Research confirms what fire authorities already know, supporting the use of turf as a firebreak because of its fire-resistant properties.
This was reinforced in July 2020, when Hort Innovation released an 89-page report titled Conveying the benefits of living turf – a bushfire retardant, based on research for Turf Australia by the CSIRO and GHD into the benefits of living turf in “firewise” landscape design.
The report stated that well-maintained lawns have the potential to resist fire by not sustaining ignitions during ember attacks, in contrast to some other groundcovers used in landscaping.
Testing of the three main types of commercial turf used in Australia – Buffalo, Couch and Kikuyu – found watered, actively growing, mown lawns were not combustible “under any conditions associated with bushfires”.
The only danger occurred when they were completely dead and extremely dry. Even if water-stressed, an area of lawn free from flammable materials can provide a defendable space near homes and other infrastructure to interrupt the path of surface fire, reduce the risk of radiant heat and direct flames, and allow for embers to be safely put out.
The report recommended turf industry participants develop marketing materials to promote the use of turf as a firewise component of landscaping. It suggests a guide to landscaping for bushfire protection focusing on turf as a material that slows fire spread and supports suppression activities.
“This could … include turf types and maintenance appropriate to (different regions) where turf can be an important part of bushfire protection planning,” the report said.
Source: Hort Innovation