There has been much public concern that nitrogen fertilizer applied to turfgrass is contributing to pollution of water supplies. Nitrogen can move through the soil and reach groundwater or run off soil and reach surface water. Excessive amounts of nitrogen can lead to algae blooms and fish kills and can be a human health hazard. Dr. Thomas Rufty, a professor of crop science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, has conducted experiments to evaluate the fate of nitrogen in managed turfgrass systems. At golf courses and sod farms throughout North Carolina, Rufty is examining nitrogen use on warm and cool season grasses. Tissue, soil and water samples are being analyzed continuously to determine the extent of nitrogen loss to the environment. Shallow wells and lysimeters are being used to measure subsurface nitrogen movement. Other experiments in growth chambers are designed to provide information about specific mechanisms involved in nitrogen uptake and cycling, which control nitrogen use efficiency.
This research is providing the first scientifically based information on nitrogen utilization and losses in managed turfgrass systems. The results clearly indicate that when best management practices are followed, little nitrogen is lost and there is no indication of contamination of water supplies. The research is raising the environmental awareness of the turfgrass industry and providing data that can be used by regulatory agencies to make informed decisions when establishing environmental guidelines and laws.