Declaring that lawns are water guzzlers and should be ripped out and replaced with alternative surfaces has been howled-down as a ludicrous idea by Turf Producer representative groups across Australia. The argument come in response to comments made by Western Australia’s Water Minister, Dave Kelly when he said last weekend that homeowners “needed to rethink a sprawling grass yard from your back step to your back fence,” and went on to label lawns a “greedy guzzler that has no place in parched WA”. As hot weather arrived in WA last week, alongside warnings to save every drop of water, Mr Kelly told the media that a small section of lawn was OK for suburban homes, but, “anything more was not sensible”.
“The days of thinking you need a football field-sized green lawn, that’s not appropriate these days. The days of thinking a backyard should just be lawn are over,” he said. But the turf industry has hit back, saying calls to rip up lawns would make Perth brown and ugly. “The Western Australian Government’s advocacy for home owners to pull up natural turf lawns is a bad idea that will have devastating effects on our urban areas,” according to a statement made by peak industry body, Turf Australia. “The huge number and wide-ranging benefits natural turf offers urban areas overwhelmingly-outweighs any removal of lawns from backyards,” they insist. Supporting these claims, others were quick to come to the defence of the humble Aussie backyard, including the Western Australian Turf Growers Association (Turf WA). “Removing lawns is a kneejerk reaction that will not fix this problem – turf has far too many long-term benefits to the entire urban community,” Turf WA’s representative Eva Ricci said in response. “Water Corp has done a wonderful job in killing off pride in gardens. People are so phobic about wasting water. People need to get back outside and start to feel nature again,” she said. “Lawn areas cool everything around it – it is one of the greatest defences in the urban heat island issue cities are faced with … lawns are cooler in the peak of summer by between 10 and 40 degrees compared to other surfaces like concrete and bare ground.
“There are huge benefits to having turf, which is a natural product, in urban areas – it absorbs carbon, absorbs noise, absorbs heat, absorbs dust. It produces oxygen and improves water quality … you are potentially losing all these benefits when removing lawn,” she went on to say. Echoing these sentiments, Technical Manager with Lawn Solutions Australia, the country’s largest group of turf producers, Joe Rogers has also weighed into the fray, describing how advances in turf technologies can offer a better alternative to ripping-out lawns. “We’ve done a tremendous amount of research and development work over recent years into new turf varieties and other turf technologies that offer huge practical advantages when it comes to water-savings,” Rogers explains. “Just with the new varieties alone, we’re looking at a couple of new types Sir Grange Zoysia and TifTuf Bermuda, that we’re currently releasing around the country that offer massive savings; up to 40 percent less water usage compared to other traditional turf-types. “And that’s just a part of the picture when it comes to new efficiencies,” he continues. “On top of the water-saving attributes of these new grasses, our research has shown they also take far less inputs of fertiliser and other maintenance requirements than other turf-types to keep them healthy and perform extremely well in most areas around the country – and in particular dry and demanding areas like Perth. “Sir Grange Zoysia and TifTuf Bermuda are two of our new-release grasses that we stand by with our exclusive ten-year warranty and in the situations described, their use would do far more for our recreational and urban environments than a short-sited view to lessening our green-space-cover.” According to Rogers, other water-saving technologies have been employed in drought-ravaged areas around the world that include greater use of grey-water, storm-water and recycled water for amenity horticulture use, as well as lawn-colourants and soil conditioners that offer significant savings. “Lawn Solutions Australia is working with researchers around the world to come up with the best solutions when it comes to such issues surrounding our modern-day lawns. “Our ColourGuard lawn pigment, and our soil conditioning Lawn Launcher products are just a couple of examples that provide long-term, real-world fixes when it comes to reducing water consumption or living with low-watering conditions, “When it comes to the choice of either ripping out lawns or looking at some of these other newer-tech type solutions, I know which way they should be headed first,” he goes on to say.