Delaware farmers, lawn care companies, golf courses and other nutrient handlers should not apply nutrients to the ground during the winter months, the Delaware Department of Agriculture said in a reminder.
State regulations adopted by the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission in 2007 prohibit certified nutrient handlers from applying commercial and manure-based fertilizer from Dec. 7 to Feb. 15, the time of year most vulnerable for nutrient runoff. Application may also not occur on snow-covered or frozen ground, or on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, roads or other paved areas.
"Most rain runoff occurs in the winter and spring, so this is the prime season," said Nutrient Management Program Administrator Larry Towle. "Protecting fertilizer from runoff during the winter is imperative."
Failure to comply with the winter application regulations may result in a compliance and enforcement hearing before the commission.
The winter application restrictions do not generally affect planting of winter crops, Department of Agriculture spokesman Dan Shortridge said. The typical crops planted are wheat and barley, which normally plant in the fall and go dormant for the winter months, then come out of dormancy in late February or early March. "The rule was enacted as part of Delaware's ongoing commitment to improving water quality, and our farmers have been leaders in that effort," Shortridge said. "But as a matter of general practice, there is little reason to apply nutrients in the winter months when temperatures are low and most crops have gone dormant."