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Study of Nitrate and Phosphorus at Iowa Golf Courses

Posted on May 26th, 2015

Keith E. Schilling and Matthew Streeter, Iowa Geological Survey, University of Iowa

Ryan Adams, Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University

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Nonpoint source pollution from nitrate-nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) contributes to nutrient enrichment in local streams and lakes and development of hypoxic (dead) zones in regional water bodies, including the Gulf of Mexico. In response to both increased scientific understanding of the causes and consequences of hypoxia, and increased public concern over water quality degradation at local and regional scales, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (INRS) was developed to reduce N and P delivered to Iowa rivers and the Gulf of Mexico from point and nonpoint sources.  An objective of the strategy was to evaluate potential conservation practices needed to reduce N and P from nonpoint sources by 45% through in-field, edge-of-field and land management practices.

The goal of our new project is to measure N and P concentrations in surface and groundwater at a subset of Iowa golf courses to assess the risk posed by these facilities to contribute N and P loads to Iowa rivers. We randomly selected six courses for this initial reconnaissance study that will include three 18-hole courses and three 9-hole courses.  Monitoring wells are being installed within managed turfgrass areas at each course and water samples from the wells and local surface water sources will be analyzed for N and P on a quarterly basis for two years.  We are working with the course superintendents to track land management practices at the selected courses including the timing, rate and formulation of fertilizer applications so that we can relate nutrient concentrations to golf course practices. Project updates from the research and a final report will be published in Golf Course Management and a peer-reviewed journal.

Funding is being provided, in part, by the United States Golf Course Superintendents Association, Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association, and the Iowa Turfgrass Institute.

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