British Science Week is celebrated from 11th-20th March 2016 and it seems only right, that we should take a look at the connections between scientific research and the lawn in your back garden.
With such large areas of the world being covered with turf (more than any commercial crop), it’s no surprise that a great deal of scientific research and university studies surround lawns. Everything from the best way to care for grass, developing new chemicals to treat turf diseases and the impacts on humans and the environment of lawns has been subject to scrutiny from researchers. Here are a few of the most significant findings of recent years:
Making the most of our sports pitches
The Sports Turf Research Institute based in Bingley carry out an enormous amount of research every year.
- They look at new breeds of grass and assess their performance under different conditions
- Test and assess lawn care chemicals for their effectiveness and their impact on the environment
- Learn about lawn diseases and experiment with different management techniques
- Look at plant nutrition so that greenskeepers can get the best value from fertilisers
For more information about their work, please visit
Environmental Health Research Foundation – lawns and health
The EHRF are a non-profit research foundation based in Chantilly, Virginia. In December 2012, the foundation released a report reviewing the association between health effects and exposure to four of the most commonly used lawn care products. The executive director of the foundation, John Heinze, presented his findings alongside those of a colleague which found the health impacts of such products were ‘marginal to non-existent’.
At the same time, Heinze concluded that there were substantial environmental and health benefits from well-maintained lawns, parks and playing fields and the degree of maintenance required for these benefits to be the greatest could only be achieved by use of these lawn care chemicals.
IFAS Extension, University of Florida – lawns and the economy
In 2006, the University of Florida published a report studying the impact of the turf industry into the US economy. The paper specifically looked at data from the year 2002 and revealed the extent of turf’s contribution to America’s economic activity.
It was revealed that the turfgrass industry was worth $57.9 billion (2002 dollars), adding $35.1 billion to US GDP and was responsible for providing 822,849 jobs.
Whilst turf producers were responsible for only around 2-4% of these figures, the many industries and companies involved in supplying equipment for growing turf and maintaining lawns once supplied raised the value of the industry dramatically.
In the UK, horticulture contributes £9 billion to the economy and supports 300,000 jobs.
State University of New York/Technical University of Berlin – the best way to mow your lawn
As distant as the two may seem, lawn mowing has been presented as a problem to be solved by computational geometry, a subset of computer science. Researchers at the two universities attempted to develop an algorithm to find the shortest path for a given shape of cutter (a lawnmower) to cover every point in a given region of a plane (the lawn).