T. McIntyre, MS, CEP, University of Florida IFAS Extension Seminole County, Sanford, FL, USA and Dr. T. Fullerton University of Florida IFAS extension Seminole county, Sanford, FL, USA
Situation: Seminole County (SC) is home to the Wekiva Springs River, a National Wild & Scenic River and an Outstanding Florida Waterbody, and the St. Johns River, which includes the oxbow Lakes Harney, Monroe and Jesup. These waterbodies are all impaired by nutrients. These water resources are economically and environmentally tied to the area through recreation, property values, wildlife support and aquifer recharge. Research on the Wekiva Springs Basin shows 26% of all nitrate entering the basin was from urban turfgrass fertilizer.
Methods: September 2018 – May 2019 the Florida-Friendly Landscaping team taught Fertilizer Workshops. Workshops targeted homeowners and HOA’s, offered a free bag of fertilizer and educated participants on Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for residential landscapes.
Results: Byway of mass media and 27 classes, 17,454 people were educated about fertilizer BMP’s; of those, 288 completed reflective post-surveys which revealed 97.2% increased their knowledge on the impacts stormwater (including fertilizer run-off) has on local waterbodies, 98.8% intended to use the information to fertilize their yard appropriately, and 95.3% were more confident they could fertilize appropriately. In a 6 month follow up survey, 86.1% of 129 participants reported they were currently using BMP’s or had recommended BMP’s to their landscaper as a result of the fertilizer workshop.
Conclusions: These educational efforts resulted in data that shows significant behavior changes which seeks to reduce local levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, pollutants that lead to harmful algae blooms and impairments. Participants better understand sources of water contamination resulting from fertilizer misuse and have acted to change those behaviors.