at least 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil.

The overall environmental cooling effect of turfgrass can be understood by comparing it to air conditioning. The average home has an air conditioner with a three or four ton capacity. The California Energy Commission has found the cooling effect of an average size lawn is equal to about nine tons of air conditioning. A single high school baseball field provides up to 70 tons of air conditioning. This cooling effect is beneficial for athletes and for reducing electrical needs for buildings and homes.

5. Wellness and stress
Green spaces have been shown to improve wellness and reduce stress. There is growing evidence that horticulture and natural grass found on sports fields and lawns is important on a human level. Plants lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension related to stress, improve attention and reduce feelings of fear and anger or aggression.

In 2002, The University of California – Riverside conducted research to support that hospital stays are positively affected by turfgrass and green spaces. Patients in hospital rooms with a view of nature and lawns recover more quickly than similar patients in rooms with a view of building walls.

Similarly, people who live and work in an environment with a view of lawns and nature compared to an urban view, were found to recover from stress more quickly. Employees with a view of landscaped areas experience less job pressure, greater job satisfaction and fewer headaches than those who do not have a view or can only see manmade objects. Green spaces are also proven to increase work productivity.

Also related to wellness and stress, two surveys on Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder have shown that children active in green spaces, such as lawn areas, experience less severe symptoms. Another study published in “Environment and Behavior” indicated green spaces can enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life’s stress.

6. Therapeutic
The care of turfgrass and plants can have a positive, therapeutic effect and is included in many rehabilitation programs. These programs have been successfully used to treat certain illnesses, aid in the recovery of disabled people and help the elderly stay mobile. Programs have even been successfully implemented in prison systems, allowing inmates to acquire new, marketable skills that they can use when they return to civilian life.

7. Community appeal
Turfgrass and green spaces increase community appeal and improve property values. SmartMoney magazine indicates that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Additionally, it says one of the most cost effective ways to boost a home’s curb appeal is by attractively landscaping the yard. Well-manicured plots of land are one of the most important factors individuals and families consider when deciding where to live.

Green spaces create close-knit communities, which increases safety. Residents in landscaped areas tend to know their neighbors better, socialize more often and have stronger feelings of community when compared to residents living in more barren areas. Communities with trees and green spaces have lower crime, decreased police calls for domestic violence and decreased incidences of child abuse.

8. Recreation and sport
Turfgrass is used extensively for recreation and sport as well as providing places where adults, kids and pets can spend time outside the home. About 80 million people in the U.S. over the age of seven play sports on turfgrasses. The majority of professional athletes prefer to play on natural grass surfaces.

Providing places for recreation and encouraging activity is especially important with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over one third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children and adolescents as obese. Recreational activities also provide children and adults leisure time in a positive and safe environment.

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THANK YOU For Interest in SGL/ Growing Innovations Annoucement

IMG_0385Stadium Grow Lighting Officially Partners with Growing Innovations

Following the announcement of the partnership with SGL, many thanks from  Growing Innovations team for the feedback and support on the announcement !  It is a popular time for SGL.  The 2016 MasterClass took place last month in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Holland. (read more here).  And the 2016 SGL Technology Showcase is upcoming at Red Bull Arena on May 5.

Growing Innovations is excited about the timing of last week’s announcement coming from SGL with the Technology Showcase upcoming.  Pam Sherratt of Ohio State University will be sharing with the group along with special guest Mr. Karl Stanley of Wembley Stadium in London, UK.  Mr. Stanley will be sharing some extremely interesting information in reference to maintenance of one of the most used stadium fields in the world.  Very, very excited to have him coming to the USA!

If you haven’t received an invitation, let us know and we will get you one.  The  Showcase will feature SGL technology from light to climate control to their newest addition of UV light for killing turfgrass diseases.  There is no doubt any and all participants will gain perspective and knowledge.

THANK YOU again for the support as Growing Innovations continues to “grow” and expand.  Look for the introduction of our new Sports Science and Technology Director coming soon in addition to new partnerships to continue to provide new technologies and solutions to meet the demand of high use on natural grass surfaces!

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XtraGrass at Lakewood Memorial

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In search of new ideas for natural grass surfaces, Growing Green Grass visited JeffCo Schools Lakewood Memorial Stadium last week in Denver, CO. The Lakewood Memorial field features a new version of synthetic reinforcement for natural grass called XtraGrass. The field is a RPR/ HGT seeded field, and has had 60 soccer matches played in 60 days.  The condition of the field was fantastic. Great work by Sports Field Manager Chris Gray and team at JeffCo Schools!  Thanks Chris for having us!

What is XtraGrass:
XtraGrass is essentially synthetic turf that is infilled with sand and grass instead of rubber, sand, cork, etc. Once XtraGrass is installed, the carpet “backing” begins to biodegrade and the natural grass roots through into the soil below.

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 How Does It Work?
The synthetic fibers coming up through the sand protect the crown of the grass plants. When a player stops, plants, turns, or pushes off, the synthetic fibers assist in footing and provide reinforcement to reduce shear and divots. Many of the 60 matches at Lakewood Memorial have been played in the rain, and absolutely no divots or tears were evident. Especially telling as the field was seeded only in late June and opened in late August. When the field begins to wear, the synthetic fibers provide continued stability and supply a green cast to the field. XtraGrass on its own without sand and grass infill achieves a FIFA 1-star rating.

Graff Turf on XtraGrass Installation 

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

How Is It Different?
The initial question that comes to mind is “how is XtraGrass different”? Different than SportGrass in the 90’s, different than the product distributed by Motz currently, different than even Desso’s GrassMaster. Those are all questions that have to be answered by the producers of each of those products. But certainly it seems that XtraGrass could be just as its advertised.. Different. The biodegradable backing on the field at Lakewood is showing signs of break down, and roots are starting to push through into the native soil below. And as mentioned, absolutely no divoting was present on the surface of the field

 Graff Turf on Grow-In 

Maintenance
Maintenance of an XtraGrass field is relatively similar to any other high traffic grass field. Lakewood Memorial is not a big budget field; rather Mr. Gray is on a small budget with challenges that most all field managers can relate to.

In regards to specific XtraGrass maintenance, regular aeration with solid tines/ deep tines to keep the field de-compacted is important. Core aeration is not possible because the backing will not go through the tines, but the top layer is sand and the grass is grown in from seed so there is no organic layer need to be opened up w/ core aeration. Dry-Ject, Air2G2, and such seem possible. As is slicing or spiking to promote rooting through the backing.

The main maintenance key in the long term will be thatch management. Thatch/ organic build up will have to be limited to keep the synthetic fibers in play. If the build up gets above the fibers, they will be useless. Regular, light verticutting and yearly to bi-yearly Universe® fraze mowing will be required. The Universe® rotor for the KORO Field Topmaker was originally invented to clean organic from Desso Grassmaster to avoid this very thing, so it is ideal for XtraGrass. Ultimately though, XtraGrass requires little special treatment than any other grass field

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Conclusion
At initial introduction, XtraGrass seems to be exactly what it is advertised to be. A natural grass/ synthetic hybrid system is scary to many because of the failures of products in the past. But because those failures in the past are understood, it is possible for such a product to work in the present and future. The Lakewood Memorial field is a high traffic, low maintenance example of how XtraGrass could help high traffic fields, especially in cool season climates where stability is an issue. Sports field managers and users are in need of a bridge product between full synthetic and standard natural grass… XtraGrass very much could be that bridge.

We will continue to observe and update you… more to come!

See the XtraGrass website: http://www.xtragrass.com/en/

Share With Us. Natural Grass IS the Answer!

NBC News ran a story last Wednesday evening and Thursday morning that exposed fears on artificial turf to the general public. Here is the original story:    NBC Investigation

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland's In The Background

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland In Background

With this story and many of the follow up stories, the call is for better research on rubber crumb and organic infills for artificial turf fields.

But instead of waiting for more research for artificial, instead we can all lead the call for better quality NATURAL GRASS fields!!

Artificial turf came into being because of a problem: Grass fields weren’t being maintained or were not taking the heavy use. The general public now thinks that is just always the case: Grass fields just can’t take it heavy play or can’t be used in the rain.

Well now we know that is just not true!! This is the era of better maintenance tools and techniques.  Innovation and creativity is expanding.  YES, NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE USE!! Always!! 

This weekend Turf Republic published a piece by Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick wrote with that theme:  A recommitment to natural grass can meet the field needs!  Grass IS The Answer!  (Also find it below)

Growing Green Grass encourages YOU to take this opportunity to help re-establish positive public thinking towards natural grass fields. Right now around you there are parents, coaches, administrators and lawmakers talking about the concerns of artificial with no idea that natural grass IS the answer. Can you help let those people know the possibilities of grass?

How you ask? Just simply share the positive possibilities of natural grass with people not in the turfgrass/ sports field industry!  NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!

Some things to consider to get the word out to people:

– Share the NBC news story on your social media platforms and through email w/ neighbors, family, friends, school board members and AD’s. These people are not in the turfgrass industry and do not get regular information like you.  However, we recommend not to give commentary.   Just share the story.  Remember that there are people suffering. And there are good people on the other side of this that sell, distribute and market artificial.  Additionally, many of your are currently maintaining some artificial turf.  Let NBC tell the story, not you.

– Follow up the story from NBC to all of the same people and share the POSITIVE MESSAGE about the possibilities of grass!!!  NATURAL GRASS CAN TAKE MORE!

– In your sharing, pass your personal passion and support for the possibilities of grass!! Your passion makes it real for others.  They can connect with you and will appreciate your unique skills and experience as part of the natural grass industry.

So SPREAD THE WORD!  Remember…  STAY POSITIVE

Always feel free to use anything coming from Growing Green Grass (www.growinggreengrass.net) to support your passion.  Employ the hashtag #GrassCanTakeMore via social media. TPI and the Lawn Institute have excellent resources on the good of grass as well  Lawn Institute Website

THANK YOU for using this opportunity to share the possibilities of grass and shape the bright future of the natural grass sports field industry.

And THANK YOU for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Team at Growing Green Grass


Grass IS the Answer!

by Jerad Minnick • 3 days ago
A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields.

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TURF REPUBLIC:  http://www.turfrepublic.com/2014/10/11/grass-answer/

The unknowns of synthetic turf safety have burst into the limelight this week. The call is for additional research on synthetic turf rubber crumb infills or a change to organic infills for new fields being installed.

But instead of waiting years for research, the answer already exists! A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields. Here is how that can work:

Less Cost:
With an existing field, as little as 1/10th of the amount of money needed for 1- synthetic field is needed to improve and maintain that grass field over 10 years. In a world of tight budgets, spending to improve and maintain 10 existing grass fields correctly instead of building 1 synthetic will make a significant difference.

Additionally, to build and maintain a quality grass field that is rainout proof, 1/3 to 1/2 of the monetary investment of a synthetic field is required over 10 years. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers

Playability:
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet playability needs based on level, demand, and budget. Grass can be maintained to fit the level of surface that is needed. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All factors can be controlled.

On maintained grass the ball always “rolls”, allowing players to predict ball movement. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass. That fact allows players to attack aggressively and naturally without fear of injury. And that same grass surface has a temperature below the outdoor temperature, naturally cooling the area for players. See more thoughts on playability: Artificial turf makes no sense for soccer

Environmental/ Health impact:
Natural grass is just that… natural. The environmental benefits of grass are many. And all-natural, natural grass that needs no EPA approved pesticides is near because of improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and new technology for pest control.

More positives from natural grass are:
– Filters pollutants from storm water as it soaks back into the soil
– Reduces noise pollution by up to 40%
– Cools the ambient air temperature
– Produces oxygen (1 field/ yr produces enough to supply up to 128 people)
– Reduces CO2 (1 field/ yr removes the equivalent emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles)
With acres of park and stadium fields around the world, the good of grass has a huge positive impact on players and society. See more details: Healthy lawn, healthy environment

Innovation for durability and player safety:
The tools used for grass fields improve daily. Creative thinking and technology offer a wide range of innovation for grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: Grasses, both warm & cool season, are now available that grow twice as fast and are double as durability as standard, accepted grasses.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been developed for healthy grass growth. These products are created in cooperation with government regulations to protect the environment. The friendly fertilizers help produce thick, strong grass that the EPA has endorsed as important for ground-water filtration.

Development of safety and durability tools: A wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on grass fields. Systems to absorb energy and reduce surface hardness and injury potential are available. Products that provide surface stability to eliminate slipping and divoting have been developed. No longer is it just grass and dirt. Innovation is advancing possibilities of grass fields.

Human Element:
Natural grass is economical, player friendly, good for the environment, and continues to improve with innovation. But ultimately the biggest advantage grass fields have is the human care they receive from dedicated turfgrass managers. Existing turfgrass managers, provided with a few tools, can produce a low-cost, environmentally friendly field. In an age of needed job creation, committing money to maintain grass fields instead of building synthetic will create numerous new environmentally friendly jobs in the sports & park industry.

There is an immediate need for safe, quality playing fields. The fields needed ALREADY EXIST! But “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten”. It’s no longer acceptable to spend little to no money to maintain an existing grass field but then turn to a million dollar synthetic field. Yes, a simple commitment to improvement and maintenance of natural grass fields can provide the answer!

FIFA is WRONG: 5 reasons synthetic turf is not the future

By Jerad R. Minnick.  Founder of Growing Green Grass

FIFA President Sepp Blatter recently increased the international soccer governing body’s advocacy for synthetic turf. In an August 4th press conference, Mr. Blatter called synthetic turf the “future” for soccer. His statements not only played as a sales pitch for big business synthetic turf, they were complete slander against the natural grass and green industry of plants and sustainability.  President Blatter took his bold statements all the way to suggest that grass soccer fields would become today’s grass tennis courts… that very few soccer matches a year will be played on natural grass.

President Blatter’s statements about synthetic turf as the “future” for soccer are in no way based in fact.  His statements are his opinion. Conversely, it can easily be argued that synthetic turf is not the future. In fact, it is possibly that synthetic turf could become completely obsolete for soccer surfaces sooner than later. Here are 5 reasons to why natural grass is not only staying in soccer, but why they are going to prevail from President Blatter’s un-factual assault.

 

Cost
The continually pushed idea to support synthetic turf is that synthetic turf is cheaper than natural grass. That idea is completely false. Certainly there are ways to make a grass field more expensive. But a basic, high quality natural grass field that can be used in the rain requires less than ½ of the monetary investment required for a synthetic field. In fact, the investment required for a 10-year period on 1 synthetic field equals the amount of money required for 3 natural grass fields. Those figures are based on an 8-year replacement cycle for the synthetic plastic carpet. Major League Soccer has 3 stadiums with synthetic fields that are being replaced on a 3-year rotation, a rate that doubles the price over a 10-year period. Additionally, new infills to reduce extreme heat and shock pads below the synthetic carpet that are needed for safety increase cost even more. In a world hampered with economic crisis, synthetic turf fields are not the answer. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers 

 

Playability
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet a stadium’s needs. Natural grass surfaces can be controlled and changed by Sports Field Managers to fit the type of surface that a coach and team wants to play on. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All of these factors can be controlled completely with a grass field and can even be changed from match to match depending on what a coach wants for their team’s advantage. With these changing factors, still the ball always “rolls” on natural grass, allowing players to predict ball movement during play. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass as on synthetic. The burn potential and pain make players timid to attack or defend in a way that could lead them to fall and be scarred. Additionally, a natural grass surface temperature is below the outdoor temperature, cooling the area for players instead of super heating it.  With the fight being staged by women’s National team players around the world against synthetic in the 2015 World Cup, grass playability and appeal is obvious.  See more thoughts on playability: Artificial turf makes no sense for soccer 

 

Environmental/ Health impact
Natural grass is just that… natural. The environmental benefits of natural grass are many. There is no debate about potential cancer threats, extra requirements for storm water management, or heat island threats from natural grass. With improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and technology for pest control, a world of all-natural, natural grass is just a few years away. More positives from natural grass are:

  • Filters pollutants from storm water as it soaks back into the soil
  • Reduces noise pollution by up to 40%
  • Cools the ambient air temperature
  • Produces oxygen (1 field/ yr produces enough to supply up to 128 people)
  • Reduces CO2 (1 field/ yr removes the equivalent emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles)

With acres of park and stadium fields around the world, the good of grass has a huge positive impact on players and society.  See more details: Healthy lawn, healthy environment 

 

Innovation for durability and player safety
The tools used by Sports Field Managers to maintain and improve grass fields evolve daily. Creative thinking and technology are creating a wide range of innovation for natural grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: The evolution of turfgrass varieties is dramatic. Improved grasses are available that can grow and recovers at double the rate of older varieties. Better bermudagrass can sustain winters as far north as Philadelphia and will grow in the transition zone and southern regions for nearly 1 month longer than before as well. Seashore Paspalum can be watered using ocean salt water and requires very little sunlight. Cool season grass breeding has created Kentucky bluegrass seed germinates within 7 days of planting in order to establish a field in 5 to 7 weeks. Previously it has taken 3 to 6 months. Additionally, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are able sustain aggressive growth through summer heat and withstand disease stress. All of these better grasses require less water and sustain better growth into drought conditions.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been and continue to be developed for even, sustained turfgrass growth. These products are created in cooperation with state and local laws to protect the environment while producing thick, strong grass stands on fields. Natural plant hormones and bio-stimulants are available to feed turfgrass plants holistically. These products stimulate natural growth and provide energy for plant health and recovery. Much like a healthy human on a balanced diet and exercise routine, grass plants on a prescribed maintenance program can be healthy and strong too. Think Gatorade, Red Bull, and Vitamin water for grass.

Development of safety and durability tools: Currently a wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on natural grass fields. Some examples are:

  • Fiber Sand: Small polypropylene fibers mixed into sand to create stability and give grass roots material to wrap around and not pull out/ divot out
  • Fiber Elastic: Polypropylene fibers for stability mixed with elastane pieces to absorb energy. The energy absorption reduces field compaction and cuts down on the injury potential of the players using the field.
  • AirFibr: Polypropylene for stability mixed with specially developed cork particles to absorb energy. AirFibr has documented injury reduction data from biomechanics labs working to improve grass surfaces
  • XtraGrass: Natural grass growing through a 3” biodegradable mat of synthetic fibers to create surface stability, traction and player safety.
  • Desso GrassMaster: Stability fibers sewed into sand to provide stability, traction, and player safety.

These are just a few examples of many innovative products available for natural grass fields to sustain heavy traffic and advance player safety. New grass genetics and plant health technology in combination with the safety and durability products create the foundation for strong natural grass fields.

 

Human Element
The human element is the final reason that President Blatter and FIFA are wrong about synthetic turf being the future for soccer. Natural grass is cheaper, more player friendly, better for the environment, and continues to improve and evolve with innovation for durability and player safety. But ultimately the biggest advantage natural grass has over synthetic turf is the care natural grass receives from dedicated Sports Field Manager. A Sports Field Manager that is provided with just a few tools can provide a low-cost, environmentally friendly surface that players desire and need for long careers.  In an age of needed worldwide job creation, FIFA supporting natural grass fields instead of attacking it could create numerous environmentally friendly, green jobs in the sports field and landscape industry. But instead President Blatter and FIFA are advocating for synthetic turf, an industry funded by petroleum, carpet manufacturing, and tire recyclers looking for ways to discard waste.

Synthetic turf is not the future for soccer.  These 5 reasons illustrate that President Blatter’s statements in support of synthetic turf are not based in fact. The statements are just his opinion. Synthetic turf is not the future of soccer, no matter how much he advocates for it.