Scientist uses special fertilizer to keep palms, soil and water healthy

April 8, 2015 by Brad Buck, University of Florida

A University of Florida scientist has developed a fertilizer for palm trees that should keep them healthy and reduce water pollution.

Environmental horticulture Professor Tim Broschat found that applying a palm fertilizer with no nitrogen or could prevent the harmful effects of lawn fertilizers on .

"We also found that most palms do not need any phosphorus in their fertilizer to be healthy, and by not applying this element, we can eliminate one possible source of in Florida," said Broschat, a faculty member at UF's Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

Palms have special nutritional needs, including nitrogen and phosphorus, to stay healthy and look their best. But those same nutrients can harm the soil and the below the soil. So, scientists such as Broschat are investigating ways to balance the nutrient needs of palms while preserving water quality.

Broschat conducted his experiment from 2010 to 2013 at the Fort Lauderdale REC, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

During heavy rainfall or irrigation, Florida's soils have very little capacity to retain nitrogen and phosphorus in the area of the soil around the plant that touches the plant's roots.

By using the palm fertilizer with no nitrogen or phosphorus during the rainy summer months and a regular palm fertilizer with these nutrients during other seasons, palms grew as well as when they were fertilized year-round using nitrogen and phosphorous-containing fertilizers, Broschat's study found.

Fertilizer is usually not a pollutant when it's applied to the landscape. But if the wrong kind of fertilizer is applied at the wrong time, it can wash off of the landscape and flow untreated into bays and streams. Broschat's fertilizer finding is critical because a state law limits the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that people can put on their lawns.

Furthermore, some Florida counties do not let people use or phosphorus fertilizers from June through September because they think these could get into waters via storm water runoff and possibly harm coastal .

Although Broschat conducted his experiment on areca palms, popular in Florida, the results should apply to all kinds of palms used in home and commercial landscapes, he said.

Broschat's study is published in the March issue of the journal HortScience.

Explore further: High nitrogen fertilizers tested on post-transplant ornamentals

More information: "Fertilization of Landscape Palms to Reduce Nitrogen and Phosphate Impacts on the Environment." HortScience March 2015 50:469-473. … nt/50/3/469.abstract

Related Stories

High nitrogen fertilizers tested on post-transplant ornamentals

December 29, 2010

The nutrition and fertilization needs of container-grown ornamental plants during production are well-documented, but there is limited research about the plants' fertilizer requirements following transplantation into landscapes. ...

Bringing high tech to soil research

February 19, 2015

2015 is the International Year of the Soils. Healthy soils are vital to sustainable food systems, clean lakes, verdant forests, and the health of our planet. In honour of the occasion, we offer you a profile of a scientist ...

Nitrogen in reclaimed water can benefit turfgrass

January 5, 2015

As competition for fresh water increases and fertilizer prices rise, the horticulture industry is looking to reclaimed wastewater as a valuable resource for supplying irrigation and necessary nutrients for urban landscapes. ...

Recommended for you

New evidence for plume beneath Yellowstone National Park

March 20, 2018

A pair of researchers from the University of Texas has found what they claim is evidence of a plume beneath Yellowstone National Park. In their paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Stephen Grand and Peter Nelson ...

Researchers name new ocean zone: The rariphotic

March 20, 2018

Based on the unique fish fauna observed from a manned submersible on a southern Caribbean reef system in Curaçao, Smithsonian explorers defined a new ocean-life zone, the rariphotic, between 130 and 309 meters (about 400 ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.