New N.J. law has blackout dates for fertilizer application


New Jersey has a new fertilizer law. Although it is now already in effect, March 1 is when that effect will translate into performance specifics. This reflects the part of the law that, according to Jim Murphy, specialist in turf management at Rutgers, covers prohibited fertilizer application times. Murphy spoke at the end of November at the South Jersey Landscape Conference and Grower Meeting.
The meeting was held by the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association, in conjunction with Rutgers, and Cooperative Extension of Gloucester County. The meeting featured two separate education tracks – a technical training track, and one covering business and management topics. During the day there were two combined sessions – one on the New Jersey fertilizer law, and another on business communication.
Murphy said about the fertilizer application restrictions, “There are blackout dates when you can’t legally apply fertilizer. The blackout dates for professional applicators runs from Dec. 1 to March 1. And the reason for that is that is the time when there is the greatest risk for nutrient movement, either through leaching into the groundwater, or washing off with storm water runoff. The research is pretty clear that it’s a very risky time to be making applications, and that is why this whole concept of a blackout period was developed and made into law. It’s a little different for homeowners, the blackout period is even greater, it’s two weeks earlier, starting the 15th of November, and running through the first of March.” Additional text in the law prohibits applications — at any time — before heavy rainfalls, to saturated soils, to impervious surfaces, and to frozen ground.
The State of New Jersey requested that Rutgers oversee development of a training and certification program for professional fertilizer applicators that would transfer the text of the new law into practices and procedures applicators would follow. Murphy said, “We will probably will have to do training out in meetings like this, but right now were focused on trying to reach as many people as possible through an online program.” To that end, Rutgers developed ProFact, or Professional Fertilizer Application Certification Training.
He said, “In terms of certified applicators, basically what it applies to is all persons who are applying fertilizer for commercial purposes or for hire. So, if you get paid for this you need to be either certified or trained. If you are a business owner you do not necessarily have to be certified, but you have to hire somebody or consult with somebody that is a certified applicator. The applicator then has to apply fertilizer at rates and times and with the methods that comply with the law. We’re just trying to ensure that fertilizers are applied as proscribed.
“The other level is as a trained applicator — the trained applicator does not have to be certified, but has to work under the supervision of a certified applicator. So, the business model is that you can have a small business, or a business with branches, and one or two people working out of a business or branch will have to be certified. They may have multiple people under them who are trained but not necessarily certified. They will have to go through the training process, and then get logged into the registration system.
“For the certification program, the registration process is going to work like this — again we’re going to try to do as much of this online as feasible, hopefully, all of it – first, you register online with your basic information. The training is currently only available online, there is currently no approved site-located training yet available at this time – but it is a possibility,” Murphy said.
According to Murphy, and Rutgers and the State of New Jersey websites, the training includes these topics:
• The proper use and calibration of fertilizer application equipment;
• The hazards involved in, and the environmental impact of, applying fertilizer, including nutrient pollution to the State’s water bodies;
• All applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations;
• The correct interpretation of fertilizer labeling information; and,
• The best management practices developed by the NJAES for nutrient management in turf.
As Murphy discussed, there are two classifications of fertilizer applicators:
Certified: An individual who has undergone ProFACT training and passed the Certification Examination; and,
Trained: An individual who has undergone ProFACT training. Trained Professional Fertilizer Applicators may only apply fertilizer under the direct supervision of a Certified Professional Fertilizer Applicator.
Regarding certification, Murphy said, “The certification follows the individual, not the business. So if you are certified and you change employment, the certification travels with you. There is no fee for accessing the online training program. Anyone can access it, the homeowner or the professional.”
For information about training and certification through ProFACT, see the following website, still under development:
For information on the New Jersey Fertilizer Law, including frequently asked questions from homeowners, links to the ProFACT site, an application calculator, spreader calibration and the full text of the law, see: