Grassroots recently released a Turf Comparison Report analyzing the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a conventional (chemical) program and a natural (organic) program over a five-year period. The report, prepared for members of the New York State legislature, concludes that the annual cost of maintaining a field using natural products and techniques can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of conventional programs using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The emerging science that links exposure to turf pesticides with human health problems, including potential interference with normal brain development in children, has increased the demand for non-chemical turf management solutions for schools, and has spurred lawmakers in Albany to consider legislation to ban the use of chemical pesticides on school grounds. One obstacle commonly cited by chemical management proponents is the purported higher cost of a natural turf program.
“We’ve all known the dangers of pesticides for a long time, but until now, there hasn’t been a clear choice for schools facing economic challenges,” says Assemblyman Steve Englebright, co-sponsor of the legislation. “Now, thanks to cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned biology, we can accomplish both goals at the same time. This is great news for schools across the state.”
The report includes cost factors for fertilization, aeration, over-seeding and irrigation for both programs. The conventional program includes additional costs for purchasing and applying typical herbicides and insecticides, while the natural program includes costs for compost topdressing and natural soil amendments. Costs for the natural program are slightly higher in the first two years of the comparative report, then drop significantly in years three and beyond.
Natural Turf Pro, produced by Grassroots Environmental Education, is a 2-DVD, four-hour professional training program for turf managers and landscapers. The program covers all aspects of natural lawn care, from soil testing to compost tea to new lawn construction. We encourage you to ensure that your town and school leaders are using education resources such as Natural Turf Pro to ensure that proper care is taken on lawns in your town.