Nothing says Spring like the color green appearing everywhere. The massive use of phosphorus fertilizers is a common Spring ritual and is currently drawing a lot of attention. Phosphorus use worldwide is affecting our quality of life. The countdown to Spring correlates with the smell of lawn fertilizers in many places. Are they helpful, necessary and healthy?
The Feb. 14 edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters featured an article written by Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Elena Bennett of McGill University. They have discovered that the human use of phosphorous, primarily in the industrialized world, is causing the widespread eutrophication of fresh surface water. Add to that he discovery that global stocks of usable phosphorous are concentrated in just a few countries and are running out, posing the risk of global shortages within the next 20 years. You can read the article here.
The overuse affects the quality of our water. “Phosphorous stimulates the growth of algae and weeds near shore and some of the algae can contain cyanobacteria, which are toxic. You lose fish. You lose water quality for drinking.” says Carpenter. North American soils are already loaded with the mineral, yet more is added in what seems to be a waste of a mineral that could be put to better use somewhere where the soil is deficient, like Africa and Australia.
Deposits of phosphorus take millions of years to form. Some statess have taken the water quality issue seriously enough to propose and or pass a ban on using lawn fertilizers for established lawns. Read about it here and here. So before you spread fertilizer this Spring, research this issue and consider using phosphorus free fertilizer to keep our water clean and healthy for ourselves and for future generations.
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