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St Pete's Fertilizer Ordinance
by Rick Orr
First as a professional and an earth scientist with a deep conservation streak in me, I have always strived to provide services that produce sustainable turf grass systems – in other words I use the least amount of fertilizers and pesticides to produce the maximum effect. I have for decades used slow release fertilizers and no phosphorus - which are the high value targets of this fertilizer ordinance.
How does the Fertilizer Ordinance affect Lawn Spraying?
The ordinances will have little impact on my methods since I was in compliance before the ordinance was passed. But as with anything – the more you regulate the more it costs to understand, execute and manage (which includes defensive measure to protect me from zealous bureaucrats). In other words, Ordinance No. 920 –G will increase the costs of lawn spraying and do little to regulate nutrients and improve and maintain water and habitat quality!
It’s the Humans
The simple view is that Nitrogen (N) must have come from the Nitrogen applied in fertilizers. But 78% of the air we breathe is Nitrogen and there are many ways to “fix” Nitrogen from air into “Nitrate” the nutrient - one being lightening and rain. Also electrical power lines produce Nitrates as well as certain bacteria in the soil. Nitrate is introduced into the environment in great amounts by human activity – think of leaks and spills and the decaying of organic matter. Each and every day tons and tons of organic matter (fresh fruits and vegetables) are shipped into Pinellas County, consumed, digested and deposited right here in Pinellas County. So by the very presence of human activity – from banana peels to dog poo as well as grass, trees and shrubs – without ever fertilizing - we have introduced tons and tons of Nitrates into the environment. Nitrates aren’t applied by humans; Nitrates are like the cloud around Pig Pen from Charlie Brown comic strips – it follows us where ever we go!
It is the Nitrogen cycle and the nitrogen cycle in a nutshell: You raise the fertility of an area – you raise the fertility of an area including lakes ponds and streams. Human activity - power lines, leaks, spills, waste, cultivation, watering – all contribute to the rise in fertility levels of an area. As an earth scientist, I use the nitrogen cycle to my advantage by staying within the “sustainable” range – in other words every pound of Nitrogen I apply is consumed by the grass and little leaches or escapes out of the system. Not so of human activities where Nitrates aren’t consumed, they “escape” into the environment.
Grass use to be Green
Years ago turf grass was lauded as the biological filter- filtering out pollutants, reducing dust and pollen and cooling our environment. Today it is the enemy of our environment promoting pollution and wasting water. The truth is when conservation was the desire, grass was good but today we have environmental activism and turf is the enemy.
As a conservationist, I believe we should use turf wisely – it doesn’t need to cover every square inch of your property. But turf has a great place in our environment providing great benefits like soil stabilization and dust, pollen and pollution control – the reduction of the turf grass community in Pinellas County will impact the health of the residents. Yet the ability to improve and maintain water and habitat quality by regulating nutrients will be minimal – it is a “looking at the speck of sawdust in the lawn and paying no attention to 26 story high log pile” next to it! I wonder why so much effort is being put into something of such little value.
ILoveTurf.com - September 12th, 2009
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