Phosphorus-Free Lawns

Indy Star: Phosphorus blamed for algae blooms in Geist, Eagle Creek reservoirs
In August 2011, state officials found high levels of blue-green algae at eight of 13 public swimming beaches sampled, including Potato Creek State Park, Chain O'Lakes State Park and Raccoon State Recreation Area. Sampling by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis also found high levels of the algae, also known as cyanobacteria, in Geist, Morse, Eagle Creek and Patoka reservoirs.Indiana took action to reduce phosphorus in laundry detergent in 1972 and dish soap in 2008. The Indiana Conservation Alliance, ... had made passage of the bill [HB1032 Restrictions on fertilizer containing phosphorus] a priority, but the divisive "right to work" legislation caused delays that could make it difficult for the bill to be heard, Arqawi told The Muncie Star Press. - January 30, 2012

To learn more about this issue, visit INCA online presentation:
Restricting Phosphorous in Lawn Fertilizers

To learn about the state of Indiana Lakes, go to Nutrient Criteria Rulemaking for Indiana’s Lakes [PDF]
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2011 Legislative Session
Update from Indiana Wildlife Federaton
January 25, 2011

A bill restricting phosphorus use in lawn fertilizer was introduced in the House by Representative Dick Dodge and Representative Nancy Dembowski. Senator Beverly Gard will be the Senate sponsor after the bill clears the House.

HB 1425 -- Restrictions on fertilizer containing phosphorus. If you wish to receive email updates on this bill, please indicate on the green policy survey..

Before fertilizing your lawn, consider Indiana’s streams and lakes. Phosphorus should only be used on newly established lawns or those deficient in phosphorus as determined by a soil test.

Phosphorus, a nutrient plants use to develop a strong root system and store energy, can be a nuisance in excess quantities. Described as cultural eutrophication, too much phosphorus causes undesired algal blooms and oxygen depletion disrupting the ecosystems in lakes and streams. There are several pathways by which phosphorus enters Indiana water including urban storm water, sewage treatment plants, and agricultural run-off, but the easiest to address is residential storm water run-off containing phosphorus from lawn fertilizer.

Most lawns in Indiana do not require yearly phosphorus applications because they are currently saturated with the nutrient.  Unused phosphorus leaves lawns and travels into rivers, streams, and lakes causing algae growth. Algae deprive native aquatic species of oxygen, food, and sunlight. By managing nutrient use, we can restore Indiana’s biodiversity in aquatic habitats and improve water quality.

The Indiana Wildlife Federation’s Phosphorus-free Lawn Fertilizer Campaign has gained strong momentum. IWF has held meetings with, and received input from, the following groups: The professional lawn fertilizer association, the Indiana Corn and Soybean Growers, Engledow, Farm Bureau, IDEM, NRCS, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, and State Chemist. A bill restricting phosphorus use in lawn fertilizer will be introduced in Indiana’s House by Representatives Dick Dodge and Nancy Dembowski and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Beverly Gard.

Already, a positive change in the consumer market has begun with Scotts, which is making major strides in becoming the lawn care expert by advising consumers to incorporate sustainable lawn maintenance practices. By 2012, their Turf Builder line will be phosphorus-free, and they will continue to offer a low phosphorus lawn starter fertilizer.

Besides the increased availability of phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer, more professional applicators such as Tru-Green and Engledow Group use phosphorus-free fertilizer. The Office of State Chemist at Purdue is developing a new 3B license program for professional applicators. In addition to pesticide regulations, the license program will include proper fertilizer use education and training. The State Chemist’s jurisdiction is limited to fertilizer applicators for hire.  This legislation applies to all property owners and restricts use to phosphorus-free fertilizer for lawn maintenance. Exceptions will be granted for establishing new turf lawns and when a soil test indicates low phosphorus in a lawn.  Agricultural land and garden food production are exempt from the policy.