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Organic Land Care

Organization(s) Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection
Project Description In 2007, the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) completed the first year of a multi-year pilot project to provide technical assistance in implementing organic land care to the Town of Manchester, which has a town crew that manages its athletic fields. Pre- and post-season soil tests on Manchester’s pilot soccer field indicated progress in reducing high nutrient levels and improved biological life compared with a field that did not receive organic management.

CT DEP is currently its second year partnering with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of CT to provide technical assistance to municipalities on converting to organic methods to manage their turf playing fields. CT DEP and NOFA are now working with two municipalities, Manchester and Watertown, to transition away from conventional pesticides and fertilizers on a soccer field and a baseball field, respectively.

A challenging part of moving to Organic Land Care is the cost of organic fertilizers compared with conventional ones. Utilizing "free" compost produced from town leaves is one of the best responses to this challenge. Organic land care specialists recommend that the compost be tested before application and results compared with the needs of the turf soil for nutrients, organic matter, and biology. Of the two pilot towns, Manchester has an excellent compost operation, producing compost that is used on turf maintained by the town and for resident pick-up. In order to determine if the town compost would be healthy for the Manchester pilot project soccer field, CT DEP utilized an extensive test from the Soil Food Web Laboratory.

Biological and chemical analysis of Manchester's compost indicated that it would be a good nutrient source for the soccer field in the future. However, it was recommended that the town not use this as a source of organic matter until phosphorous, potassium, and trace minerals are lowered and the levels of beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil are improved. Phosphorous in particular needs to be reduced in the compost so that ground and surface water is not impacted by excessive nutrients.

In order to improve their compost, Manchester, CT DEP, and NOFA are adding such feedstocks as wood chips, food slurry, and manure from local farms to the 2006 and 2007 leaf windrows. The resulting "gourmet composts" will be tested for nutrients as well as organic matter to determine if any of the additional feedstocks resulted in improvements to the leaf compost that will overcome deficiencies in the soccer field's soil.

CT towns will be phasing out the use of pesticides on K-8 school fields and grounds by July 2009. In order to provide towns with resources to transition to organic methods, CT DEP will be holding a workshop for municipalities on September 25 at the Agriculture Experiment Station in New Haven, CT. The Compost Workshop for Municipal Turf Managers will focus on how to use this valuable resource to improve athletic fields.

Over 1000 copies of the informational DVD on organic land care produced under a 2005 EPA Pollution Prevention Grant have been disseminated.

Project Contact
Name Mary Sherwin
Phone 860-424-3297
Project Keywords
Activity Keywords Research and development
Newsletter Northeast Assistance & Pollution Prevention News - Vol. 18 No. 2, Fall 2008 [PDF]


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Last Modified 09/08/2009

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