Fertilizer Restrictions and the Chesapeake Bay: What’s Down the Road?
If you apply or sell turfgrass fertilizer as part of your job, you’ve probably heard that nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers are on the legislative hot seat. Several states are either considering or have enacted legislation involving nutrient restrictions for turf. Due to a new program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pennsylvania and the other five states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have, or will soon have, laws governing the application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer on turf. The following is a summary of the EPA’s new program for reducing nutrient loading into the Chesapeake Bay and how it may affect lawns, sports turf and golf courses in Pennsylvania.
To understand why the EPA and state governments have begun to restrict the use of turf fertilizers, consider where we’ve been and where we are headed with respect to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay provides critical habitat for thousands of species of fish, birds and mammals. About half of the Bay’s water volume comes from the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the other half drains into the estuary from the enormous, 64,000- square-mile watershed (Photo 1). Of the 50 major tributaries that feed into the Bay, three rivers (Susquehanna, Potomac and James) deliver about 80% of the fresh water, with Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River contributing the largest volume (48%).