How to Lower Your Landscape’s Toxicity

With every passing week, it seems, more bad news comes out about pesticides and the harm they may be causing to the environment. The media attention spurs an ongoing, heated argument about the positives and negatives of pesticide use.

Pesticides

There’s lots of disagreement about the long-term harm that pesticides may be inflicting upon people and nature. But few would argue that minimizing pesticide use as much as possible isn’t a good thing.

Much of the focus of discussion about this controversial topic centers upon the agricultural industry. Farmers and ranchers typically get the brunt of the blame for the proliferation of pesticide use.

But the problem is not isolated to remote farmlands and ranchlands.

Look To Your Own Backyard

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, homeowners in the United States apply up to 10 times more pesticide to lawns and landscapes, on a per-acre basis, than farmers apply to crops.

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Multiply that by the total amount of landscape acreage in the U.S. – around 50 million acres – and that’s a lot of pesticide use. So homeowners contribute greatly to the problems pesticides cause in the environment.

If you’re among the millions of people favoring a reduction in the use of pesticides, your own backyard is a great place to start.

What You Can Do

The Fish and Wildlife Service offers some tips for reducing the use of pesticides in your lawn or landscape:

  • Grow native plants that are adapted to your local microclimate. These plants will be hardier and more vigorous, and will require fewer inputs of pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Create a biologically diverse landscape. Replacing a monoculture with an assortment of plants will help to support a variety of beneficial insects and organisms. The increased natural pest control that your bio-diverse environment supports will reduce the need for pesticides.
  • Choose less dangerous pesticides when possible. Pesticides that are approved for organic use can still be dangerous in the short-term. But unlike many conventional pesticides, organic pesticides break down quickly, and do not post a long-term, lingering threat to the environment.
  • Carefully evaluate the need to control pests. All too often, homeowners make a knee-jerk response to a slight amount of damage from pests. Quite frequently – particularly in lawns that support a bio-diverse environment – natural predators will prevent pests from getting out of control. But you must be willing to accept a certain minimal level of damage from pests.

Your Effort Can Make A Difference

With nearly 100 million pounds of pesticides applied to U.S. lawns every year, your efforts to reduce your own use of pesticides may not seem very consequential.

But every reduction in the amount of pesticide usage helps the environment in the whole. Certainly it makes a difference in your own little corner of the environment.

And if every homeowner can reduce pesticide usage just a little? Multiply that by 50 million acres of lawn, and it can add up to a BIG difference.

Author: Bob Carr

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