Nutrient Management for Turf
UMass Extension Nutrient Best Management Practices
Through thoughtful nutrient management planning and the implementation of appropriate best management practices (BMPs), agricultural producers, land and property managers and others can manage farming operations and the properties under their care profitably and with protection of natural resources, particularly water, as a priority.
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 turf. UMass Extension’s Elements of a Nutrient Management Plan for Turf provides the framework for the development of an effective nutrient management plan (NMP):
The individual components of a NMP are explained in greater detail in UMass Extension's Best Management Practices for Soil & Nutrient Management in Turf Systems document:
UMass Extension also has nutrient management BMP information for other agricultural and Green Industry interests: http://ag.umass.edu/agriculture-resources/nutrient-best-management-practices
Agricultural producers as well as turf and landscape practitioners in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are advised to keep informed about nutrient management regulations.
Chapter 262 of the Acts of 2012 authorized new statewide nutrient management regulations by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR); permitted the Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and Nantucket Commission to develop and adopt their own ordinances; and recognized the municipal regulations in place prior to a specific date. The text of the enabling legislation can be found at: Section 2 of chapter 128 of the General Laws
Chapter 262 requires that regulations promulgated under its directive relative to plant nutrients are consistent with UMass Extension’s published information, educational materials and other public outreach programs relative to nutrient management and fertilizer. The role of UMass Extension relative to 330 CMR 31.00 is to be the source of technical expertise regarding acceptable practices for nutrient management in agricultural production as well as in turf management systems.
- Massachusetts state-wide plant nutrient regulations (330 CMR 31.00): They establish standards for application of plant nutrients to agricultural land and non-agricultural turf and lawns. The regulations for non-agricultural turf and lawns became effective on June 5, 2015. The regulations for agricultural land became effective on December 5, 2015.
Updated plant nutrient regulations have been promulgated and can be viewed at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/plant-nutrient-management
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is the regulatory authority for 330 CMR 31.00. For more information contact MDAR at (617) 626-1700.
- Cape Cod Commission: The CCC developed a model bylaw that Cape municipalities could choose to adopt prior to a specific date.
Final Cape Cod model bylaw: https://www.capecodcommission.org/resource-library/...
For more information: www.capecodcommission.org or (508) 362-3828
- The following Cape Cod municipalities, under the purview of the Cape Cod Commission, have either passed ordinances regarding the application of fertilizer or had ordinances ‘grandfathered’ in. For more information on the details and status of these regulations contact the appropriate entity in each community.
- Barnstable*: Town Council. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Fertilizer-Nitrogen-and-Phosphorous-Control-Barnstable-Chapter-78.pdf
- Brewster: Town Administrator and Board of Selectmen. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Fertilizer-Nutrient-Control-Brewster-Chapter-119.pdf
- Chatham*: Board of Health. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Fertilizer-Regulation-Chatham-Board-of-Health.pdf
- Eastham: Conservation Commission and Board of Health. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Content-and-Application-of-Fertilizer-to-Turf-Eastham-Chapter-308.pdf
- Falmouth: Natural Resources. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Nitrogen-Control-Falmouth-Chapter-237.pdf
- Mashpee: Board of Selectmen. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Mashpee-Nitrogen-Control-Bylaw-Chapter-107.pdf
- Orleans: Town Administrator. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Fertilizer-Nitrogen-and-Phosphorus-Control-Orleans-Chapter-103.pdf
- Provincetown: Board of Health. Regulation: https://www.capecod.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/PART-V-ARTICLE2-Provincetown.pdf
* The towns of Banstable and Chatham have adopted regulations that include certification requirements for certain applicators. For details, refer to Fertilizer Regulation Certification.
- Martha’s Vineyard Commission: Municipal fertilizer application regulations are in effect in the island communities. For information on the Martha’s Vineyard Fertilizer Initiative including the towns’ regulations visit:
https://www.westtisbury-ma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif8396/f/uploads/fertlizerregs.pdf or contact the Martha’s Vineyard Boards of Health.
- Nantucket Board of Health: Regulation in effect prior to enactment of statewide statute. Regulations require training and licensing of professional fertilizer applicators who must abide by the Best Management Practices for Landscape Fertilizer Use on Nantucket Island manual. This manual as well as other important documents related to fertilizer regulations can be found on the https://www.nantucket-ma.gov/725/Fertilizer-Program website.