Jan. 7, 2013
The final phase of a New Jersey law that puts strict limits on consumer and professional fertilizer use goes into effect on 2013-1-5.
The law, signed on Jan. 5, 2011, was heralded as the nation's toughest regarding fertilizer regulation. It was designed to reduce pollutants, namely nitrogen and phosphorus, from contaminating New Jersey's waterways. The law was written as part of a comprehensive environmental protection package for the Barnegat Bay.
The final section of the law taking effect today sets rigid standards for labels on retail fertilizers. Consumer fertilizers can not contain more than 0.7 pounds of water-soluble nitrogen or more than 0.9 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and at least 20 percent of the nitrogen must be slow-release, according to information provided by Rutgers University's New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Nitrogen and phosphorus, while important for plant growth, are harmful to the environment if they wind up in the water. Nitrogen is a greater threat to coastal water, while phosphorous is more harmful in fresh water.
Nitrogen causes algae blooms that deprive water of oxygen and kill marine life, and in New Jersey, environmentalists and scientists said that nitrogen was the primary reason for the slow death of salt water bodies, especially the Barnegat Bay.
Slow-release nitrogen is less likely to seep into groundwater and wash away into the state's water sources, NJAES said. Consumers may not apply fertilizer within 25 feet of a body of water; for professionals, that buffer is 10 feet.
The cost of fertilizer used by most consumers will rise between 10 percent and 20 percent due to the higher cost of slow-release nitrogen, according to a landscaper who spoke to the Press of Atlantic City.
Fertilizers in New Jersey may no longer contain phosphorus, except in special circumstances when a soil test indicates need, or when establishing or re-establishing turf, NJAES said.
The law prohibits fertilizer application during or just before heavy rainfall, or onto frozen ground. It establishes blackout dates as well, preventing consumers from spreading fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus from Nov. 15 through March 1. For professionals, the blackout dates are Dec. 1 through March 1.
Exempt from the regulations are commercial farms and golf courses, though only a certified professional fertilizer applicator, or a person trained and supervised by one, may apply fertilizer to a golf course. The law also established a training and certification system for professionals.