'Turfgrass saves lives’ was one of the many messages delivered at the Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) 2016 Conference & Field Day, held at Houston Texas in February.
The conference, and Australian growers who attend, were presented the example of New Orleans using turf to save lives. The city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 after the catastrophic failure of levee banks, resulting in the loss of 1,464 lives. In order to prevent a repeat of this levee failure and tragedy, an experiment to grow turf on the new levee banks to stabilise and reinforce the banks, and to act as an erosion control method, was undertaken. Installed with a relatively small $8,000 (USD) investment, turfgrass was grown through turf reinforcement mat in sections of the new levees. More extensive research confirmed this method of turf reinforcement could withstand more than 12 hours of constant, high velocity, flooding without sustaining any damage
As a result of this initial experiment, $300 million (USD) worth of Bermuda (Couch) turf is now being used to strengthen 3000 miles of levee banks in the State of Louisiana. The turf is watered for at least 60 days after installation, to ensure good establishment, and an ongoing regime of fertility and pest management is undertaken to ensure the health of the turf. New Orleans will be struck by hurricane and/or flood conditions again, but now turfgrass is there to save lives!