Cow grass beneficial to the environment

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by William J. Langenberg, M.Sc. Env. Biol.

Over the past 25 years, I have been studying pasture grass (cow grass) as an alternative to lawn grass. During the mid-nineties, I set up a display of a variety of grasses, cut at various heights for dandelion control, at Ottawa City Hall on Earth Day. This grass display received a lot of media attention. Since the nineties, I have received numerous calls about control of European Chafers (larvae of the June bugs) in lawns, because they cause a lot of destruction.

Tall Fescue grass controls the European Chafer:

I discovered that the European Chafer is practically non-existent in cow pastures. I also noticed that the higher the grass is cut, the less chance there is for invasion by these nasty chafers. In addition, I figured that chafers love to nibble on the roots of Kentucky bluegrass, and they probably would not like the taste of Tall Fescue grass. Well, sure enough, Tall Fescue grass is being researched and marketed in Europe today for control of the infamous European Chafers.

Tall Fescue removes CO2 out of the atmosphere:

Since Tall Fescue became a major research project in Europe, scientists started to look at carbon sequestration by certain cow grasses. Four different pasture grasses were compared in France. After a 3-year study, French scientists found that Red Fescue grass sequesters 17.22 tons of CO2/ha/yr, followed by English Ryegrass at 13.29, and, thirdly, by Tall Fescue grass at 10.00. Kentucky bluegrass was a distant fourth at 6.55 tons of CO2/ha/yr. Since Tall Fescue grass controls the European Chafer, it became the Lawn and Golf Course darling throughout Europe.

On a livestock farm, a pasture consisting of Tall Fescue grass sequesters more C02 from the atmosphere than the cows are releasing. Therefore, a livestock farm has a positive effect on the environment. A consortium of European plant breeders discovered recently that certain varieties of Tall Fescue change the cow’s digestion in the rumen and, consequently, the cow releases 10 percent less methane. By the way, methane gas is an unstable atmospheric gas, which breaks down within 8 years. Most methane gas is actually released from wet lands that are drained.

Tall Fescue and Micro-Clover the new lawn blend:

For this year’s North Grenville Sustainability Fair, the plan is to grow Tall Fescue grass and Micro-Clover as a new lawn blend, which will be displayed. This will allow the visitor to make his or her own decision in starting an environmental-friendly lawn “one carbon footstep at-a-time”.

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