Utahns often view their yards and landscapes as a drain on resources. Lawns and flowerbeds use up water, fertilizers, pesticides and time, to name a few. New Utah State University research suggests, however, that there is more to consider about yards than what they use. In fact, Utahns can benefit from “resource-positive” thinking, as well as considering how yards can be optimized to give back more than they take.
These issues and more will be discussed at the next Utah State University Research Landscapes event Tuesday, Mar. 2, at 11:30 a.m., on Zoom. Kelly Kopp, professor and Extension specialist of water conservation and turfgrass, will walk participants through the concept of resource-positive landscapes, which includes a broader thinking about the value of grass and plants.
“Think about the amount of land area that’s covered with lawn-type grass, especially in the United States,” said Kopp.” If you start adding it up, it’s the largest irrigated crop in the country.”
“People can do that, do xeriscaping,” said Kopp. “But yards can be so much more. They can be lush and colorful and dense. And those are terms people don’t think about a lot with xeriscaping or water-wise landscaping. There’s this this idea that, to be efficient, lawns have to be spare and spiny, and it just doesn’t have to be that.”
- Research Landscapes will be held virtually on Zoom, beginning at 11:30 a.m. MST on Tuesday, March 2, with a presentation spotlighting the major takeaways from the researcher. Afterwards, Kelly Kopp will hold a live question-and-answer session. The full event will be a little over an hour.
- Attendees can RSVP to receive the Zoom link before the event at researchlandscapes.usu.edu.
- Kopp shared a sneak peek of her researchers in the latest episode of “Instead,” a podcast about USU researchers and their work from the USU Office of Research.
- Office of Research events, news, and discoveries are also posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
- One of the challenges with residential lawns is the growing concern of water use in the West. That sentiment has resulted in a significant growth of xeriscaping and lawn-free yards.
Kopp combines a broader resource “balance sheet” with new grass technologies to better understand how to design Utah yards that are both pleasing and efficient.
“In this case, water is not something that we have to hoard, like the troll under the bridge with the gold, or something,” said Kopp. “I’m conceiving lawns as more as a tool, something that can optimize the outputs or resources we get from landscapes.”
According to Kopp, some of the important resources provided by lawns include ambient temperature control, water filtration, storm water management and usable/playable space.
Kopp’s research found that, when it comes to how homeowners value landscapes, by far, the feature they most care about is grass that is green.
“I can promote grasses that are really green but don’t require much water,” said Kopp. “That’s it; that’s the holy grail. As long as the grass is green, people love whatever is around it in the flowerbeds.”
Kopp’s work has helped identify grass varieties that are best suited to thrive in Utah and fulfill Utahns’ preferences.
“I think people sometimes don’t realize the amount of research and science that has gone into improving grasses over time,” said Kopp. “I lived at a home in Smithfield, actually, where my house was well over one hundred years old, and the lawn was well over 50 years old. And it was actually still hanging in there. There’s nothing wrong with an old lawn per se, but there’s just been so many developments. It’s like advances in any technology really that’s happened with grasses.”