Do the math on ‘non-ag’ nitrogen (Guest Editorial)

Turfgrass is a plant. The benefits of plants are huge. They give us food, provide shelter, furnish our clothing, filter pollutants, and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. With all the benefits of plants, one has to wonder why a concerted effort is under way to replace valuable, ecologically friendly lawns with bare ground and invasive, non-native weeds. Persons who seek to destroy lawns seem to be driven by the emotional belief that turfgrass is the scourge of mankind.
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, only 1.2 percent of all nitrogen fertilizer sold in the Commonwealth of Virginia is for non-farm use. Turfgrass fertilization is just one part of that amount; however, anti-turfgrass pundits would lead us to believe that 15 to 18 percent of all nitrogen entering Virginia’s waters comes from lawns and golf courses. The numbers just do not add up.
Recent university studies from Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Florida, North Carolina and other states consistently demonstrate the ecological value of turfgrass and debunk the myth that turfgrass destroys the environment.
What is best approach the next time someone says turfgrass professionals are destroying the environment? Simply smile (always smile) - and ask how they can possibly make such an untrue statement.
Science is on the side of properly maintained turfgrass. Let us keep doing the right thing – apply the right type of fertilizer, apply it at the right time of year, and apply it properly. We do not need to apologize for working in a profession that enhances and protects the environment.
Too often, false statements are made about environnmental destruction caused by turfgrass. These statements lead to regulations — or outright bans — of fertilizer and pesticide use on lawns, parks, athletic fields and golf courses.
The Virginia Turfgrass Council has consistently called all on persons who maintain turfgrass to follow sound science and agronomic practices.
University research study after university research study demonstrate the value of properly selected and properly maintained turfgrass. The latest study is from Cornell and it sheds sheds scientific light on the pollutant controlling value of turfgrass maintained for aesthetic purposes.
Recently, Virginia submitted a 117-page document to the EPA. The document, titled "Chesapeake Bay TMDL, Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan, Revision of the Chesapeake Bay Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Tributary Strategy (September 2010)," mentions the turf and landscape category of Virginia Nutrient Management Planners and says the category is "quickly expanding with strong support from the turfgrass industry."
The VTC worked very closely with the Virginia Agribusiness Council to make the the turf and landscape category a reality. The new category has been place for less than a year but its importance has already been recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Hopefully, more people will see that turf is a good thing!

— TOM TRACY, Executive Director, Virginia Turfgrass Council