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West Florida Research and Education Center

West Florida Research and Education Center

Water Quality

Water quality and quantity issues are of great concern to the citizenry of Florida.  Water quality is diminished as it is consumed and the primary influence on groundwater quality is the contamination attributed to human activity.  Cultural practices associated with turf management, namely fertilization and irrigation, are rapidly coming under great scrutiny due to the perceived influence they have on degrading water quality.  Improper use of fertilizer including the use of incorrect rates and timing for the turfgrass species grown, and application errors such as improper calibration and misapplication to impervious surfaces (streets and sidewalks) and water bodies (lakes, ponds, canals) can contribute to the pollution of water.Excessive rainfall, which is common to Florida, and improper irrigation, may cause fertilizer to leach below the root zone and ultimately to groundwater which results in deterioration of water quality in drinking water supplies.  A lot of concern over water quantity continues to be a major issue in Florida as urbanization increases and then demand for clean water goes up.  Floridians must be educated on sustainable turf management practices which reduce water consumption and that do not impair water quality so that sufficient water will remain available for the 18 million Floridians.

Urban Turfgrass Fertilization and Irrigation Best Management Practices for Reducing Impairment of Florida’s Water Resources

Due to increased concerns regarding impairment of Florida’s ground and surface waters from commercial home lawn and landscape maintenance practices, a team of UF scientists proposed research projects to determine most appropriate fertilization rates and practices on a statewide basis (Pensacola, Gainesville, and Ft. Lauderdale). The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has funded this $4.2 million dollar project over the past five years.

The 5-year project addresses nitrate and phosphate leaching from varying rates of fertilizers and irrigation on different lawn grass species (St. Augustinegrass, centipedegrass, bahiagrass, and zoysiagrass) used in Florida, phosphorus requirements and leaching, nitrogen source and timing, and the effects of fertilizer applications to grasses throughout the winter months in north Florida.  Each location is conducting research on establishment phase dynamics and maintenance practices on established lawn grasses.

Experimental procedures are similar in these projects, with variation in treatment rates occurring due to differences in growing seasons between locations or differences in fertilization needs of the different species. These state-wide projects have the following objectives:

  1. To provide data on best fertilization and irrigation regimes on various grasses during establishment in different locations of the state;
  2. To provide nitrate and ortho-phosphate leaching data on various species at the fertilization levels in these studies; and
  3. To provide recommendations to the commercial lawn care industry for BMP fertilization rates that can be applied state-wide.

Width of Vegetative Buffer Strips Influences Fertilizer and Nutrient Movement from Turfgrass Systems

Numerous regulations and ordinances have been enacted to reduce fertilizer applications in an effort to reduce nutrient leaching and runoff.  In nearly every case, there are restrictions placed on the distance from the edge of a body of water that must be left unfertilized to serve as a buffer strip.  However, there has been little research conducted to evaluate the effect of various widths of the unfertilized buffer strips in an effort to identify the optimal width that will minimize direct application of fertilizers to the body of water, reduce nutrient runoff, and minimize erosion of the soil surface.  This study was developed to evaluate the performance of various buffer strip widths and their influence on nutrient runoff in an urban landscape comprised of hybrid bermudagrass managed as a golf course fairway. We will evaluate the influence of non-fertilized buffer strip width on the fate of nitrate N and ortho P applied to a sloped ‘Tifway’ bermudagrass golf course fairway located at the University of Florida Plant Science Research and Education Unit located in Citra, FL.

Development of Best Management Practices

We have worked diligently with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop BMP manuals for the various segments of the Florida Green Industry. Click on the links to access the manuals: