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Completed project

Conveying the benefits of living turf – a bushfire retardant (TU17008)

Key research provider: GHD
Publication date: Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What was it all about?

This project, which ran from 2019 to 2020, delivered valuable information for the turf industry to promote the use of living turf as a bushfire retardant and to support activities in bushfire planning and preparation, design and maintenance of buffers and asset protection zones around buildings.

Three fact sheets have been developed to describe the bushfire protection benefits that living turf can provide, with one each for buffalo, couch and kikuyu varieties. These can be used by the turf and landscaping industries to inform decision-makers about using living turf as part of bushfire preparation and planning.

A literature review was conducted into the benefits and maintenance requirements needed to maximise the capacity of living turf to reduce fire spread. The review combined existing information about Australia’s living and synthetic turf industries with the principles of landscaping for bushfire protection and technical knowledge of firefighting practices. Current scientific knowledge into the combustion properties of common synthetic turf materials and the testing standards for these products was also considered.

The project team also performed tests to assess the bushfire protection benefits of three common Australian turf varieties. The combustibility of buffalo, kikuyu and couch was tested using attempted ignitions of the turf types at varying fuel moisture levels.

The results provided scientific evidence of the fire protection benefits that can be delivered by living turf in the landscape, particularly its resilience to ember attack and flame encroachment. These experiments also demonstrated that combustibility can be reduced by keeping lawns short, including where it can’t be kept alive or has already died. The combustion properties and testing methods used for synthetic turf were also examined, to consider whether these testing methods are appropriate in a bushfire context.