Can phosphorus attach to grass clippings of residential properties?
Can phosphorus attach to grass clippings of residential properties? Is that a contributor to phosphorus levels like farming contributes?
Phosphorous moves in water either dissolved in the water or attached to soil particles. When we mow our lawn, the phosphorus is not exactly ‘attached’ to the grass but rather present within the plant material itself. As the clippings are carried along with the flow of the water all the nutrients carried within move along too. When the plant material begins to rot or decompose, these nutrients, including phosphorus, are released back into the environment. Indirectly, grass clippings contribute to nutrient loads flowing into Lake Erie.
As a relative proportion, farming has the capacity to contribute many times the phosphorus that is present in residential lawns. Based on land use alone, if all the grass clippings were directly placed in the Western Basin this would only represent a small percentage of the nutrient loadings we see. That being said, despite its low overall contribution to nutrient loading, it is still a contributor. Any opportunity we have to reduce inputs is well worth the effort.
Cheryl Rice, USDA - NRCS