BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Scientists from the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California – Irvine recently published a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on January 22, 2010 titled, “Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Urban Turf.” This study adds significantly to the body of knowledge documenting the carbon benefits of turfgrass.
Upon initial release, the UC-Irvine paper was carefully studied by scientists in The Toro Company’s Center for Advanced Turf Technology (CATT) and its conclusions were recognized as inconsistent with research conducted by the company. In particular, the CO2 emissions reported for fuel use by turf maintenance equipment was an order of magnitude higher than work done by Toro’s research team. Upon recalculation, Toro scientists uncovered the math error made in computing the carbon produced as CO2 during mowing. The error was missed during the peer review process prior to publication of the paper by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Toro scientists contacted Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, the lead author on the paper, with their research and observations back in late January. Appropriate changes have since been made and sent to the AGU for correction.
“With the error corrected, turfgrass is actually found to be a net positive sequester of carbon,” said Dana Lonn, managing director of Toro’s CATT group. “In other words, properly maintained turfgrass actually traps and utilizes carbon thus removing it from the atmosphere. We credit the authors for tackling a complex and comprehensive issue. Consistent with what we have found in working with leading research institutions, this study provides a solid foundation for future work. With further improvements in technology to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, grass can become an even greater asset.”
The objective of the UC-Irvine study was to comprehensively examine the balance between greenhouse gas emissions incurred in turf maintenance and carbon sequestered in the soil. It also highlights the importance of optimizing the use of all resources in turf management including water, fuel, fertilizers and electricity to maximize the storage potential of plant-soil systems.
“Toro recognizes the importance of this issue for the environment and for the industry,” Lonn added. “As the corrected UC-Irvine study points out, turf can be a net sink for atmospheric carbon and can, therefore, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Turfgrass can be part of the solution.”
In summary, grass, when properly maintained is beneficial to the environment as a positive sequester of carbon and, with continued improvements in management practices, can become an even greater asset.