How fertilizing can impact the environment

Narrator: Fertilizers have been used for years to grow and maintain healthy lawns. Your grass’s health depends on applying the right amount of fertilizer at the right times. The right amount of fertilizer can create a lawn with strong, thick roots that helps prevent water pollution by filtering stormwater runoff. Too little fertilizer may cause a thin root system that can’t take up all the fertilizer it’s been given. But if hundreds of thousands of residential lawns are over-fertilized, water pollution can be the result. The extra fertilizer travels past the grass’s root zone and soaks into the aquifer, where almost all of the freshwater used in Florida comes from. Or it will be washed by rainfall directly into surface water or stormwater systems that drain to our local springs, lakes, rivers and bays. Using the right amount of fertilizer makes it easier to control weeds, insects and diseases. On the other hand, over-fertilizing can aggravate those same pest problems, make grass grow too fast and require more frequent watering. Recent studies show that nitrate levels from fertilizer nitrogen are rising in many local water bodies. Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that is found in inorganic fertilizers. Once in our water bodies, these nutrients can cause harmful algal blooms that block out light, lower the water’s oxygen level, turn the water a green or rust color and lead to fish kills. For example, excess nitrogen is the number one pollutant in Tampa Bay. Local governments spend millions of dollars each year to remove nitrogen from area water bodies. If your landscape is healthy and attractive, you may not need to fertilize at all. You can help keep our water clean, protect our aquatic wildlife and have a beautiful lawn by following these tips when fertilizing. For more information on Florida-Friendly Fertilizing, contact your county UF/IFAS Extension office. You can also learn more online at Brought to you by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

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