Templeman discusses turf's natural bushfire protection benefits with local farmers

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman has discussed with local industry representatives, new research that demonstrates several turf varieties are a natural barrier to bushfire.

Professional services company GHD was engaged by not-for-profit horticultural research corporation, Hort Innovation, to undertake a study on the benefits of living turf and its role as a bushfire retardant.

Natural prevention: Federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman with Ben (left) and Charlie (right) Muscat at their North Richmond turf farm, Greenway Turf Supplies. Picture: Supplied.

Natural prevention: Federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman with Ben (left) and Charlie (right) Muscat at their North Richmond turf farm, Greenway Turf Supplies. Picture: Supplied.

GHD conducted experiments at the CSIRO in Canberra to assess the bushfire protection benefits of three common species of turf - buffalo, kikuyu and couch. It found all three were highly resistant to ignition from fire.

"This is important because it means natural turf can play a role in the spread of bushfire in peri-urbans areas like the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury," said Ms Templeman.

"We have many turf businesses in the Hawkesbury, and this research is a great resource for them.

"I have spoken to businesses including Greenway Turf Supplies at North Richmond, and they are very interested in the implications of this, and other similar findings. It will be useful to support activities in bushfire planning and preparation."

Ben Muscat from Greenway Turf Supplies in North Richmond believes it's a great idea to use "a natural environmentally friendly ground cover like natural turf as a form of bushfire retardation".

"The research shows, turf that is green and healthy and well maintained, create a fantastic natural fire barrier and are not readily combustible under any conditions associated with wildfires unless they are completely dead and have very low moisture contents," he said.

"Turf in general is the real winner here when compared to other surfaces/coverings such as shrubs/trees/bark and the like.

"However, when it comes to healthy lawns in bushfire season when rainfall is minimised, I think Tiftuf is the natural standout here as it stays green when other grasses are brown through drought.

Mr Muscat said that the greener the grass stays, the better it is as a fire retardant.

"In a healthy, well irrigated and well looked after lawn I think variety is less important, but through the summer months the more drought tolerant a variety is I think the better it would be in this situation," he said.

"Tiftuf is the first natural turf to be granted the Smart Approved Water Mark for Tiftuf (excluding Western Australia and Northern Territory), the only turfgrass in the world to achieve this.

"Tiftuf requires 38 per cent less water than any other variety, making it the most drought tolerant grass available."

Hort Innovation stated the project team had performed tests assessing bushfire protection benefits of the three types of turf, including attempted ignitions at varying fuel moisture levels and at various lengths.

The research found the three varieties were highly resistant to ignition from fire. They found that while lawns cannot stop airborne embers, they can provide defendable space from where such embers can be safely put out and mitigate fire spread.

Ms Templeman, who lost her own home to bushfire in 2013, said the research was timely following the devastation of last season's bushfires and with the next season fast approaching.

"We need to consider every option, all the research, to help keep our community safe," Ms Templeman said.

"Last summer's bushfires were so unpredictable and so fierce, every little thing we can do to help prevent the spread of fire is certainly worth considering."

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