Grass Species and Nitrogen Runoff

2011 Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

The abstract below was written by the student. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District made no editorial changes.

Grass Species and Nitrogen Runoff

by Rachel Campbell, West Potomac High School


High nitrogen levels found in various waterways cause an excess of nutrients which result in oxygen deprivation and fish deaths. Is there a grass species that prevents nitrogen from lawn fertilizers, from getting into runoff and eventually finding its way into waterways? This project looks at which grass species is best at preventing high nitrogen levels found in runoff from three different fertilizer amounts.  Each grass species were watered with no fertilizer, the recommended amount of fertilizer, and double the recommended amount of fertilizer; then the collected runoff was tested using nitrogen test strips. My hypothesis was the Kentucky bluegrass would produce the lowest Nitrogen levels found in fertilizer runoff compared to the other grass species. The experimental results rejected my hypothesis by showing that Rye grass produced the lowest nitrogen levels found in fertilizer runoff, regardless of the fertilizer amount. The experimental results also showed that Kentucky bluegrass produced the highest nitrogen levels found in fertilizer runoff of the three grass species tested; Kentucky bluegrass, Rye grass, and Tall fescue.

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