This Type Of Lawn Fertilizer Is Banned In Some States

The use of fertilizers in farming and gardening has become contentious due to their negative impact on the environment. Fertilizers contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, affect soil health, and cause water pollution. Because of issues like these, they need to be applied carefully and correctly or swapped out for healthier alternatives. Governments have also stepped in to pass laws in their jurisdictions that regulate the types and amounts of fertilizers that can be used. Turf fertilizer containing phosphorus is one type that is banned in at least 11 U.S. states due to water pollution.

Phosphorus is one of the three major nutrients in lawn fertilizers, but its drawbacks outweigh the benefits. When a fertilizer containing phosphorus is poorly applied, it runs off into lakes, rivers, and streams where it can cause excessive aquatic plant and algae growth, or drain the oxygen in the water. All this is bad for the aquatic ecosystem and also for human life because it contaminates our water sources.

Phosphorus lawn fertilizers

Bans have been put on phosphorus turf fertilizers in Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The laws look different in each state but they generally ban this type of fertilizer from being sold or used to maintain turf. There are few exceptions, however, which permit use in areas where there is a serious lack of phosphorus, where new turf is planted, or where turf needs to be repaired.

In addition to the general exceptions, the details vary from state to state, touching on things like specific situations where phosphorus fertilizer can be sold, how it should be labeled if it can be sold, who is authorized to apply it, and how close it can be applied to water sources. Illinois, for example, only allows applications by hired licensed professionals, while New York requires stores to display phosphorus fertilizer in a separate section with educational information about it. Florida also has an ordinance, but it isn't statewide and only required in specific areas where the soil needs phosphorus. Still, it is recommended in other areas.

What to use instead

The penalties for using this banned fertilizer also vary. In Wisconsin, first-time offenders will be fined up to $50 and up to $500 for any further offenses, while Vermont residents can be fined up to $500 right off the bat. If you live in one of the states mentioned above or you'd like to do your part to reduce phosphorus pollution, look out for phosphorus-free products or, better yet, organic fertilizers.

Natural sources of nutrients like vegetable water, compost, and manure are environmentally friendly alternatives that should always be considered first because you won't have to worry about them damaging the soil or polluting the groundwater in the long run. If you must use a traditional fertilizer for your lawn, choose one that is phosphorus-free by looking at the numbers on the fertilizer packaging. The amounts of the three major ingredients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—will be listed in that order so a zero in the middle means there is no phosphorus included.