Testing, Better Analysis Help Superintendents Meet Environmental Concerns
In Minnesota and other states,
new environmental protection laws impose strict new limits on phosphorus
use in fertilizers. Golf course superintendents, who have always tried to
be good stewards of the environment, now face even more rigorous requirements
in the use of fertilizers on the links. Moreover, the stakes for golf club
investors have been raised, for in some instances environmental tests can
dictate whether a golf course can use fertilizer at all.
The case of The Preserve Golf
Club near Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, illustrates just how important meeting
the requirement of the new law can be. Operating under a conditional use
permit, the course was under close scrutiny. It would not be able to fertilize
at all, had it been unable to prove that its fertilizer programs were not
increasing the level of nutrients beyond the naturally occurring levels
in the soil, and therefore, were not contributing to chemical effluent in
water run-off into adjacent wetlands and lakes. Had these levels been elevated,
the fertility practices of the golf course would have been in jeopardy.
The superintendent's job was
made more difficult because there is no easy way to determine how much phosphorus
or nitrogen in the runoff is coming from fertilizer applications, and how
much may be naturally occurring.So innovative testing and thorough analysis
were called for.
In order to monitor the leachate
levels in the different areas, several collection jars, called lysimeters,
were buried in the greens, fairways, and woods. Their purpose was to collect
water flowing through the soil to be analyzed for phosphorus, nitrogen,
pH, conductivity, and ortho-phosphorus levels.
For the first several years,
a local firm analyzed the results. Their analyses, however, shed no light
on how much phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen occurred naturally and how
much resulted from the fertilization program. In 2000-1, the course called
in Craig Paskvan.
Craig broke down the data into
their elemental forms, then submitted the data to Dr. Lam Ho, formerly the
Director of the Environmental and Industrial Division at Brookside Labs,
Inc., and now the owner of his own environmental consulting business.
After looking at all the data
and work that was done at The Preserve for the 2001 growing year, Dr. Ho
concluded that the fertility program in place at the golf course did not
increase the levels of nutrients in the lysimeters beyond the baseline concentration
Why is the story of The Preserve
important to golf course superintendents?
- First, it shows that there
is more to the phosphorus issue than just not applying fertilizer. Organic
matter and a soil's ability to give up nutrients need to be looked at
before coming to any kind of conclusion that affects meeting the requirements
of the new law or your ability to make judgments for your course.
- Second, better analysis of
data showed that The Preserve was the not the "bad guy" with a poorly
thought out fertilizer policy, but was in fact a good steward of the soil.
- And third, better analysis
gives the superintendent much more precise information to manage the course's
To see Dr. Ho's complete report,
including tables and graphs, click here.
The report is in PDF format, so Adobe's Acrobat
Reader is required.
An article on our innovative
testing and analysis at The Preserve Golf Club was published in the March
2004 Hole Notes, a publication of the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents'
Association. You may see that by clicking here.