By Allison O’Donnell, Written Communications Specialist, CT IWR
The use of organic fertilizers for lawn care has increased recently because they are typically perceived as being better for the environment than traditional chemical fertilizers. However, organic fertilizers such as compost also contain nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which can still leach into water if applied improperly.
Leaching is when water soluble forms of nutrients (such as phosphorus and nitrogen) are removed from the soil and dissolved into the water, which makes its way back to fresh and saltwater ecosystems.
Connecticut Institute of Water Resourcesis funding Brendan Noons, a graduate researcher in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. The aims of Brendan’s work are to answer what the potential environmental impacts are when using compost as a lawn fertilizer, and how much is really needed for optimal turf growth.
“It is important that we identify potential water quality issues that could stem from [use of organic compost]…and find a balance between lawn health and the environment.”
While these nutrients are essential for plant growth, Noons says that higher concentrations lead to adverse effects, such as contaminating drinking water and causing algal blooms. Connecticut has a high magnitude of water resources as well as turfgrass, making it especially vulnerable to nitrogen and phosphorus leaching.
“Researching this topic is important because a large portion of Connecticut is covered in turfgrass- about 250,000 acres- and is often located near important water resources and ecosystems.”
This grant enables Noons to explore the relationship between soil nutrient levels and phosphorus leaching from lawn turfs that have been treated with compost. Knowing the optimal amount of nutrients will result in the mitigation of water contamination, while keeping our lawns green and healthy.