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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

The Fate of Nitrogenous Fertilizers Applied to Turfgrass


This article in JEQ

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

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  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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