Restrictive Fertilizer Ordinances – Susan R. Haddock; UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
Many municipalities in Florida have adopted restrictive fertilizer ordinances that are unsubstantiated by science. It is encouraging that some municipalities are now adopting ordinances that restrict use of fertilizers during winter months rather than during active growth seasons. Both UF/IFAS Extension and Florida’s water management districts offer education regarding ordinances applicable in their service regions in which the ultimate goal is to provide non-biased science based education that supports optimal landscape performance with minimal inputs. There are many facets of a fertilizer education campaign. Campaigns that focus primarily on skipping fertilizer miss the opportunity to educate consumers on applying proper amounts at the right time using proper application methods. Improper application during any period including non-restricted periods can contribute to ecosystem contamination. Summer ban campaigns also fail to educate citizens on the physiological nutritional needs of plants during active growth to remain dense healthy stands which in turn reduce erosion, runoff and leaching.
Although, other nutrient sources such as Iron (helps with Nitrogen metabolism and chlorophyll synthesis hence the temporary greening), Potassium, Magnesium and Manganese can help plants get through periods of stress and times of potential disease pressure, the point is to manage plant growth appropriately to reduce stress that may cause thin and unhealthy stands resulting in increased erosion, runoff and disease.
Although, there is little question that improperly applied lawn and garden fertilizers can potentially contribute to ecosystem contamination, other nutrient sources represent the greatest nitrate contributors to surface and groundwater contamination. These include: waste water treatment plants, livestock/poultry wastes, fossil fuel emissions, septic systems and domestic animal wastes as well as lawn clippings and leaves left or blown into the street and entering storm drains. Citizens should be educated on all possible nutrient source contributors and actions they can take to help reduce all sources.
Over irrigation is also attributed to soil erosion and runoff from landscapes. Many citizens don’t know how much rain has fallen or understand how to adjust irrigation systems to account for rainfall and evapotranspiration. Efforts to encourage citizens to adopt smart irrigation controllers and soil moisture sensors would be a positive measure toward reducing erosion and runoff. Since soils in this region are phosphate available, efforts to reduce erosion will reduce algae blooms which when they die can cause fresh water eutrophication.
To truly help address these issues effectively, citizens need to be educated regarding all potential ecosystem contamination sources and actions that they can take to protect the waters. The best possible outcomes can be achieved by all stakeholder groups working together to promote legitimate science-based management practices and promoting citizen education regarding all nutrient source ecosystem contamination contributors and alternative corrective actions and strategies.
Commercial Hort / IPM / Small Farms Agent
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County