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Fertilizer Management

Using proper fertilization practices is important to reduce or eliminate nitrogen pollution, which harms Long Island's groundwater and waterbodies. Fertilizer is generally used on two types of land categories. One being turf grass, which includes lawns, parks, and recreational areas (golf courses, soccer fields, etc.). The other category is agriculture, which can comprise a variety of sectors including crops, wineries, sod, animal operations, and others.

Fertilizer is the second-leading source of nitrogen entering Long Island's surface and ground waters. The Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) is working to determine the best management practices for fertilizer use through our partnerships. LINAP will evaluate the effectiveness of existing strategies to minimize the impact of nitrogen from fertilizers on Long Island's waterbodies. It will also determine if additional fertilizer management strategies might be valuable in some or all watersheds to reduce nitrogen load.

Turf Grass Fertilizer Recommendations

LINAP prepared fertilizer recommendations (PDF) to help property owners reduce the environmental impact of their lawn and other grassed areas. These recommendations are available for download and can be printed for personal and professional use.

These recommendations were developed with input from the LINAP Fertilizer Management Workgroup. Multiple workgroup meetings were held with attendance from various sectors, including landscapers, fertilizer manufactures, golf courses, environmental groups, and state and county government, and the meetings provided a forum for healthy discussions on various turf grass fertilizer topics.

Fertilizer Fact Sheets

The two primary ways to insure fertilizer is not contributing to nitrogen pollution is to apply fertilizer at the correct time of the year and to make sure that irrigation is done correctly. LINAP developed a fact sheet on each topic to help homeowners care for their lawns and minimize their environmental impact.

The fact sheets are available for download and can be printed for personal and professional use.

Fertilizer Timing fact sheet (PDF)
Fertilizer Irrigation fact sheet (PDF)

Fertilizer Management Workgroup

The LINAP Fertilizer Management Workgroup was established to provide input and support in the development and implementation of the LINAP. The workgroup's purpose includes:

  1. Acting as a forum to understand and make people aware of actions taken to date by the various industries to reduce fertilizer pollution; and
  2. Identifying actions that can be taken looking forward to further reduce nitrogen pollution from fertilizer use.

The workgroup is not a decision-making body but promotes information exchange and idea sharing, as well as advising the Project Management Team in developing fertilizer management recommendations.

The workgroup was initially brought together in 2016, where workgroup members were encouraged to fill out a questionnaire to help guide the LINAP fertilizer management effort. From there, focused meetings were held in 2017 with the four main sectors/industries: golf courses, landscapers, fertilizer manufactures, and agriculture. The purpose of those meetings was to review the results of the questionnaires and review initiatives by each sector to reduce fertilizer nitrogen use.

More recent meetings of the workgroup in 2018 and 2019 focused on fertilizer use on turf grass and resulted in the LINAP Turf Grass Fertilizer Recommendations (PDF).

How Fertilizer Can Cause Water Quality Problems on Long Island

Lawn fertilizers are made up of three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Each nutrient focuses on a different aspect of grass growth. Nitrogen causes rapid growth and lush green color. Phosphorous helps plants develop a healthy root system. Potassium helps with overall health of the lawn and keeps the lawn strong, so it is more resistant to disease, drought and harsh winter temperatures. Nitrogen does not bind to the soil, rather it will flow with the rain through the soil. If the amount of nitrogen applied to a lawn is greater than the amount the grass needs, then the extra nitrogen will flow (leach) into the groundwater, which degrades the quality of the groundwater.

Fertilizer Resources

Listed below are a variety of resources related to nitrogen fertilizer.

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