Reducing nitrate runoff continues to be an issue for professionals in the turf industry. Every cultural practice is being honed to help minimize potential for nutrients to leave the site of application. It is known that grass buffers around golf course fairways do help reduce potential for runoff, but if they were managed differently, can their effectiveness be improved? Researchers at Oklahoma State University examined the effectiveness of varying the mowing height of grass buffers around golf course fairways for reducing runoff. They compared buffers mowed at one height (2 inches) vs. mowing at varying heights (1 inch, 1.5 inches, then 2 inches) within the same buffer. They found that by varying heights within the buffer, runoff was delayed by 4 minutes in the sample plots. You might assume the delay would be larger for larger areas, up to a point. More significantly, they reduced nitrogen runoff by 17 percent and phosphorus runoff by 11 percent, and decreased total runoff volume by 19 percent during one hour of rainfall. They achieved similar results during irrigation. An easy adjustment to your routine can make a difference.

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