What's Happening

Turfgrass Infomercial at the National Arboretum?

Readers, please help me figure out how to react to this – a federal arboretum promoting lawns and instructing visitors in lawn care.

Besides the stated intention of promoting lawn, my other cause for concern is who’s behind this – the National Turfgrass Federation.  That’s the lobby for the turfgrass industry (think Scotts, Dow AgroSciences, the USGA, etc.).  It isn’t clear what role they’re playing in this, but how objective and science-based do we think their lawn care advice would be?

At least there’s one academic on their board of directors - a cute turf guy at the U.of Minnesota.

But here’s the proposal for the exhibit and read it for yourself.  Could this be a good thing, or do you see a lobby-financed infomercial in the making?

Posted by on April 16, 2012 at 5:05 am, in the category What's Happening.
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21 Responses to “Turfgrass Infomercial at the National Arboretum?”

  1. Tara Dillard says:

    DUH.

    You’re funny, this is the USA !

    Congress is like my college football team ca. 1982. The best team money can buy.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. one concern is that the ars and usda logo are being used on the proposal… Is this supposed to imply that the project is already .gov sanctioned?

  3. Mary Gray says:

    Oooooh, isn’t THAT interesting. Well, since Scott’s, TruGreen, etc. are sponsors of the National Turfgrass Federation, which in turn is sponsoring this exhibit, I’d say your suspicions are probably justified.

    HOwever, if the exhibit is going to focus on how to care for your lawn more organically, and perhaps highlight seed mixes that take less water or possibly even no-mow mixes, I think that would be a positive thing and would deserve a place at the arboretum. I mean, lawns will always have their place in the American landscape, so we shouldn’t demonize them completely.

  4. tibs says:

    What Mary said.

  5. Let’s see, what type of grass do we think they’ll feature? Can they grow buffalograss in DC? Zoysia? St. Augustine? No, it’ll be tall fescue or bluegrass and the material probably won’t sanction clover or dandelions. Yep, a big infomercial.

    Comrades, you are engaging and abetting a thoughtcrime against Ingsoc….please desist and surrender.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I double-checked: it is NOT April 1st anymore. Who knew turf needed promotion? Seems to be winning in my neighborhood.

  7. Kaviani says:

    I personally love how they are trying to frame their horrible practices as an obesity issue. Because no one works out or plays sports if you don’t have miles of monogreen all around you. Idiots.

  8. Thad says:

    Well, the Directors of the Arboretum’s phone number is on that brochure, anyone could give her a call or write her a personal note about their ideas for the turfgrass exhibit.

    On another note, why aren’t environmental organizations (Lawn Reform.org, for example, has a large presence on this website) getting involved with the organization of the exhibit?

  9. Susan says:

    I didn’t know the Arboretum was that desperate for funding that they’d sell their souls…..

  10. Mary Gray says:

    Sell their soul? The USNA’s stated mission is: “To serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment.”

    Nothing in that statement precludes lawns or even pesticides. Heck, I was there last year and saw one of the arb. employees blasting the crap out of one of the herb garden beds with one of those backpack sprayer thingees. Don’t know what was in there, but it could have been Round-up, who knows?

    In fact, the USNA even has a couple of its own patents for “bio-pesticides” whatever those are. I just don’t see the conflict of interest with this that others do.

  11. susan harris says:

    Mary, I agree except for maybe the “enhance the environment” part, where lots of folks would say those pesticides are contrary to that goal. But I sure agree that lawn per se isn’t bad and will always be with us, so it’s a GOOD thing to teach responsible lawn care – I just worry that this exhibit won’t do that. And if the exhibit doesn’t teach better lawn types (the slower-growing new mixes, for example) and ways to REDUCE lawn, it’s a missed opportunity, to put it kindly.

  12. Greg Busby says:

    Sounds like a good venue for a little lobbying. The media will find it pretty boring without controversy. Someone should stress the double-play of ecology and economics with turf alternatives. Maybe the services guys can be peeled off from their lockstep with the chemical companies.

  13. Jason says:

    In theory, this could be a good thing. As others have said, there always will and should be some turf. The question is, what kind of turf and how do you maintain it? There’s a lot of room for positive education in that area.

    However, as others have said, given the sponsorship there is little reason to expect a balanced presentation on how to have an environmentally healthy lawn.

    I also agree that this could be a good opportunity for pushing the USNA to provide a more balanced exhibit – I think they would be somewhat vulnerable to some public embarrassment. In fact, I’m guessing there are plenty of USNA employees who are not at all happy about this.

  14. This is clearly another effort by the turf grass industry to greenwash their product (remember the Scotts/NWF fiasco). We can expect nothing more than a propaganda piece (“an exhibit to inform the general public and policymakers of the positive impact of turf. . . .”).

    That the USNA would sell out to further such a purpose is disappointing.

  15. Well, don’t expect Lawn & Landscape magazine (the link sponsors) to give a fair hearing. They are clearly in bed with the need to hawk fertilizer, pesticide and all the chemicals we need to maintain turf as a “healthy ecosystem”. The folks at RISE will be on board, methinks…and off we go. No response from landscape architects, silence at APLD, not much will be said within the green industry in general. Where did all the environmentalists in the Green Industry go?

    More on this: “Green washing” and the landscape chemical debate: http://posterous.com/#spaces/apld/posts/24099111

  16. Yep, turf and -cides selling are what this is all about and now the lobby has its giant foot in the door. Not good.

  17. Luc Pintens says:

    Make meadows, not lawns…
    Give bees a chance !
    Hapicultuur (apicentric beekeeping)
    http://hapicultuur.be

  18. Brian Horgan says:

    The US National Arboretum is a perfect place to display turfgrass, its benefits to the environment and to demonstrate strategies for reducing inputs while maintaining turgrass function in the landscape. These same sort of demonstrations take place at state arboreta and have been effective in affecting homeowner attitudes. In Minnesota, our last demonstration displayed alternative turfgrass species, mixtures and blends under reduced input (no irrigation, limited fertilizers and no pesticides). In addition, we were able to identify key characteristics that homeowners are passionate about (don’t want to water, competes well against weeds, a yard that can be used for recreation but doesn’t negatively impact the environment).

  19. Some lawns can be put to good use. For instance they can be “Bee Lawns” http://blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/2012/03/a-bee-lawn-how-to-have-an-inse-1.html or “Lawns for Pollinators” http://pollinators.blogspot.com/2010/04/lawn-for-pollinators.html.
    Still the main thing is to reduce the size of lawns everywhere. Right now we have covered an area the size of the state of Washington with lawns. Too much!

  20. Forest says:

    I can tell you that the good people of the national arboretum are most likely not going to deal with “organic” methods unless forced to do so but if this dose become an exhibit i am sure that it will have some scientific merit and will most likely not be a advertisement for any company. so we will more likely see the exhibit tell us how best to care, plant, and lessen our impact on the environment with our lawns. I think of this as telling those that do want lawns what is most recommended. i am sure this will not be an ad but rather will have some scientific merit as i stated before.

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