Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

UF scientist with industry ties helps develop Hernando fertilizer rules

Laurie Trenholm is a professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida whose job includes, she said, "educating people how to manage lawns in an environmentally responsible fashion."

She is not an expert on groundwater, she told me, and "not a political person."

Yet there she was last week, appearing before the Hernando County Commission, where she was thanked for her help in developing a new fertilizer ordinance and where, in turn, she thanked the commission for not putting extra restrictions on fertilizing lawns in the summer.

This ordinance, which is virtually worthless for reasons I'll explain in another column, was required by the state because Hernando is home to a first-magnitude spring — Weeki Wachee — one that has also been classified as "impaired" because of nitrogen pollution.

So, yes, it's all about groundwater. And it is absolutely political.

Not just because this was a meeting of an elected body, but because fertilizer soaking and spilling into places it doesn't belong is probably the biggest water pollution problem in the state.

On one side are environmentalists who think there's an urgent need to do something, for example, about the nitrogen that has transformed springs from pools of sapphire to pits of slime.

• • •

On the other side is, among others, the turfgrass industry, which says that what we're doing is fine. We just need to be a little more careful.

It almost goes without saying that this is Trenholm's side. Turf researchers have a long history of coziness with the industry, including accepting research money. A UF professor started the Florida Turfgrass Association, and Trenholm is a member of this and other industry and lobbying groups.

But that's not why she takes the position she takes, she said. It's because of a multiyear, $4 million study — funded solely by the state Department of Environmental Protection, she points out — that showed what happens when optimal amounts of fertilizer are applied to healthy, growing plots of the standard Florida lawn grass, St. Augustine.

Namely, the grass sucks up so much nitrogen that only about 1 percent of the amount applied seeps through the turf.

This is valuable information, of course. If we're gong to keep using chemical fertilizer, we need to know how to use it right.

But this study is also far too limited to support Trenholm's argument that we don't need summer fertilizer bans.

For one thing, in the real world, many people do not apply optimal amounts of fertilizer, and St. Augustine grass may very well not be healthy enough to absorb large amounts of fertilizer. In fact, it's the most notoriously sickly lawn cover there is.

Also, 1 percent of the tons of nitrogen applied in Florida every year is still a lot of nitrogen.

Diluted by a foot of water leaching through turf treated with those optimum applications of fertilizer, it amounts to a contamination rate slightly higher than the new state standard for springs.

There's also one other limit to talk about, which is clear once you look at Weeki Wachee and understand how excessive fertilization helped bring it to this sad condition.

The idea that all we need to do is be a little more careful? That's way too limited.

Comments

Pinellas Sheriff’s Office accuses 14-year-old of copycat Snapchat school threat

PINELLAS PARK — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office late Saturday said detectives arrested a 14-year-old boy and accused him of posting a threat to a school on his Snapchat account.Edward Charles Osgood, who attends Lealman Innovation Academy, was a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ten things to know about Stormy Daniels

Ten things to know about Stormy Daniels

1. Was editor of her high school newspaper, president of her 4-H club.2. Started stripping at age 17 in Baton Rouge, La.3. Made her first porn film with a girlfriend.4. Took her stage name from the Motley Crue bassist, who named his son Storm, and fr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

MUNICH — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style fi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn Wednesday’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

TAMPA — In the center of the nightclub, between the cigar case and bustling bar, a giant screen blankets the back wall. Usually, ads for drink specials and coming attractions scroll across.But Friday night, a life-size picture of President Donald Tru...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Man found dead in flaming mobile home

TAMPA — Firefighters found a man dead inside a burned-down mobile home Saturday.Tampa Fire Rescue got a call just after 4:30 p.m. that a single-wide mobile home at the 100 block of East Linebaugh Avenue was in flames.The man’s identity was not releas...
Updated: 7 hours ago
‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

Warning: This story quotes graphic material.Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News."I’m going ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Police find dead man in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police found a dead man inside an apartment in the 5200 block of Sonora Court Friday after 3 p.m.Who the man is or how long he’s been dead is not yet clear, police said. The victim appears to have been killed in some sort of "homicidal violen...
Updated: 8 hours ago