December 2012

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 12 of 51

Blaylock. "That gets various agencies and interest groups involved, and it can become a political battleground. Of course, everyone wants clean water, but these problems can be prevented with proper fertilizer use." IDENTIFYING THE CAUSES Many people feel that a rise in eutrophication and algal blooms can be attributed to a cumulative effect of both "point" and "non-point" polluting sources. A point source refers to a single polluter, such as a factory or a mine. Non-point sources are widespread and individually unidentifiable. In the case of fertilizer misuse and runoff, there may literally be millions of non-point contributors. Fingers are specifically being pointed at the improper use of fertilizers by homeowners and other nonprofessional applicators. State and local laws regulating fertilizer usage are evidence of concern about the potential for fertilizer misuse among nonprofessionals, and many of the new restrictions are based on common-sense considerations. For example, some laws prohibit fertilizers from being applied on frozen ground or near pavement, or right before heavy rain. Other laws require a fertilizerfree buffer zone between landscapes and water sources, such as streams or canals. Some states have "black out" periods when fertilizers cannot be applied at all. "The legislative efforts are usually focused on homeowners and lawn care operators," said Fox. "Some homeowners don't realize the impact their fertilizer application could have on surrounding water bodies. They apply a bag of fertilizer without really thinking about it, and many believe that if some fertilizer is good, then more is even better." Many industry professionals are exempt from certain fertilizer laws in their respective states. Legislation often makes exceptions for golf courses, sports/municipal facilities, agricultural uses and qualified landscape situations, frequently with a stipulation that the users have been trained and certified in proper fertilizer handling and application. "They (the activists and legislators) understand that golf course superintendents, sports turf managers and lawn care professionals have a science-based knowledge of fertilizer," added Fox. "They know that skilled experts in turfgrass and commercial landscape maintenance are conscientious stewards of the environment." ENHANCED-EFFICIENCY FERTILIZERS The dangers and repercussions of fertilizer misuse exist on different levels, some of which cannot be fixed with rules. For one thing, many of the laws are essentially unenforceable. If a homeowner is going to overapply fertilizer, either intentionally or accidentally, what can be done to prevent it? "That's definitely part of the problem," said Fox. "Local municipalities don't necessarily have the resources to actively police the laws. That's why manufacturers, blenders, retailers and university Extension services realize it's up to the industry to get people to comply." One tremendous step forward is the increased recognition of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) as useful tools, particularly slow-release or controlled-release products. The Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) defines EEFs as fertilizers that increase nutrient availability/uptake and decrease losses to the environment, when compared to appropriate traditional fertilizers. EEFs encapsulate granular nitrogen and other nutrients within special polymer coatings. When applied to turfgrass, the coated granules release nutrients gradually and evenly over an extended period. Meanwhile, traditional soluble fertilizers dissolve into the soil quickly. When plants can't readily absorb those nutrients, the potential increases for them to be lost from the soil (and sometimes into surface and groundwater). "Nitrogen in the soil is very mobile, which is important for plants to be able to rapidly take up what they need," explained Blaylock. "Healthy roots are aggressive feeders. Actively growing turfgrass consumes nutrients quickly, so the trick is to synch the nutrient supply to the plant demand. Continued on page 49 SportsTurf 13

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of SportsTurf - December 2012