New Fertilizer Rule Protects Florida`s Liquid Heart

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

TALAHASSEE, Florida, August 30, 2007 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services today adopted a final rule limiting the phosphorus and nitrogen content in fertilizers for urban turf and lawns.

The Urban Turf Fertilizer Rule will reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus applied in urban areas, limiting the amount of those compounds reaching Florida waters , including the lake called Florida's Liquid Heart, Lake Okeechobee.

'We are committed to protecting Florida's water resources,' Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said today. 'By establishing responsible nitrogen and phosphorus use rates statewide, Florida's citizens can continue to care for their lawns and landscapes without sacrificing water quality.'

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, DACS, expects a 20 to 25 percent reduction in nitrogen and a 15 percent reduction in phosphorus in every bag of fertilizer sold to the public.

The new rule requires that all fertilizer products labeled for use on urban turf, sports turf and lawns be limited to the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus needed to support healthy turf maintenance.

It was developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with input from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state's five water management districts, the Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, fertilizer manufacturers and concerned citizens.

'Implementation of the new fertilizer rule is vital to Florida's continuous efforts to protect our water and will especially be beneficial to Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries' water quality through source control,' said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole. 'The new rule will enhance land management practices, improve water quality and protect the health of the Southeast's largest lake and America's Everglades.'

As a component of the $200 million Lake Okeechobee and Estuary Recovery Plan, the new rule is an essential component to improve nutrient control through a statewide approach based on sound science and the best-available technology.

Water managers will continue to research nutrient application rates to refine the limits and ensure healthy turf while at the same time minimizing the impact of urban land use on the environment.

Launched in 2005, the recovery plan is expanding water storage areas, constructing treatment marshes and expediting environmental management initiatives to enhance the ecological health of the lake and downstream coastal estuaries.

'This rule compliments the numerous efforts that are currently underway to address excess nutrients in the Northern and Southern Everglades,' said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Wehle.

Since the 2000 Florida Legislature passed the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act, the state agencies working with local governments, landowners and the federal partners, have adopted a Lake Okeechobee Total Maximum Daily Load to achieve phosphorus reductions.

They have constructed the Taylor Creek and Nubbin Slough Stormwater Treatment Areas in partnership with the federal government.

Conservation and nutrient management plans have been completed for over 400,000 acres of agricultural lands in the watershed.

They have invested $7.5 million in individual projects to reduce phosphorus from dairy farms, restore isolated wetlands, treat urban stormwater and enhance water storage and habitat on ranchlands, and treated more than 32,000 acres of exotic and invasive vegetation.

To date, Florida has invested more than $2 billion to restore and preserve the Everglades and $140 million to improve the health of Lake Okeechobee.

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