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Managed turfgrass, such as this golf course near
Columbus, Ohio, is an integral part of the landscape. There are roughly 16,000
golf courses in the United States. Click the image for more information
Golf Courses and the Environment
By Don Comis
August 3, 2005
As golf courses spread rapidly across
the United States, questions about possible contamination of waterways from
pesticides and fertilizers in golf course runoff become more urgent.
Two Agricultural Research Service
scientists are studying runoff from golf courses, partially funded by the
U.S. Golf Association headquartered in
Far Hills, N.J. Agricultural engineer
King, in the ARS
Drainage Research Unit at Columbus, Ohio, is measuring the amount of
pesticide and nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers being lost from golf
courses in Columbus and in Duluth, Minn. On a golf course in Austin, Texas, he
is studying nitrogen and phosphorus losses only.
As part of a multistate initiative, chemist
Rice monitors pesticide losses from turfgrass plots at the ARS
and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul, Minn., with collaborator
Brian Horgan at the University of Minnesota.
King and Rice are coordinating their research closely. Rice's data might
help King make the ARS Soil and Water
Assessment Tool model more accurate in predicting losses from golf courses.
While King only recently started the study of the Columbus golf course, he
has three years of data from the Duluth golf course and five years from the
Austin course. He has measured annual per-acre losses of six pounds of nitrogen
and 0.3 pounds of phosphorus from the Austin course. Amounts from the other
courses were even lower, and the pesticide losses measured from the Duluth and
Columbus courses were very low as well--much less than from most farmland.
Although the amounts are minimal, they are enough to warrant attention,
since losses can vary from region to region. More research is planned, with the
goal of finding the best ways to minimize losses to the environment while
maximizing turfgrass quality.
more about the research in the August 2005 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.