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WBBH NBC: UF study questions fertilizer ban

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer rains have brought additional runoff to area waterways, including the Caloosahatchee River. New research indicates fertilizer may not make its way into that runoff as easily as once thought.

The nutrients found in fertilizer can contribute to red tide and algae growth, and several local communities, including Lee County, ban the use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer during the summer, when rain creates more runoff.

The ban is a problem for those like landscapers and golf courses that are trying to get turf in top shape.

“You need to be able to feed the plant during its growing season,” said Bill Davidson, Golf Course Superintendent with Country Club of Naples.

Research from a 7 year-long University of Florida study found, when fertilizer is applied properly, grass absorbs most of the nutrients in it, especially during the summer when grass is actively growing.

“What we found is that when fertilizer is applied at the appropriate rates, appropriate timings, and appropriate methods to a healthy strand of turf grass, the grass is able to take up virtually all of the nitrogen,” said Laurie Trenholm, the University of Florida professor who conducted the study. “The fertilizer bans are not based on the science that we now have.”

Some critics suggest other research contradicts the finding and believe fertilizer bans should remain in place.

“I believe not using it during the summer months and rainy season is the right thing to do,” said Sanibel City Councilman Mick Denham.

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