Discover how – and why – Harrowden Turf Ltd are keen to minimise chemical usage on our turf production units.
At Harrowden Turf we’re a passionate crew. We’re passionate about our products, our customers, the turf industry and the environment. Our aim is to produce the very best turf, to optimise our services, maintain standards in the turf industry AND protect the environment. It’s a tall order, but we’re doing our best.
Tim Cannon recently joined the Production team on our turf farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. He has been overseeing some minor changes to the turf production process designed to create stronger, lighter turf rolls.
“Growing turf is all about encouraging the grass plants to concentrate their efforts on building strong roots, healthy leaves and a thick sward that can outcompete weeds. All that comes down to one thing.” Says Tim “mowing”.
Herbicides definitely have their uses. It would be almost impossible for any large-scale food or horticultural plant producer to make a living if all the weeding was done either mechanically or by hand. The sugar beet grown in our neighbours’ fields are hoed twice a year with a tractor but most crops don’t lend themselves to that sort of operation. But most farmers will have plenty to say on the price of weedkillers and they don’t use any more than they need.
Likewise on the turf fields. The cost of chemicals and the machinery and labour to apply them only adds to the price of production. Ultimately that affects the prices that the end-user pays. If we can avoid weedkillers to keep our prices sensible, we will.
And then there’s the cost to the environment. There’s no doubt in my mind that all of the herbicides, fungicides and pesticides available to farmers and producers have been tested to the max. If they’re properly stored and applied they don’t cause problems. Not to the environment or to the operators. I’m married to a farmer and can bear witness to the hoops he needs to jump through before the sprayer even leaves the shed so I’m 100% confident in that.
However, if chemicals are used indiscriminately, could weeds, pests and diseases become immune to the chemicals that weaken them? Just as many human illnesses can no longer be cured with antibiotics.
Judicial use of chemicals is every producer’s duty and Harrowden take that duty seriously.
“I’m not a big fan of chemicals.” Says Tim Cannon “They have their place in modern turf production but if I can avoid using herbicides I will. I’ve been growing turf for a lot of years now and I truly believe that using the right machines at the right time can almost negate the need for chemical weed control.”
Take mowers for example. Mower maintenance, means that the grass leaves are sliced cleanly. Blunt or dull blades would bruise and tear at the grass leaving it more vulnerable to disease.
We advise our domestic customers to maintain their lawns at a height of 3-5cm and never cut off more than one third of the leaf at a time. We adhere to those principles ourselves – only on a much bigger scale.
Green plants – that includes grass – use their leaves to harness energy from sunlight. That energy is then used throughout the plant for, well – just about everything. Including root growth. If you slice off the leaves, you make it harder for the roots to grow.
Weeds grow in an entirely different way to grasses. Grass grows from the crown of the plant – near to the ground. Most weeds grow from the tips of their stems. If we were to scalp the grass and expose the crown, then we would impair the growth.
Keeping the grass at 3-5cm means the crown is protected. That’s not so for weeds. Assuming weeds manage to germinate in the sward in the first place (our land preparation techniques discourage weeds), by continually cutting off the growing tips with the mower, the plants soon become weakened and they die.
Mowing is our way of working with Nature, not against her, to create beautiful, affordable turf that is easy to handle and will enhance any garden without threatening the environment.
Mowing the lawn on a massive scale – video and images of turf production at Harrowden Turf Ltd – read more here