Plant Foods and their Role in the Environment
The proper use of plant foods improves the environment in several ways:
1. Provides cleaner air.
2. Cuts down on soil erosion, which leads to cleaner surface waters.
3. Reduces the pollution of ground waters.
4. Leaves more land for open spaces and recreational purposes.
Actively growing turfgrass plants, through the process of photosynthesis, convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, and give off oxygen. Man, animals and industry consume large quantities of oxygen and generate large quantities of carbon dioxide. The air we breathe contains about 20 percent oxygen and .03 percent carbon dioxide. This balance is a delicate one. Healthy plants use more carbon dioxide and give off more oxygen. Therefore, a properly fed, healthier lawn is a more productive producer of oxygen than a poorly fed lawn.
Proper fertilization with the right combination of plant nutrients stimulates turf growth, increasing the amount of oxygen given off by the lawn. A turf area 50'x 50' produces enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four.
Still more important to man, is that productive soils remove carbon monoxide from the air. scientists have identified fungi living in the soil as responsible for this removal of carbon monoxide. The organisms are abundant in fertile soils and provide cleaner air by using for their energy much of the 200 million tons of carbon monoxide created by man.
In addition, studies also show that fertile soils can absorb large quantities of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Moist, fertile soils are an important natural sink for many airborne pollutants and may prove valuable for the cleansing of industrial emissions polluted by sulfur gases.
CUTS DOWN ON SOIL EROSION
Well fed lawns have extensive shoot and root development. A well developed covering of actively growing grass reduces the pounding effect of raindrops or those of sprinklers. The energy of the drops is reduced so the water trickles down into the soil. Runoff is minimized, and this reduces erosion. Well fed lawns have extensive root systems that hold soil into place against water runoff. with less erosion our rivers and lakes run clear.
Research has shown that erosion is the primary way that phosphates leave the soil. The phosphorus is carried off as adsorbed and free phosphate. Soil also contains nitrogen and other plant nutrients, any reduction in erosion also reduces the levels of these -nutrients in surface water.
REDUCES POLUTION OF GROUND WATERS
Nitrates with other soluble nutrients are associated with underground water pollution. Phosphorous can normally be eliminated from this problem since even water soluble forms turn quickly into water insoluble forms when applied to soil, and do not move in the soil solution.
Regardless of the form of nitrogen used, most will be changed into the nitrate form. This form will either move up or down in the soil solution depending on the soil moisture and its movement through the soil. If nitrates move below the root zone of lawn grasses and ornamental trees and shrubs, they may eventually end up in the ground water. There are natural processes such as denitrification (the process by which nitrates in soil are broken down by bacterial action) that may eliminate much of the nitrate nitrogen and therefore the potential for contamination.
Properly fed turfgrasses have extensive root systems that develop deeper into the soil layer. The deeper the root zone the more effective the plants are in keeping soluble nutrients from ever reaching the ground water. Think of the root systems of turfgrass plants as wicks. They not only take up water in their immediate area but also draw up soluble materials from deep in the soil. This action helps to reduce the potential for pollution of ground waters under fine turfgrass areas.
LEAVES MORE LAND FOR OPEN SPACE AND RECREATIONAL PURPOSES
This is still another way that the use of plant foods improves the environment. The supplemental use of plant nutrients is responsible for about 35 percent of agricultural production. Without the use of applied plant foods, farmers would have to farm many more acres of land to produce food. This would mean less land for open spaces and recreational uses. More farm land also would mean more soil erosion.
Plenty of food at an affordable price is a direct benefit of the proper use of plant foods. A strong agricultural industry working efficiently as possible guarantees us this supply of high quality products for consumption. with this basic need met, everyone can look forward to a greater quality of life.
Good quality turf is a basic ingredient for recreational and esthetic needs. Well maintained turf also protects environmental quality. A well maintained grass covering prevents dust from blowing, stops soil erosion, filters sediments and air borne pollutants from rain waters keeping lakes and streams clear. Grass also causes considerable evaporative cooling that can help to reduce home cooling costs.
Trees and shrubs provide much needed shade, reduce noise pollution and provide visual relief among city buildings. These plants, like turfgrasses, depend for their value on good growth. Such growth requires careful maintenance and the proper use of supplemental applied plant foods. More land is available for wildlife, farming with plant foods reduces the need for land.