Peer pressure from fertilizers and pesticides on lawns; Could wildflowers follow?

If your neighbors have a green, treated lawn, you will probably have one too: a space dedicated to fertilizers, pesticides, and regular watering. That’s according to a study funded by the National Science Foundation. Which makes you wonder: maybe the opposite could be true. If you kind of become a trailblazer and your lawn goes wild, maybe your neighbors will too.

This can be wishful thinking. You may want to get a group of neighbors together before taking this route and check local regulations. Perhaps you will need a group of neighbors to lobby local leaders and allow gardens with wild flowers instead of grass fed with fertilizers and pesticides.

The NSF study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that peer pressure may be linked to increased fertilization and irrigation of gardens in various parts of the United States: Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Lots of lawns

Over 7,300 households were surveyed, asking people about the use of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation in their garden, as well as their age, household income and the number of neighbors they know by. their name.

Over 80% of respondents had irrigated their gardens in the previous year, while 53% had applied pesticides. Of course, households living in hot, dry climates were particularly likely to water their garden. But irrigation was also linked to increased household income, as well as the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Speaking of wildflowers, the researchers found that U.S. households used nearly four times the area of ​​cultivated corn (the country’s main irrigated crop), suggesting that even small changes in individual properties could lead to big changes. environmental. A-ha!

In the survey, households whose owners knew more neighbors by name were 9% more likely to irrigate and fertilize their lawns.

Doug Levey, program director in the environmental biology division of the NSF, calls the results “revealing” in a report, adding: “If the neighbors expect this from each other, more and more lawns will be treated this way.” The ecological and economic costs would also increase. “

Authors, including Dexter Locke of the United States. Forest Service, says the study provides initial information on garden care practices across the United States, but it is not possible to determine causality from the associations found and that surveys and interviews in-depth research in different regions will be important in future research.

They add in a summary: “Our findings can guide policies or programs to mitigate potentially deleterious outcomes associated with water use and chemical application, by identifying the most susceptible subpopulations. to irrigate, fertilize and / or apply pesticides ”.

Positive peer pressure

Yet peer pressure can work in both positive and negative ways. A heap of college neighbors at the University of Central Florida started an organization called Lawn with wild flowers, funded by a Pollinator Health Fund Food and Agriculture Research Foundation grant. Their goals include enabling people across the country to convert lawns to native wildflowers and create a platform for collecting data on the effectiveness of wildflower lawn plots.

At the end of MayMinnesota Governor Tim Walz also approved a $ 900,000 program to help owners transforming traditional lawns into wildflower paradise to slow the collapse of the state’s bee population.

Could bees, in addition to being accepted in your neighborhood, be a route to environmental change?

About Shelly Evans

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