As we begin 2012, here is a look back at some of the biggest headlines of 2011.

2011 Year in Review

EPA removes 40-percent turf limit from WaterSense landscape specifications

The Professional Landcare Network and other Green Industry groups marked a victory when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Notice of Intent to remove the 40-percent turfgrass restriction from the WaterSense program’s landscape specifications. The same requirement was removed from the International Green Construction Code by a 2/3 vote of the International Code Council.

In 2009, the EPA introduced the WaterSense landscape restriction requiring that only 40 percent of a building’s landscape consist of turfgrass, regardless of varying regional climates or whether the site had access to sources of reusable water, such as recycled stormwater. In 2010, the requirement was proposed by the EPA as part of the International Green Construction Code that many local governments use to form their requirements for new commercial buildings, and could eventually be used for new residential buildings as well. Going forward, the only requirement for EPA WaterSense labeled landscapes will be adherence to the EPA’s water budget tool.

“It is well documented that turfgrass produces sound environmental benefits,” stated Tom Delaney, director of government affairs for PLANET. “I’m glad that after a three-year effort, green industry professionals and the EPA were able to come to an agreement. I’d like to thank the many groups that worked with legislators on Capitol Hill and with EPA officials to achieve this success.”

The issue was also part of PLANET’s Legislative Day on the Hill in July 2011 when PLANET members met with congressional leaders to explain the significance of the proposal.

Discussing the EPA’s water budget tool, which is used to determine the regional suitability of landscapes, Delaney said, “The EPA’s water budget tool continues to be an issue. PLANET will work with other industry groups to help in the ongoing development of water use tools and guides for lawn care and landscape professionals.”


PLANET and PGMS extend partnership with OPEI, GIE+EXPO through 2018

The Green Industry Expo (GIE) announced Nov. 2 that it extended its partnership with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) through the year 2018. GIE consists of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS). GIE+EXPO is the ninth largest trade show in the United States and offers 500,000 square feet of indoor exhibits, featuring 750 exhibitors, a 19-acre outdoor demonstration and test-driving area, educational and networking opportunities, and a convenient mid-America location within driving distance of 60 percent of America’s population. GIE+EXPO is scheduled to be held in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center for the foreseeable future.


Isobutanol fuel blends show promise for use in small engines, off-road vehicles

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) announced the completion of fuels testing on Briggs & Stratton small engines for a side-by-side evaluation of the performance, durability and emissions of ethanol and isobutanol fuel blends. Results show that isobutanol fuel blends provided by Gevo, Inc., do not cause any irregular or unstable engine or performance issues, suggesting that isobutanol could help meet the renewable fuel mandate with minimal-to-no impact on existing equipment and off-road vehicles.

“We are pleased with the results of isobutanol testing,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “It shows us that isobutanol could be a biofuel alternative that can be introduced into the existing supply chain without the potential disruption and harm to our outdoor power equipment engines. In the economic interest of our members and the safety interest of consumers, we need to be open to a biofuel that can perform reliably in the millions of products on the market — lawn mowers, chain saws, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs and UTVs, boats and older cars.”

Briggs & Stratton (B&S) ran a test program with isobutanol provided by Gevo, a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company. Isobutanol, which can be produced out of corn starch, cellulosic materials, agricultural residues and other ethanol feedstocks, is an alcohol that acts like a hydrocarbon. Therefore, this four-carbon molecule could function as a “drop-in” product to allow customers to replace petroleum-derived raw materials with isobutanol-derived raw materials without modification to their equipment or production processes.

“Briggs & Stratton is encouraged by the results of the isobutanol testing on our engines,” said Todd Teske, chairman, president & CEO of Briggs & Stratton Corporation. “We are very interested in alternative fuels that do not cause damage to the substantial number of engines in use today while lessening the country’s dependency on foreign oil.” 


In Memoriam

Dr. John A.A. Thomson
Dr. John Ansel Armstrong Thomson, inventor of the SUPERthrive horticultural vitamins-hormones solution, passed away peacefully on November 28, 2011, five days after his 100th birthday. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Thomson developed the SUPERthrive formula in 1939. Seventy-two years later, he was still engaged in the daily operations of his company, Vitamin Institute, actively selling worldwide.  As the new President, his daughter Patrisha Thomson will continue her father’s legacy of improving horticultural and agricultural crops with the firm’s sole product.


Max Walker
Max Walker, founder of Walker Manufacturing Company in Fort Collins, Colo., passed away Sept. 19. He was 88. Company officials issued the following statement: “While our hearts are heavy at this time, we do rejoice that Max now stands in the presence of the Lord he loved (and spoke of) so much. Thank you for all of your prayers at this time.”


Jay Peck
Subaru Industrial Power Products and the entire equipment industry suffered a great loss on Aug. 10, when Jay Peck, longtime company president and respected industry veteran, passed away at age 59 after a brief and quiet battle with cancer. Funeral services were held at St. Francis de Sales church in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wis., on Aug. 15. Subaru’s vice-president of sales and marketing, Brad Murphy, released the following statement on behalf of the company: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay. This is a tragedy beyond measure, not just for us here at Subaru, but for our entire industry. We’ve lost more than a leader, colleague and visionary. We’ve lost a friend.”


Jim Macy
Jim Macy, sales representative for J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. passed away March 11, 2011. According to a March 15 letter from J. Frank Schmidt III, president and CEO of the company, Macy passed away unexpectedly at his home in Roscoe, Ill.
“Our hearts go out to his wife Lori and their three children, Sean, Brett and Meghan,” Schmidt stated. “We offer our condolences to his loving family and his many, many friends. During the two decades that Jim served J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. as our representative in Illinois and Missouri, he was much more than a salesman.” Macy was born March 16, 1955 in Detroit. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1979 with a degree in Horticulture and Marketing. He worked at Cottage Gardens prior to serving Bailey Nurseries for six years, and joined J. Frank Schmidt & Son in 1992.

2011 STIHL Tour des Trees raises more than $460,000

Sixty-five cyclists from across North America took to Virginia’s scenic byways in early October for the 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE Fund, America’s largest fundraiser for tree research. This year’s Tour raised more than $460,000 for the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund, and the event’s legacy includes 45 new trees in Virginia and Washington, D.C., planted during the Tour’s outreach and education programs. The weeklong cycling event kicked off at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, Va., on Oct. 2. The cyclists continued on to Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, Front Royal, and Reston, finishing their journey in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8 with a finale concert celebration at American University with Rolling Stones keyboardist and conservationist Chuck Leavell. Highlights of the 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees included tree plantings in Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and the state Capitol grounds in Richmond and 65 miles of spectacular cycling along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since the Tour began in 1992, more than 970 riders have helped generate more than $5 million for tree research and education programs which have helped fund a host of different projects that have addressed disease and pest management, urban planting challenges, tree biomechanics and workforce safety.


More than 400 donated their time and effort to this year’s Renewal & Remembrance

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) held its 15th annual Renewal & Remembrance event at Arlington National Cemetery on July 25, 2011. The next day, members went to Capitol Hill to talk with congressional leaders about key issues facing the industry.

More than 400 individuals from across the nation participated in Renewal & Remembrance. They spent the day mulching, caring for and cabling trees with lightning protection, pruning, liming, planting, and aerating the soil. This gift is valued at more than $200,000. To date, PLANET has contributed more than $2 million to the care of this historic landmark.

“We are signifying our continued commitment to honor the men and women to whom we owe our liberties and freedom. By contributing to the environment at this sacred place, we are giving back to the many heroes and their families,” said Walter Wray, Landscape Industry Certified Technician, PLANET member and chairman of the event. “Our members consider it a privilege to be able to lend our time and talents to such a worthwhile project.”

As Renewal & Remembrance has grown, more and more PLANET members bring their families as well as their company employees. The event includes special projects for children of PLANET members. This year, children planted native grass in key locations at Arlington National Cemetery and participated in the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


EPA finalizes E15 pump labeling requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 28 issued fuel pump labeling and other requirements for gasoline blends containing more than 10- and up to 15-percent ethanol, known as E15. These requirements will help ensure that E15 is properly labeled and used once it enters the market.

The new orange-and-black label must appear on fuel pumps that dispense E15. This label will help inform consumers about which vehicles can use E15. This label will also warn consumers against using E15 in vehicles older than model year 2001, motorcycles, watercraft, and gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers and chain saws.

This action will help to further reduce the risks of potential misfueling that could result in damage to the vehicle or equipment and in associated emission increases that pose threats to human health and the environment.


Irrigation Association advocates at recent Green Code hearings

The Irrigation Association (IA) recently joined industry allies to advocate for the irrigation industry’s interests at a seven-day hearing on the International Green Construction Code.

Developed by the International Code Council, the IGCC provides a standard for newly constructed commercial buildings and residential buildings three stories or more in height. Three states have already adopted the code, even though it is not yet complete.

“This is a standard that has the potential to affect irrigation practitioners across the country on large jobs that could significantly contribute to their businesses,” said John Farner, IA’s federal affairs director. “It was important to have their voices represented at this detailed hearing.

At the hearing, the IA was successful in:

Negotiating an allowance for overhead irrigation in non-turfgrass landscaped areas in addition to turfgrass planted in slopes greater than 4 feet in length per 1 foot in height. The types of overhead irrigation allowed will be based on precipitation rate.
Defeating a proposal to require all irrigation water be non-potable.
Defeating a proposal to establish limits on potable water use in landscape irrigation during the establishment phase of plant material and turfgrass.
Supporting the expansion of the definition of a meter to also include some types of flow sensors.
Maintaining the definition of potable water as water meeting the requirements of Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards or the regulations of the public health authority having jurisdiction.


U.S. pickup segment hits 3-decade low

Americans’ love of pickup trucks, the lifeblood of Detroit auto makers and once the darling of U.S. consumers, marked a 31-year low in April.

Against a backdrop of sluggish housing starts, high unemployment and skyrocketing pump prices – key historical barometers for the segment – full-size and small pickups accounted for 11.8% of total light-vehicle deliveries in the month

It is the segment’s lowest market share in the Ward’s database, which dates back to 1980. At their peak in July 2005, pickups accounted for 22.9% of U.S. LV sales.

The share shortfall occurs as sales climb. Through the first four months of 2011, pickup deliveries were tracking 17.9% ahead of like-2010. However, total U.S. light-vehicle sales were pacing 19.4% ahead of prior-year, according to Ward’s.

The downturn for pickups is the latest notable shift in U.S. consumer preference, which has seen light-truck demand dwindle in favor of cars. Light trucks outsold cars in 2010, but through April their lead slipped to a slim 5,000-unit advantage.



More than 3,200 participate on approximately 200 projects for PLANET Day of Service

On Earth Day, April 22, 2011, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) conducted its 3rd annual PLANET Day of Service, a grassroots effort that encourages individual members, supplier members, and state associations to create volunteer lawn care, landscape, and interiorscape projects in their own communities. More than 3,200 volunteers from across 43 states and Canada participated in approximately 200 projects, including landscaping elementary schools, city parks, court houses, monuments, playgrounds, group homes, and senior citizen homes; educating local school children on the benefits of the green industry; and installing irrigation systems. It’s estimated that altogether more than $1 million in time and services was donated during this Day of Service.


Irrigation Association Completes Third Legislative Conference

The Irrigation Association brought 27 member volunteers to Washington, D.C., for its third annual Legislative Conference. In support of IA’s mission, attendees visited more than 40 congressional offices to address lawmakers on the benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services, and on the industry’s recommended solutions to national issues. Netafim USA, SJE-Rhombus Controls and The Toro Company were sponsors of the event.

“The Legislative Conference is a key component of our IA IMPACT grassroots program,” said IA Federal Affairs Director John Farner. “We’re telling our story to lawmakers and senior government officials, and they’re receiving our expert perspectives on issues that affect agriculture, golf and landscape irrigation. But this is just a jumping-off point for conversations that we continue to have year round between IA members and legislative officials.”

The conference also brought government officials and representatives in to directly address conference participants.


Students compete at 35th PLANET Student Career Days

Many of the country’s best and brightest green industry students gathered at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Ill., March 17–20, 2011, to compete in the 35th annual Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) Student Career Days (SCD).

Sixty college teams, including one from Canada and two FFA high-school teams (a total of 875 students) participated in 28 individual and team competitions. Tree climbing, paver/hardscape installation, wood construction, plant identification, sales presentation, exterior/interior design, irrigation troubleshooting, skid steer, 3D exterior landscape design, personnel management, and small engine repair were only just a few of the events.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more energy-charged four days,” said PLANET Student Career Days Subcommittee Chair, Brett Lemcke, Landscape Industry Certified Manager. “The competitive spirit was clearly present, and while I think this year’s events were some of the most challenging we have developed, the students took them on and succeeded.”


Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation releases Emerald Ash Borer management statement

In the wake of a landmark summit on emerald ash borer (EAB) management hosted by Valent Professional Products, the newly-formed Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation (CUATC) released an EAB Management Statement that provides stakeholders with recommendations on how to approach EAB management in urban landscapes. Comprised of leading university researchers and extension specialists; tree and land care company representatives; non-governmental organizations; municipal arborists and foresters; and a representative from Valent Professional Products, the CUATC has developed a “consensus document” to help clarify misconceptions about EAB management options and bring a unified voice to management strategies for dealing this devastating pest. Native to Asia and first discovered in the U.S. in 2002, EAB is an invasive insect pest that has killed tens of millions of ash trees across 15 Midwestern and Eastern states and threatens to kill millions more as it continues to spread. The 20 co-signatories who helped craft the EAB Management Statement said they “strongly endorse ash tree conservation as a fundamental component of integrated programs to manage EAB in residential and municipal landscapes. Cost-effective, environmentally sound EAB treatment protocols are now available that can preserve ash trees through peak EAB outbreaks with healthy canopy intact. Used in association with tree inventories and strategic removal/replacement of unhealthy ash, tree conservation will help maintain maximum integrity and value of urban forests.” Dr. Joe Chamberlin, regional field development manager for Valent Professional Products, said the completion of the EAB Management Statement marks an important turning point in the fight to save ash trees from EAB. The CUATC also emphasizes the strong scientific support for an integrated approach to management, discrediting the prevailing belief that tree removal is a valid strategy for slowing the spread of EAB. The coalition then lists the three chemical options for EAB control that have been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency: dinotefuran, emamactin benzoate and imidacloprid.


New guide helps municipalities monetize the value of green infrastructure

Quantifying the economic value of green infrastructure’s benefits is the key to helping municipalities adopt this innovative and cost-effective stormwater management approach, according to a new report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and American Rivers.  “The Value of Green Infrastructure:  A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits” is a broad analysis that is the first to place an economic value on the numerous benefits provided by green infrastructure. The guide fills an information gap that has hampered widespread deployment of green infrastructure—the practice of managing stormwater with natural systems. “The Value of Green Infrastructure” brings together current research on green infrastructure performance and presents methods for calculating related benefits in water management, energy, air quality, climate, and community livability. The values presented in this guide are not the final word. More research is needed to put more accurate dollar figures on the full range of green infrastructure’s benefits. Based on existing research data, many of the estimates in this guide likely undervalue the true worth of green infrastructure benefits, but it is an important first step in the right direction.


PGMS announces Certified Grounds Technician accreditation points system

The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) has expanded the continuing education requirement for its Certified Grounds Technician (CGT) professional designation program. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, all certified CGTs will need to obtain 35 Continuing Education Units every five years.

“Maintaining certification through continuing education, be it academic instruction, technical classes or other education opportunities, will help build skills essential in personal professional development,” said PGMS Vice President John Van Etten, CGM.

Upon recertifying, CGTs will need to submit proof of attendance in the following accreditation categories: classes taken (that pertain to grounds, business, management, horticultural or technical); teaching or writing an article for the PGMS newsletter the Grounds Management Forum or any other professional trade magazine tying PGMS into the story; involvement with the society; attendance at the School of Grounds Management & GIE+EXPO, a PGMS Regional Seminar and Site Visitation and/or PGMS branch meetings and; certifications such as the Pesticide License or First Aid Certificate.