Off-site transport of nitrogen fertilizer with runoff from golf course fairway turf: A comparison of creeping bentgrass with a fine fescue mixture

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Feb 15;580:533-539. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.11.209. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


Maintaining quality golf course turf often requires irrigation and application of fertilizer. The transport of excess nutrients with runoff water from highly managed and fertilized biological systems to surrounding surface waters has been shown to result in enhanced algal blooms and promotion of eutrophication. Environmental stewardship includes looking for new approaches to reduce adverse environmental impacts of current practices. One strategy is to replace traditional turfgrass with low-maintenance turfgrass species. Fescue grasses have been shown to provide characteristics desirable for golf course fairways. Thus side-by-side studies comparing runoff from plots planted in creeping bentgrass (CGB) or fine fescue mixture (FFM), similarly managed as a golf course fairway, were conducted to measure runoff volumes and the amount of ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N) and nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) transported off-site with runoff. Greater runoff volumes and mass of applied nutrients were measured in the runoff from the FFM, representing a 38% and 56% median increase in the off-site mass transport of NH4-N and NO3-N with surface flow. Shoot density, thatch depth and soil moisture were the most important factors related to runoff volume. Results of this research will be useful to grounds superintendents and researchers for selecting and developing management strategies to improve environmental stewardship of managed turf while providing desired turf quality.

Keywords: Ammonium nitrogen; NH(4)-N; NO(3)-N; Nitrate nitrogen; Surface flow; Water quality.

MeSH terms

  • Agrostis*
  • Fertilizers*
  • Festuca*
  • Golf
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Water Movements*


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrogen