A commentary by Wisconsin State Farmer correspondent Ray Mueller of Chilton.
Although 2013 is not an Olympic year, there's a lot of Olympic-like activity taking place on an increasing number of roadsides in Wisconsin and perhaps beyond.
I notice it repeatedly in my travels around the east central part of the state.
And so does a woman who called in to a recent Wisconsin Public Radio program during which the topic was the diminishing of the honeybee population. She noticed the same thing during her travels between Madison and Milwaukee.
What I'm referring to is the extensive cutting of the vegetation along road rights of way by the residents of the nearby property.
There seems to be Olympic-like competition for who can mow the longest stretch on the roadsides - not to mention the efforts to maneuver the lawnmower as close as possible to culverts, fences, utility poles, mailboxes, stakes, and any other objects that might be in the area.
I'm also amazed at the steep terrain inclines that the mower operators try to negotiate.
I've seen mowing runs of hundreds of feet along roadsides. "If my neighbor can cut for 400 feet along the roadway, then I'd better go for 500 feet," appears to be part of the rationale.
If this trend continues, and I say this not totally in jest, it might eventually be possible for town and county governments to dispose of their roadside cutting equipment and the cost that goes with it.
The woman caller to the radio program suggested that such frequent and widespread cutting of vegetation might not be beneficial to bees. The resource guest on the program agreed.
I don't why it has happened but it definitely appears that a mindset has been created that says that as much of the landscape as possible should look like a golf course green. The program guest properly described such landscapes as being "biological deserts."
That's an apt but also very scary description. Why? Because what's left in the wake of lawn mowers isn't of value to bees, birds, or the multitude of insects that are needed to maintain the order of survival that nature has created for itself.
Think of it in this simple way - pertaining only to bees. Start with the fairly early spring when dandelions color the landscape and provide much needed nourishment for bees and other insects - both beneficial and not.
If the dandelions are clipped as soon as they begin their colorful display, the bees are deprived of that nourishing nectar.
The same applies for the season-long gallery of other plant species, which flower in the coming months on semi-wild landscape if they are allowed to do so.
There's nothing wrong with using any of several techniques to control plants that are invasive species and those that can legitimately be considered weeds, although some of the latter are also very beneficial to bees and birds.
I believe part of the problem is that many people look at dandelions as "noxious" weeds that need to be controlled at all costs.
But the fact is that they're edible and very nutritious for humans and a very important source of food for our endangered bees.
At the very least, it would be nice to see that those who feel a need to mow along the roadsides far afield from their lawn area would be selective in what they cut.
By that, I mean go after burdocks, thistles, invasive specie plants, and common grasses but leave the clovers, golden rod, milkweed, chickory, asters, native prairie plants, and other flowering species that are so crucial for the survival and reproduction of bees and butterflies.
A monoculture of certain grasses is appropriate on golf courses because there is a purpose for it. But there's no good reason to have roadside right-of-ways and other portions of the landscape resembling a golf course green.
Another phenomenon that mystifies me about grass cutting is the routine approach taken by owners of commercial property, institutions, and units of government regarding when to run mowers over their lawn space.
The common practice is that if it's Tuesday - or Friday - then the mowers need to be run regardless of whether the grass needs to be cut or not. In some cases, the mowers do little other than to stir up dust.
Rather then continuing in this routine, I'd like to see a lot of the lawn space converted to the growing of gardens, perennial plants, and trees.
That would require a one-time special effort but it would be a long-term better use of resources both for humans and for the many creatures, which would appreciate such a change in mindset and practices.