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Overfertilizing Our Lawns
Department of Clarification
The April 14 (Vol. XIII, No. 15) Bay Weekly story “The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence. But you can grow a luscious lawn that’s good for you and the Bay, too” provoked a challenge from an anonymous reader. “There’s no way 100 tons of fertilizer could be used on 30 million acres of grass,” complained a message left on the newspaper answering machine. “You’d kill everything on an acre. I don’t know if it’s a mistake or if you expect us to believe that.”
Ever since, Writer Maureen Miller has been trying to verify the claim, which she took from Bay Journal, a publication of The Alliance for the Chesapeake. This week Kathy Reshetiloff of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes up the search:
Dear Bay Weekly:
The figure that your reader questioned was one that has been used for quite some time.
I found a notation that this was EPA information as well as a reference to a world fertilizer-use figure of 100 million tons. I believe this figure was mistakenly used for total United States use. I applaud your reader for catching the error.
However, this investigation led me to several other figures which you may be interested in:
Although they were unable to give me a figure for suburban/urban fertilizer use on lawns, The Fertilizer Institute sent me a copy of the report “Commercial Fertilizers 2003: a Summary of Fertilizer Use in the United States,” published by the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials and the Fertilizer Institute. In it, gross fertilizer for the United States stood at 53.04 million tons during the fertilizer year 2003 (July-June) with 10 percent of this being bagged, the type most commonly used by homeowners.
Regionally, from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s “A Report to Citizens of the Bay Region” and “Chesapeake Club: Bringing New Audiences to Bay Restoration” comes the following:
In the Chesapeake watershed, the nitrogen load alone in 2002 was 285 million pounds. Six percent of this load was from urban-suburban fertilizer use.
Although these figures give you an idea of lawn fertilizer use, it still doesn’t include phosphorus.
—Kathy Reshetiloff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
No Ticket to Ride the Blimp
Dear Bay Weekly:
Would you happen to know of any blimp rides that are scheduled in Maryland? I’ve always wanted to go up in one.
—Sue Goodman; via e-mail
Editor’s note: One of the Goodyear blimps docks at Lee Airport at Edgewater in Anne Arundel County this month during the week of the Preakness Stakes, which it covers by air. But blimp rides are not offered to ordinary people; instead they’re reserved as perks offered to customers who buy vast quantities of tires. Where’s a creative entrepreneur when we blimp lovers need one?
You’re Entering the Twilight Zone
Dear Bay Weekly:
I enjoyed Dick Wilson’s Twilight Zone commentary [Vol. XIII, No. 12: March 24. Here’s my nomination: growing Calvert County’s nearby intersection of Route 2 and Grover’s Turn Road. Turning left from Route 2 and Grover’s Turn Road is something else, especially at night. Proof: broken glass from accidents is frequent at the intersection.
—Helena Mann-Melnitchenko, Owings