The University of Washington has over 161 acres of turf grass. In 2015, 8,620 pounds of fertilizer were applied on campus. Chemical fertilizers can be detrimental to the environment and to the long term health of soils. With global warming at the forefront of scientific research, it is imperative that alternative, environmentally friendly lawn care systems are implemented. Revising the fertilizer plan for the lawns is a potentially important step for grounds management to undertake.
There are multiple options that the University could use for fertilizers. Composting is a centuries old practice that has been found to increase the health of the soil and plants. Using compost extracts, such as ‘compost teas,’ can be a financially and environmentally favorable approach to lawn care.
A water based extract of compost, compost tea, is attracting gardeners worldwide for its supposed benefits to soil fertility and for plant disease suppression. Soils can be supplemented with this microbe and nutrient rich solution. Grounds management currently brews small batches of compost tea for use on the Roses.
Other fertilizer options are to provide the lawns with biosolids. Biosolids are human excrements that have undergone extensive filtration processes. They are sold by the county and are deemed safe for the public to use. Biosolids have shown to increase the quality and production of grasses. The University could replace environmentally detrimental fertilizers with a usable product that was being wasted.
The managers of the grounds at the university are hesitant to apply any of these techniques to the lawns until there is evidence that it is equivalent or superior to the current practices. The money from this grant would be to evaluate the feasibility of replacing the chemical fertilizers with compost tea, compost or biosolids.
Trials will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of these different fertilizers. If they are successful grounds management will look into applying these fertilizers to the entire campus and end our reliance on environmentally detrimental chemicals.
The money from the grant will be used to evaluate the tea being applied to the lawns, pay for the biosolids and hire a student to help setting up and monitoring the project.
Thank you for your consideration!