I've heard about BMPs for turf several times, including in your magazine. What are they and who produces them? — via the Internet

Best Management Practices (BMPs) refer to management strategies designed to provide good turf health and quality while minimizing inputs and environmental impacts. They're a bit like IPM in the sense that they seek a more holistic approach to management (and they give us another acronym to remember!). However, they include all management practices, not just pest controls, and they're often devised with the primary objective of reducing environmental impacts, especially to water quality. Thus, specifics that address fertilization typically play a large part in BMPs.

BMPs can come from a variety of government agencies. Turf-related organizations such as the U.S. Golf Association are looking at BMPs as well. However, the BMPs that likely will carry the most significance for the turf industry are those devised by Cooperative Extension offices or state universities. This is because local and state government regulations increasingly are recommending, or in some cases requiring, the use of BMPs in turf management. Universities and extension services are often statutorily charged with the duty of developing these “official” BMPs.

The concept is relatively new and not every state has official turf BMPs, as such, but some do. As implementation of the Clean Water Act and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations proceed during the next several years, you can expect BMPs to become a much more prominent part of turf management.

A good place to start if you need BMPs for turf is your nearest cooperative extension office. Go to to locate the nearest one.

Staying sharp

I am mowing everything from residential and commercial turf to highway contracts. I am dulling a lot of blades and it seems like I spend hours sharpening them each week. There has to be an easier way. Is there such a thing as an automatic blade sharpener for rotary mowers? — via the Internet

I spoke with Doug Puckett, dealer development manager with Stens. He said that, yes, there are a couple of “automatic” rotary blade sharpeners on the market. And, according to Puckett, these machines do quite a good job of providing an excellent edge. Besides the quality of the sharpening, the main advantage of these machines is that once you mount the blade, you can walk away and let it do its job, which of course is the whole point of an automatic unit.

However, there are tradeoffs. These machines are quite a bit more expensive than traditional bench grinders. And while they may reduce sharpening time somewhat, they don't do it while the blades are still on the machines, so you still have to remove and reinstall them — a significant proportion of the time required.

Puckett explains that if you're interested in reducing sharpening, how you sharpen the blade may not be as important as the kind of blades you use. Metal hardness is measured in Rockwell hardness units, and the hardness of mower blades ranges from 35 on the low end to 50 on the high end for standard metal mower blades. Some blades may go even higher. For example, Stens markets a carbide-tungsten blade with a hardness of 65. The higher the hardness value, the longer the blade will retain a decent edge before you must sharpen it again.

Naturally, you pay more for harder blades. However, as you have found, you pay for cheaper blades in a different way — by spending more time sharpening and replacing them. Although it might be quite natural to want to spend less if you're going through set after set, the opposite approach of buying more expensive blades may actually be a more cost-effective solution. You'll need to sharpen them less often, which can save considerable labor, and you'll probably need to replace them less often as well.

Eric Liskey has a bachelor's degree in ornamental horticulture and a master's degree in botany. He has been licensed for pesticide advising and applications in California and Missouri, and has more than 10 years combined professional experience in landscape installation and maintenance, nursery retailing, pest management and botany.

If you have a question about landscape or turf management, write to “Researching Maintenance,” Grounds Maintenance, P.O. Box 12901, Overland Park, KS 66282-2901, or send your question by e-mail to

Questions are selected on the basis of current general interest. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee a response to individual letters.

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