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Maintaining turf using the regenerative agriculture method.

It is well known that in intensive agriculture plants use only a small part of the potential of chlorophyll photosynthesis because they only absorb a small part of the nutrients in the soil and fertilisers. Optimising chlorophyll photosynthesis is the focus of regenerative agriculture through the method of 'feeding the plants to regenerate the soil', which is more effective than the intensive agriculture method of 'fertilising the soil to feed the plants'. The greater the activity of photosynthesis, the greater the production of carbohydrates, which are partly transported from the roots into the soil through the root exudates and provide the soluble carbon to develop the biological activity of the soil. Beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae are our best allies in promoting the mineralisation of the elements present in nature. These micro-organisms are the ideal miners that take up the carbon provided by the plants and other minerals needed from the water, air and soil to complete their life cycle, at the end of which they then pass them on to the plants in an organic form that is easier to absorb, which is why they need the carbon that only plants are able to capture and transport into the soil. This is a symbiosis that has existed as long as plants have existed. It is plants that contribute most to the formation of the soil (pedogenesis) where biological activities take place through carbon sequestration and without plants the soil would be disintegrating rock that is easy to wash away.

The application of the teachings of regenerative agriculture in the turf of a sports field brings significant benefits because it involves the most appropriate use of mineral nutrients and biological activators and the reduction of the use of plant protection products until they are completely eliminated. The main limitation of growing turf for sports use is intensive trampling because it compresses the porosity, altering the physical properties of the soil and restricting gas exchange between the soil and the air. However, aerating the surface and lightening the soil regularly ensures the gas exchange (CO2 ⇄ O2) necessary for biological processes. In a well-drained and well-ventilated substrate, micro-organisms proliferate and mineralise forms of nutrients that are inaccessible to plants, both those present in the soil and those supplied by fertilisers.

Firstly, it must be considered that cutting tall grass by removing more than 1/3 of the total height has negative consequences on grass growth. The grass cuttings must be removed and taken to the composting plants because otherwise the excess deposited on the surface will form felt. This reduces the gas exchange between the soil and the air, and in addition, nutrients are removed along with the grass and have to be replenished with synthetic fertilisers, which often have a negative effect on biological activity.

Mismanagement of grass cutting is often observed in public parks, where grass is cut when it is too high and, as if that were not enough, is left to dry on the surface, thinking that it brings nutrients back into the soil and reduces water for irrigation. In reality, this reduces the cost of cutting because the grass is battered and often takes months to recover. Cut grass is too long, it oxidises and much of the nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere instead of returning to the soil. As well as battering the cut grass beyond 1/3 of its height, the excess of cutting waste becomes felt and suffocates the roots and biological activity in the soil; it becomes an attraction for insects and mosquitoes as if we were in a rice field. The aesthetic appearance leaves people wanting to go elsewhere and the supposed savings in cutting frequency have a negative impact on the functionality of the park and on people's health.

What to do: Start mowing the grass at least once a week on sunny days. Cutting the natural grass frequently and leaving the mowing residue on the surface will decompose in a very short time without forming felt. Part of the water together with the minerals in the grass and part of the (highly volatile) nitrogen return to the soil. Frequent cutting promotes the formation of a dense cover that is more resistant to trampling and is also the best natural "weed killer" because weeds have no room to germinate. Carrying out around 35 cuts per year without harvesting will keep the cost of the operation low and preserve the ecosystem in the city's green areas, while offering a better aesthetic value.

Consult our experts on how to apply the lessons of regenerative agriculture to have a sustainable ecosystem that promotes health and jobs on site. The HEALgreen method requires a small initial investment for the purchase or rental of equipment and an educational period for those involved, but once understood, it is easy, cheap and sustainable.

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