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Athletic Fields are Greener and More Environmentally Friendly

By Joyce Massicotte, special projects coordinator for Biodiversity Education Initiative and Climate Education Initiative

November 26, 2008

While getting the fields ready for the fall play, Athletic Grounds supervisors made the switch to organic treatments that reduce the risk of harmful toxins.

UNH’s Ron Lavoie and Jim Terenzio worked with Jim Reinertson, owner of Purely Organic in York, Maine, to decide on the innovative organic alternatives for the university’s athletic fields, and replaced synthetic products with those made from vinegar, corn, and tea.

With the fields in constant use, weed management, seeding and fertilization need to be timed correctly to provide the maximum benefit to the grass and still be safe to play on. At first, Lavoie and Terenzio were skeptical of using organic alternatives but they were also aware that many of the traditional fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides they used were highly toxic.

Reinerston was able to show them how natural products could do the same job.

Vinegar would not be a surprising choice since it makes a great natural household cleaner and can make your coffee pot look brand new. It makes sense that the acetic acid in vinegar would also work on weeds. However, household vinegar is not concentrated enough for the job and Purely Organic products use a vinegar extract to get great results. 

Purely Organic also uses liquefied corn gluten that settles into the soil and forms a barrier, preventing weeds from breaking through. According to Reinerston, barley gluten, a byproduct of beer production, works as well. He is looking into partnering with local breweries to see if he can transform beer leftovers into a landscaping resource.

UNH Athletic Grounds Supervisors reduced the amount of synthetic fertilizers used on the fields due to Purely Organic’s tea compost product. Tea is full of humic acids that help detoxify the soil and make food available to the plant. Using tea can also reduce fertilizer burn and can prevent leaching or runoff of synthetic fertilizers into ground water and streams.


From left to right: Athletic Grounds Supervisors, Jim Terenzio and Ron Lavoie, And Jim Reinertson, owner of Purely Organic in York, Maine.

While fertilizers provide much needed nitrogen to the soil, they can also produce a lot of leftover hydrogen, which causes the soil to become very acidic. Calcium carbonate or lime soaks up the hydrogen and creates water and carbon dioxide, balancing the chemistry of the soil so it is not so acidic.

However, lime used for landscaping usually is mined, manufactured and imported. Due to rising oil and gas prices, the cost of lime is increasing. Reinertson, thinking out of the “carton”, is looking to replace lime with milk left too long on grocery store shelves.

Milk has between 19 and 31 percent calcium, which is why it promotes healthy bones. However, if milk goes bad, grocery stores throw it away. Purely Organic is hoping to release a new product in the next year that would recycle otherwise wasted milk and provide their customers with a cost effective alternative for lime.

Lavoie and Terenzio are pleased with the results produced by the Purely Organic products. Reinertson would like to extend the organic management program to all the landscaped areas on campus.

UNH Athletic Grounds department has taken a significant step towards sustainable landscaping--one more example of how UNH is working together as a sustainable community.

For questions regarding the turf management program email: UNH Athletic Grounds supervisors at Ronald.Lavoie@unh.edu, James.Terenzio@unh.edu or contact Jim Reinertson of Purely Organic at rhino@purelyorganiclawncare.com.

 


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