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National Mall Turf

August 21, 2017

What lurks beneath the grass of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.?


WashingtonDCMallAerialNavyPhoto_crop Public Domain

The National Mall, Washington, D.C. gets a lot of use. (U.S. Navy)


Turf’s invisible friends. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The worn and tattered turf of the National Mall in Washington, DC is being replaced with turf from a farm in New Jersey. USDA researcher Jo Anne Crouch saw this as an opportunity to study the soil microbiome: a network of bacteria, fungi and other organisms. She and her colleagues compared the microbiomes of the Mall before and after the work, the turf farm in New Jersey, and undisturbed turf near the Mall. And while there were differences, they report in the journal Crop Science that there was a surprisingly similar foundation of microorganisms.


It was that core microbiome that unified all four of these sites.


She says maintaining the health of these underground communities is essential to keeping the National Mall green without having to resort to expensive fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon