Friday, July 20, 2007

And the Largest Crop in the United States is...

Turf grass.
When Christie Milesi moved from Italy to the United States, she was immediately smitten with our lawns. She loved the way the green grass of our urban lawns stayed defiantly lush, long past the browning hillsides of native Montana prairie. While finishing her PhD, she enrolled in a business class, where students were expected to come up with viable business ideas. Her idea was to create a service that monitored rain and let people know when and how much to water their lawns. That was when she made an important discovery- the total amount of lawn in the United States was unknown.
So she submitted a research proposal to NASA Earth System Science Fellowship Program to produce a national estimate of lawn area and the impact of those lawns on ecological factors like the carbon and water cycles.
What she found was astounding. When most people think of fertilizer and irrigation, do they think of agriculture or our landscapes? It turns out that there is more lawn than corn grown in the US, a crop that creates no food, yet uses untold amounts of water, fertilizer and other resources.
Check out the story at the NASA Earth Observatory website. Then zoom around a little- this is a great source for cool info.

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