Durham County Homeowner Fertilizer Behaviors Survey: Summary and Analysis of Results


Durham County must comply with State mandated nutrient reduction rules by 2021. Current management plans will prove costly. Residential and commercial fertilize application is not included in those current plans; however, these sources of nutrient inputs are poorly understood. Thus, a survey was administered to fill in information gaps about Durham County homeowners’ fertilizer behaviors.

The two key areas of interest to the County are Best Management Practices (BMPs) and fertilizer application rates. BMP’s include sweeping impervious surfaces, not fertilizing before it rains, and not fertilizing in buffer zones for streams and lakes. 1,000 single-occupancy households were surveyed from March to April of 2013. Participants were selected randomly via a double-randomization process. The survey was administered using mixed methods.

Findings indicate that few homeowners know how to determine the correct amount of fertilizer to apply to the lawn, resulting in higher risk of over-application among do-it-yourself homeowners. Mean nitrogen (N) application rates are between 1.8 and 3.1 lbs N/1,000 sqft/year, with between 1/4 and 1/2 of homeowners at risk of over-applying. While most homeowners report practicing best management practices (BMPs), misapplication due to not practicing BMPs is also a common problem. Roughly 2/3 of homeowners or their lawn care companies practice fewer than 1/2 of the BMPs they are responsible for.

For both misapplication and over-application, the problems primarily seem to be knowledge-based ones and not motivation-based ones. Thus, public education may do much to correct the issues found by the survey. Please direct questions to Morgan Fleming at sspitfire1@yahoo.com with subject heading "2013 Fertilizer MEM MP Report Questions".





Fleming, Morgan (2013). Durham County Homeowner Fertilizer Behaviors Survey: Summary and Analysis of Results. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/8150.

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