One evening when I lived in town a lawn fertilizer truck stopped in front of the house. The driver got out and asked me if I wanted him to fertilize my lawn. He didn’t know I was an agronomist. I politely said, “no thank you.” He then proceeded to tell me how bad my lawn looked and that it needed not only fertilizer but pesticides as well. I asked him to tell me exactly what he was proposing to put on my lawn. He could not tell me—he didn’t know!
That was 20 years ago. We now have a law in Virginia protecting against the indiscriminate use of fertilizers on lawns, golf courses and parks (Va. Code Title 3.2, Chapter 36). This is the result of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with other conservation partners who well know, it’s not just farmers causing pollution in the Bay.
In the Chesapeake Bay watershed it is estimated that there are 3.8 million acres of lawns, golf courses and parks. Scientists predict this new Virginia law will reduce phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay by 230,000 pounds each year!
Farmers have been complaining about their urban neighbors for years. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, "It’s not us polluting the Bay, it’s all those city folks spreading fertilizer on their lawns.”
Homeowners in Virginia have been able to purchase and apply all the fertilizer they want on their lawn whether it is needed it or not.
That will stop on December 31, 2013.
Not only will lawn fertilizer with phosphorous (for maintenance) be banned from sale, commercial applicators of lawn fertilizer will be required to be certified nutrient management planners by the Commonwealth of Virginia. They will have to know what they are applying and how to apply it correctly.
In addition, golf courses will be required to have certified nutrient management plans by July 1, 2017.
And another biggie: De-icers for roads, parking lots, and sidewalks cannot contain nitrogen or phosphorous compounds after December 31, 2013.
This is a huge step forward and a sterling example of how grassroots organizations can work together to get something positive done for our environment despite a harsh political climate.
Whitescarver is a recently retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationist who spent more than 30 years working with farmers on conservation practices. He now has his own private consulting business where he helps landowners create an overall vision and plan for their land. He also works with CBF to help famers install more Best Managment Practices (BMPs) in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the recipient of a CBF Conservationist of the Year award. For more information, visit his website.