Jul 26 2016
If you think about it, a lot of us are farmers. We devote our small acreage to a crop that we fertilize, water and harvest. Then we throw away the harvest or grind it up to re-fertilize the crop. We never eat it and we don’t feed it to our animals.
Grass. In Pennsylvania we devote 1.8 million acres to lawns. Our next largest crop uses 1.6 million acres. (*See table below.)
The amazing dominance of the lawn is true everywhere in the continental the U.S. except in the Central West — Montana to Nevada to Kansas — where hay, corn and soybeans take up more space. Click here and scroll down for the map.
This isn’t really news. A 2005 study by Cristina Melisi used satellite data to show that lawns are the largest crop in America and the most irrigated by acreage. This is no surprise in Florida and the West where lawns have built-in irrigation systems, but do we irrigate in the Northeast? You bet! The sprinklers are running this month.
Some homeowners break the mold by making meadows or growing vegetables but they often have to explain it to their neighbors. The two-year-old Beacon-Bartlett meadow in Schenley Park has educational signs explaining “This is intentional.”
If I was a gardener I’d convert my tiny backyard lawn but I’m not even a participant. I am, at best, an observer using my Newcomb’s Guide to identify what comes up. I never water, weed or seed it. When it grows, it gets cut. It’s not growing right now.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
(*) TEXT UPDATED July 26, 9:30pm: The original text was wildly incorrect! Thank you Mary Ann Pike for providing a correction with this link at USDA. Here’s a table combining lawn and USDA statistics for Pennsylvania:
|Cultivation/ Crop||Acreage in PA|
|Hay and Haylage||1.6 million|
|Corn for grain/silage||1.3 million|
This means that lawns are about 30% of Pennsylvania’s cultivated lands.