The long-term impact of pesticide use continues to make headlines. At Sunday, we are against the blanket application of pesticides to any crop, let alone turf grass. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this same sentiment. With recent articles examining everything from application rates and pesticide potency to the health and environmental impact of these harsh chemicals, it can be difficult to know just what to make of all these products. Pesticide law defines a pesticide as any “substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.” That definition gives companies plenty of wiggle room when it comes to identifying the toxicity of their product.
A recent study found that the amount of pesticide used has decreased over the last 30 years. Which would be good news, except that the toxicity of the individual compounds has increased. This means that nationally we are applying fewer pesticides, but only because those chemicals are far more potent. Chemical companies would have us all believe that reduced application rates equates to reduced impact. But the reality is, these companies are only dumping less product on our ecosystem because they are spreading stronger chemicals.
In post WWII America, the chemical revolution was in full swing. DDT trucks dusted streets, low flying airplanes sprayed neighborhoods and families used aerials in their kitchens to control fairly harmless pests like silverfish and ants. Nearly every part of life was touched by chemicals in some way, if not directly. By the 1960’s, while most of the nation charged full chemical ahead, these sort of blanket application practices were starting to meet resistance. Most notably, Rachel Carson asked the one question that had previously been avoided, how do these chemicals move through our water sources, air and soil? In her landmark book, Silent Spring, Carson outlines the devastating environmental damage that pesticides like DDT had on insects, birds, animals and their environments. Carson’s work was one of the pivotal steps that lead to the eventual ban of DDT in 1974 by giving a voice to nature.
Many chemical companies have worked slowly to adapt their chemistries to accomplish the same objectives while reducing non-targeted toxicity. Overwhelmingly, what they came up with was a series of chemical compounds that measure lower by the old standards, but still kill a range of insect and plant life. Today, we can measure the impact of these products with more accuracy than ever.
While things have gotten safer is the sense that there are tighter restrictions to get a new pesticide registered, we are seeing greater effects and mounting concerns especially for aquatic inverts, pollinator bugs and birds and terrestrial inverts. For a long time, regulations only targeted the impact of chemicals on humans, leaving out the environmental ripple that affects us all. Today we are feeling the effects of long-term application from the arctic right to our own backyard.
In America, lawns are the third largest crop. Researchers estimate that 1.9% of America is covered in turf grass, that’s over 40 million acres which is more than we use for growing corn or wheat. So the blanket pesticide approach to lawn care isn’t just a neighborhood issue, it is a national one.
Unfortunately the over application of these chemicals has created a codependent relationship. Chemicals prevent lawns from being able to sustain themselves, which then requires more chemical amendments. Over time this increased application has a larger impact on surrounding ecosystems like bodies of water and forests. In short, no good comes from abundant chemical application, not in farmland, not in our water sources and certainly not in our backyard.
It’s time to reduce impact in every sense of the word. From nutrient amendments to Integrated Pest Management Systems for Insects and Weeds, the secret to reducing our impact is scaling back on application. Rather than blanket covering everything just in case, it’s time to target only what’s necessary.
It’s important to use better ingredients like nitrogen, iron and molasses, but it’s equally important to address the ways in which all products are being applied. What is the lightest touch we can have with nature while still growing a better and more beautiful backyard?
At Sunday, we are against blanket pesticide use. Our approach is to address the entire lawn ecosystem with a holistic approach. Our lawn plans are just that, a full plan, not merely a product – although our products use better ingredients too. Our systematic approach to lawn care manages the entire plant system in your yard. We use climate and soil data to create a custom program that gets results in your backyard, while benefiting the society and the greater environment.
For lawn issues like pests, nutrient deficiencies and weed control, we promote targeted treatment with OMRI certified-organic products, rather than blanket “spray and pray” practices. We are on a Mission to reduce the impact of harsh chemicals one backyard at a time. Almost 60 years after Rachel Carson’s powerful wake up call, we are using cutting-edge science and leading data to become better stewards of our little piece of land, and the world.
Martin, M. America is using fewer pesticides now than in the 90s. But they’re more deadly. The Academic Times.
Milesi, C., et al. Mapping and modeling the biogeochemical cycling of turf grasses in the United States. Environmental Management.