Golf Course Management

JAN 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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The University of Florida's J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., leads a field day presentation. Photo courtesy of Bryan Unruh Fertilizer blackout periods, conficting ordinances and mandatory regulations that plague and perplex turf industry experts are now the norm in the Sunshine State. It all began with a sentence. As J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., tells it, a sentence misconstrued by a well-meaning, if misguided, group of environmentalists changed how and when Florida homeowners, landscapers and golf course superintendents can fertilize their grass. Fertilizer blackout periods, conficting ordinances and mandatory regulations that plague and perplex turf industry experts are now the norm in the Sunshine State. Don't think it can happen where you live and work? Think again. More than a decade ago, the University of Florida published the frst edition of the "Florida Lawn Handbook," edited by Unruh, now professor and Extension turfgrass specialist in environmental horticulture and associate center director at the West Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida in Jay, and Laurie Trenholm, Ph.D., professor in the environmental horticulture department at UF in Gainesville. Both are widely regarded in Florida as turf experts. "If we go back to when the blackout periods frst originated, most of those all stem out from the "Florida Lawn Handbook," which had a sentence that read, 'Do not fertilize when rain is imminent.' Let the storm pass. The environmental groups came back with, 'Rain is imminent every day in the rainy season,' and that's where these blackout ordinances came from," Unruh says. It rains a lot in Florida. For years it's been common knowledge that during the summer rainy season on the Gulf Coast you should get off the beach by 2:45 p.m. because at 3 p.m. on the dot the skies open up, lightning strikes, and you'll be drenched. These aren't just light sprinkles, either. The summer rains in Florida are monumental downpours that can dump inches — yes, inches — in a matter of minutes. Then, some 15 minutes to an hour later, the clouds dissipate, blue skies return, and all is right with the world — that is, unless you're a landscaper or golf course superintendent needing to fertilize your turf between June and September. The frst rumblings of fertilizer discontent began in January 2000 in St. Johns County, which includes the large city of Jacksonville, and was directly linked to water quality in the St. Johns River. At that time, the county passed fertilizer restrictions that limited how and when fertilizer could be applied to lawns. Industry organizations, including the Florida GCSA, the Florida Turfgrass Association (FTGA), the Turfgrass Producers of Florida, (TPF, formerly known as the Florida Sod Growers Cooperative) and other allied associations, reached out to the University of Florida turf specialists to form a plan. In October 2000, representatives from all sectors of the turf industry got together and formed a committee that would eventually write a set of science-based guidelines called the Green Industry Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Florida turfgrass maintenance. That document was released in 2002. In the meantime, the issue gained momentum. County governments and local municipalities in every corner of the state placed fertilizer ordinances on their meeting agendas. A 2003 model ordinance recommended that golf should not be placed under the same fertilizer restrictions as Florida homeowners. The non-binding ordinance left the door open fo stricter rules, however. Photo © Montana Pritchard 46 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.14

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