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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 19 No. 1, p. 1-14
    Received: Aug 2, 1988

    * Corresponding author(s):


The Fate of Nitrogenous Fertilizers Applied to Turfgrass

  1. A. Martin Petrovic 
  1. Dep. of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, 20 Plant Sciences Bldg., Ithaca, NY 14853.



Maintaining high quality surface and groundwater supplies is a national concern. Nitrate is a widespread contaminant of groundwater. Nitrogenous fertilizer applied to turfgrass could pose a threat to groundwater quality. However, a review of the fate of N applied to turfgrass is lacking, but needed in developing management systems to minimize groundwater contamination. The discussion of the fate of N applied to turfgrass is developed around plant uptake, atmospheric loss, soil storage, leaching, and runoff. The proportion of the fertilizer N that is taken up by the turfgrass plant varied from 5 to 74% of applied N. Uptake was a function of N release rate, N rate and species of grass. Atmospheric loss, by either NH3 volatilization or denitrification, varied from 0 to 93% of applied N. Volatilization was generally <36% of applied N and can be reduced substantially by irrigation after application. Denitrification was only found to be significant (93% of applied N) on fine-textured, saturated, warm soils. The amount of fertilizer N found in the soil plus thatch pool varied as a function of N source, release rate, age of site, and clipping management. With a soluble N source, fertilizer N found in the soil and thatch was 15 to 21% and 21 to 26% of applied N, respectively, with the higher values reflecting clippings being returned. Leaching losses for fertilizer N were highly influenced by fertilizer management practices (N rate, source, and timing), soil texture, and irrigation. Highest leaching losses were reported at 53% of applied N, but generally were far less than 10%. Runoff of N applied to turfgrass has been studied to a limited degree and has been found seldom to occur at concentrations above the federal drinking water standard for NO3. Where turfgrass fertilization poses a threat to groundwater quality, management strategies can allow the turfgrass manager to minimize or eliminate NO3 leaching.

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