The Agronomist: Eyes on the Future - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

We recently updated our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use this website, you acknowledge that our revised Privacy Policy applies.

The Agronomist: Eyes on the Future

You may not know this about me, but I grew up on a golf course. My dad was a superintendent for over 60 years and in that time, he saw incredible progress in his profession from the pesticides that he used (DDT, aldrin, chlordane – all the old-fashioned stuff) to the equipment used to maintain the course.

The first course that he worked at was formerly a dairy farm and although I have no idea how this came about, it was a favorite for manufacturers in testing new equipment. I can remember the very first triplex greens mower – ubiquitous on courses today – being tested on his course. I also recall this strange, ungainly contraption rolling through the sand traps. This was, of course, the first of the self-propelled bunker rakes. 

This same period of development occurred in the professional lawn care industry as well. When I began in the mid-1980s there was little automation. To treat a lawn, you either pushed a spreader, pulled a hose, or carried a backpack.

The beauty of this equipment is and was its price point. You did not need a lot of money to get your business started and the manual equipment did a very good job, too. Even to this day, if I were to choose one piece of equipment to start with it would be the veritable Chemlawn gun, the Jedi lightsaber of the lawn care industry. A very elegant weapon. 

But just as I saw rapid advancement in equipment design during my career, if you are starting out now you will reflect on what was common in 2021 and marvel at the progress during your career. Big changes are coming. Some we can predict and others that we can’t.

We see legislation in California that will spell the end of small, gasoline-powered engines. We also see legislation and regulation addressing the noise made by gasoline-powered leaf blowers. We also must come to terms with the lack of labor available to us. These are vexing problems that do not have simple, one-dimensional answers. 

Hopefully, you have made the commitment to join NALP at our annual LANDSCAPES conference and GIC+EXPO trade show in Louisville.

As you walk the trade show floor, keep your eyes open for glimpses of the future. Manufacturers see the changes coming and are already developing new technologies to meet these changes. Most prominent is the rapid advancement in battery-powered equipment.

Not very long ago, equipment powered by electrons rather than petroleum was strictly limited to homeowner use – not very powerful at all and with very limited run times. Today, you will find full-size zero-turn mowers powered by batteries. Robotics are under development, too. Can you imagine a landscape crew of one person operating multiple mowers that have no human operator? That is mind-blowing to me. What advancements will be on display this year? I am excited to find out. 

This article was published in the September/October issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Landscape Professional magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Bob Mann

Bob Mann is the director of state and local government relations for NALP.