Developing and implementing a soil and nutrient management plan is critical to the proper management of turf with environmental protection and enhancement as priorities. The term nutrient management infers a responsibility common to all turf practitioners that goes beyond simple additions of fertilizer in efforts to positively influence plant growth. In the interest of environmental protection, natural resource preservation, and economic viability, modern fertility programs necessitate custodial responsibility for the fate of applied nutrients in the environment and complementary practices designed to enhance nutrient efficiency.
Nutrient management for turf involves:
- Analysis of the existing condition and fertility of the soil that provides the growing medium for the turf and influences site characteristics such as drainage and water infiltration.
- Careful consideration of the nutritional requirements of the turf, based on several variables including soil fertility, expected quality of the turf, use of the turf, suitability of the growing environment, grass species and varieties present, and available management resources.
- Awareness of the potential for adverse impact from nutrient contamination on precious natural resources, particularly water, from off-site movement of nutrients due to factors such as misapplication, runoff, erosion and leaching.
- Informed and judicious additions of nutrients into the turf system with regard to proper timing, proper application rate, proper material selection, and proper placement, with the intention of meeting expectations for turf function and aesthetics while simultaneously minimizing the potential for adverse environmental impact.
- Reduction of fertilizer application to the lowest possible level, in addition to the use of turf cultural practices designed to maximize efficient use of nutrients by the plants in the turf system, thereby eliminating waste and minimizing nutrient loss.
- Appropriate accounting for all nutrient inputs and record-keeping of other cultural practices that influence nutrient relations in the turf system.
Nutrient management planning must consider not only protection and enhancement of natural resources and the environment, but also sound agronomic practices that maximize the use and function of the turf. Elements of a Nutrient Management Plan for Turf provides the framework for the development of an effective nutrient management plan (NMP). This document appears in the appendices of this guide. The individual elements of a NMP are explained in greater detail in the rest of this section on soil and nutrient management.