NORTH FLORIDA — Many times, our concept of the perfect, lush green lawn is not at all what nature intended. If nature had its way, lawns would be meadows, then fields, then brush, and finally trees.
Large open spaces planted in just one type of plant are a feast for nature’s host of insects and diseases.
When it comes to pests in a lawn, many homeowners seem to be more concerned about the appearance of their lawn and less concerned about the cost of controlling these pests. Turfgrass can tolerate a certain number of insects without being killed.
But the same number of insects can cause significant visual damage.
The seriousness of an insect problem can depend on the visual damage that the homeowner is willing to tolerate.
If your level of tolerance is zero, then your approach is going to be a lot different from that of the average homeowner who can tolerate some damage.
Zero tolerance can cost a lot of money and time. And, it can contribute to long-term environmental problems.
Floridians spend millions to control insects on lawns.
Scientists tell us that insects can become resistant to insecticides. It is possible to kill most pest insects with insecticides but at least a few survive. And, it’s the ones that survive that develop resistance to insecticides and then pass the resistance to their offspring.
The next time these insects become a problem, the same insecticide won’t be effective in controlling them. Insect resistance is a constant challenge for agricultural scientists.
Gaining a better understanding of the biology of pests and their ecology allows us to reduce pesticide applications and/or to use more environmentally friendly chemicals.
Research also makes it possible to find natural enemies of insect pests, which can help keep pest populations in check. Scientists also help develop turfgrass varieties that are more insect resistant.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is to change public perception. It means changing public expectations. It means that a certain amount of damage is acceptable in order to use pesticides more effectively. Such expectations change slowly.
I’m not saying that we should do away with our lawns. I am saying that perhaps our expectations for our lawns are too high.
Use lawn grass where it is needed, where it serves a purpose. Take time to become better familiar with the type of lawn grass you have along with how to correctly manage it. And even though we do have some tools to help battle the array of lawn pests, if you set out to have that “perfect” lawn, be ready to do battle with nature, a continual and perhaps lifelong battle.