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New Jersey jumps on Phosphorus Ban Bandwagon

The news arrived yesterday that the state of New Jersey is about to enact bans on phosphorus in lawn fertilizer. This will no doubt anger the chemical fertilizer industry, which continues to suffer hit after hit in Canada and the U.S.

Their lobbyists will send out all sorts of information to explain why this is a bad idea. Even people who aren’t lobbyists are not quite sure the phosphorus in lawn fertilizers is truly the culprit when it comes to algae bloom in lakes. Phosphorus, after all, occurs naturally in most soils, leaves, grass clippings and other debris that can wind up as sediment in lakes and rivers.

Not a scientist myself, I look at the phosphorus issue that same way I do the pesticide issue . . . by asking why take the chance? I also apply the common sense quotient. My friend in Florida, who lives on a lake, says he can time the arrival of the algae on the lake with the beginning of lawn fertilization season. My uncle, who is a fisherman off the coast of Maine, has always told me he can tell when the McMansions along the shoreline begin fertilizing their lawns. Rampant algae bloom on lakes was not a problem long before the widespread arrival of the lawn chemical industry in the 1960s and 1970s, so common sense would indicate there is a connection.

I do have one concern about the phosphorus bans, however. The bans typically treat synthetic and organic fertilizers the same way, meaning they are both banned. That means a 3-1-1 organic fertilizer would not be allowed and I think that’s a problem.

If you’re one to study this issue closely and even get involved with talking to politicians, explain to them that water soluble phosphorus in synthetic chemical fertilizer is far more likely to leach into the lake than an organic phosphorus that is bound into the organic fertilizer. It’s a complicated issue, but one that’s worth differentiating.

In the meantime, he’s a fact sheet from Michigan State (which comes from a state where a phosphorus ban exists): http://www.turf.msu.edu/docs/E0021TURF.pdf

Here is a link to the news story in New Jersey:
http://www.northjersey.com/news/environment/local_environment/Lawn_fertilizer_restrictions_coming.html

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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