Phosphorus: threatening our water and wildlife from lake to lawn

A Message From the Indiana Wildlife Federation


What is Phosphorus?

A naturally-occurring nutrient that plants only use in
small quantities for growth & energy storage

Why is it a problem?

  • Excess phosphorus travels into rivers, streams, and lakes resulting in algal blooms and undesirable plant growth
  • 1 lb. Phosphorus can result in the growth of 10,000 lbs. weeds
  • Algae overgrowth turns water green and makes it unsustainable for many species due to the lack of food, oxygen, and viable habitats
  • Phosphorus damages the natural habitats, and biodiversity declines.


How can this influence my health?

  • Quality of drinking water is affected, indicated by poor taste and smell
  • Some algae can produce toxins causing skin irritations
  • If consumed, this water can lead to gastrointestinal problems and damage to internal systems or even major organs
  • Harmful for pets, including livestock to consume contaminated water

How can I help?

  • Only use phosphorus in your fertilizer if you have a new lawn or a soil test indicates a low level of phosphorus
  • Don’t over-fertilize your lawn. On average, 89% of Indiana lawns do not need phosphorus according to a 2004 survey by Purdue
  • Best time to fertilize is in the fall, especially September3. If the ground is frozen, do not apply fertilizer
  • Clean up any fertilizer spills on impervious surfaces, such as driveways
  • Use grass clippings and fallen leaves as natural mulch
  • Tell family and friends about the problems of excess phosphorus!


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