Lots of water, little benefit: environmentalists criticize turf | hessenschau.de

Rolled turf became more and more popular especially in the Corona period. But unlike grain, for example, cultivation consumes a lot of water. In the face of drought and heat, environmentalists are clearly critical – and garden owners are especially responsible.

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Environmentalists criticize the “thirsty” turf


Harvesting on a turf field near Einhausen

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Brown forests and meadows, dry streams and rivers that are too warm: the drought and heat have also left their mark on Hesse. In many places, associations and authorities have called for water conservation, and in some cases, drawing water from rivers and lakes is no longer allowed.

But around Einhausen in southern Hesse Bergstraße, the meadows are still lush green. The turf producer Hedderich has his fields here, and in order for the turf to grow well, it is watered regularly and intensively. In about 15 months of growth, it eats up to 25 liters per square meter per week, much more than corn or grain requires. With around 90 hectares of cultivated area, or more than 22 million liters per week, at Hedderich alone.

In times of water scarcity, low groundwater levels and constant calls to save water, not only Gerhard Eppler, president of the Hessian Union for Nature Conservation, asks himself: “Does it have to be like this?”

Environmentalists criticize the “enormous” use of water

Especially in southern Hesse, and especially in the Hessian Ried, the groundwater level continues to decline, so everyone has to use water sparingly, Eppler explains in an interview with HR. The turf is a thorn in its side from two points of view: on the one hand, water consumption is ‘enormous’ cultivation, transport and laying, says the conservator of monuments. After laying, the turf should be watered up to three times a day for about three weeks.

On the other hand, the turf is of no use to humans or to nature. “Areas are lost to growing food that has nothing to do with biodiversity,” complains Eppler. In addition, it is regularly vacuumed to free it of leaves, for example: “If an insect has lost its way, it will be vacuumed at the latest.”

Water consumption must be limited wherever it is not absolutely necessary. If you don’t believe him, you should cross the A5 and look left and right, said the conservator of monuments. The dry forests seen there are a direct result of climate change and careless use of poor water resources.

“We absolutely need water to grow our food, even if there are still ways to conserve it,” says President Nabu. In turn, turf is a luxury good and, above all, “comfortable”.

Great demand for turf

But a luxury item that continues to enjoy great popularity: “We had a very high demand at Corona in particular,” says Daniel Bauer, Manager at Hedderich-Rollrasen. People would spend much more time in their own garden and prepare it accordingly. Generally, they would only produce as much as is needed, says Bauer.


Plant manager Daniel Bauer on a Hedderich field

Like all farmers, Hedderich draws its water from groundwater wells, some of which were drilled decades ago at the edge of the fields. In this case, the rights to the water belong to the Association for Irrigation, Soil Protection and Landscape Protection Hofheim. Farmers and member companies can then use a certain amount of water per hectare for free. Not everyone always sticks to it. “It gets overdone every now and then, but all farmers do, too,” says Bauer.

However, water consumers do not have to fear any consequences, and there are no penalties. Nevertheless, Hedderich is paying more and more attention to water consumption. For example, he uses a wetting agent in his fields to keep the soil moist longer. But this raises the production costs and hence the price.

Nabu demands a water tax

President Nabu Eppler would also start with costs. It calls for a water tax in line with the slogan: “What costs nothing is worth nothing.” Only when water consumption becomes a cost factor, and thus economically important, will farmers and businesses appreciate its value and start using it more economically. However, such a fee must be well prepared and, above all, “socially and economically acceptable” for farmers, who can be heavily burdened.

At this point, the Nature Conservation Union clearly makes consumers responsible. Every private household should plant water-saving vegetation around the house, which will also provide something for bees, butterflies and other insects. Rather than planting lawns in monoculture gardens and front gardens, Eppler recommends flower meadows: “A flower meadow needs little or no water and supports biodiversity.”

Bauer, Hedderich’s plant manager, cannot say what the future holds. Of course, there may be times when the water continues to be rationed or that it costs money at some point. But one thing is clear to him: “As long as there is demand, we will produce rolled turf.”

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