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Keeping It Green

by editor

Global awareness of the impacts the human species has on the world has seen the groundswell of environmental consciousness develop into a tsunami of consumer demand for green alternatives across all industry sectors, including the landscape maintenance industry.

Going green is so much more than just recycling and saving water or electricity. It is a holistic approach to the broader goal of environmental stewardship that will leave the planet in a better shape for generations to come. People want to connect with green life and care for the natural world and technology can make that connection accessible. Aligned to all these changes is the rise in demand for green alternatives in landscape maintenance which has seen advances in the technology of power tools, pesticides and fertilisers that support the maintenance of landscapes ethically when it comes to environmental impacts.

Bio-pesticides
The increased consumer awareness to environmental issues is driving the demand for bio-pesticides and other alternative products seen as environmentally sustainable alternatives to conventional chemical controls for weed, pest and disease management. The number of bio-pesticides on the market continues to grow and these products are based on materials such as essential oils, botanical extracts, bacteria, and certain minerals. They are particularly popular for use in food-producing gardens. Examples of popular bio-pesticides include Neem oil, Garlic sprays, Baking Soda and strains of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis used to control caterpillars. These ‘softer’ options are not necessarily superior to other forms of control, but their popularity is on the rise. Bio-pesticides are usually inherently less toxic than conventional pesticides and generally affect only the target organism and closely related organisms. This contrasts with broad spectrum, conventional pesticides that are synthetically based that may negatively affect non-target organisms such as birds, fish, beneficial insects, reptiles, and mammals etc. The effective use of bio-pesticides does however require an in-depth knowledge and understanding of pest management, anatomy and physiology.

Eco-Herbicides
Herbicides are especially useful when it comes to garden maintenance and until recently organic or soft options for weed control have been limited. Organic weed control using sprays can be difficult to achieve as most herbicides available on the market have active constituents that cannot be considered organic. Many herbicide active constituents may also persist in the environment and their use should be considered with caution. That is not to say that herbicides should be avoided entirely, the use of any chemicals in managing pest, diseases or weeds can be exercised safely as long as label directions are adhered too.

When it comes to organic weed control, technology has opened new doors and there is now a herbicide that can truly lay claim to being organic. Organic Crop Protectants have been able to replicate a process that occurs in plants when they come under stress and produce non-anoic acid (also known as pelargonic acid). Basically, oleic acid which occurs naturally in plants is oxidised by stress related free radicals which results in pelargonic/non-anoic acid being formed. The non-anoic acid then goes about denaturing cell walls and can lead to plant death if enough tissue is damaged because the stress conditions keep going on.

Bio-stimulants
Every gardener knows that soil biology is the key to plant success. Soil biology contributes to the fertility, productivity, and sustainability of soils through organic matter turnover, improved soil structure, increased water holding capacity and a reduction in nutrient leaching and suppression of diseases. Bio stimulants containing beneficial microbes can assist in meeting these requirements of good soil health when applied correctly and at the right time in the growth cycle of plants.

One of the most popular bio stimulants used in plant management across Australia, are seaweed extracts due to their plant growth promoting effects and effect on plant tolerance to stress factors, such as salinity, temperature extremes, nutrient deficiency, and drought. Apart from the growth promoting effects seaweed extracts have on plants, they also improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil. Even at low concentrations seaweed extracts have been found to have a positive effect on plant growth.

Organic Fertilisers
The nutritional requirements of plants are one point that will often generate heated debate amongst plant maintenance contractors and horticulturists. The debate usually occurs over what fertiliser is best, in-organic, which are often referred to as chemical fertilisers or organic which are derived from once living organisms or their by-products e.g., manures.

Advances in technology have seen a rise in the number of fertilisers that are a combination of chemical and organic components including those that that have been formulated to include other additives such as plant bio- stimulants in the form of beneficial bacteria. Such inputs can assist plants in assimilation of nutrients and increase plant tolerance to several abiotic factors such as frost and heat stress. These types of fertilisers are referred to as bio-fertilisers and often include strains of the beneficial soil fungi such as Bacillus, Rhyzobia and Trichoderma which assist in the development of strong root systems and improving overall soil health.

Rechargeable Electric Power Tools
Cordless power tools rely on batteries to supply voltage to them. The type of battery will be dependent on the power tool. The batteries are built for specific devices and come in a variety of voltage ratings, capacity and more. Manufacturers use a range of battery types and each has its pros and cons. One important consideration is the cycle life of batteries which is the number of charge and discharge cycles that a battery can complete before losing performance. Battery technology has improved vastly over the past decade and in some cases, the tools that they power can perform just as well as a corded tool. As with any equipment that utilises a power source, cordless power tools come with an environmental cost but some perform well in the green stakes.

Rated as one of the most environmentally friendly batteries Li-ion batteries are a popular choice with the environmentally conscious. Lithium-ion batteries are small, light, and easy to carry, they have a high energy density meaning they can deliver more to a power-hungry tool and Li-ion batteries have a lower self-discharge, greatly increasing their shelf life.

Li-Ion have become the go-to battery of choice for most cordless tool manufacturers for a few reasons:

  1. They provide a lot of power from a small battery (high energy density)
  2. They can be recharged many times (high cycle life)
  3. High capacity
  4. No memory effect (the battery remembers how much of its charge was drained before being charged and then uses the shorter charge period as its new capacity)

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries usually have a low selling price and are fast to charge and can take a high number of charges,

Keeping it Green
There is no doubt technological advances will continue to be made in all areas of the horticultural and landscape industries. Our reliance on outdated modes of thinking and the use of materials that pose more of a threat to our environment than sustaining needs to change. Now and in the future it is increasingly more important to reduce our impact on the environment, so with every choice made in maintaining landscapes, keep it green.

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