What Does Phosphorus Do For Lawns?

Phosphorus is a key nutrient in the soil that can also be found in lawn fertilizers. Along with potassium and nitrogen, phosphorus is considered one of the “big three” elements needed for healthy soil and plants. In fertilizer, phosphorus comes in the form of phosphate, which dissolves over time to strengthen the root system and encourage longer plant growth.

Some of the functions of phosphorus are to:

  • Stimulate growth. Phosphorus gives plants a strong starting point in developing a root filter system in the soil. This is so that it can efficiently pick up other available plant nutrients and water. It has also been attributed to the development of flower formation, seed production, and faster maturity in plants.
  • Optimize energy. Phosphorus is active in transferring energy in plants. It is used to fuel the reaction between cells as energy is being transferred. It is also a vital component of ATP, the fuel used to energize plants, which is formed during photosynthesis.
  • Strengthen plant DNA. Plants contain genetic memory units that build proteins and other components needed for plant growth and structure. Phosphorus is essential in reading DNA genetic code and other essential compounds. 

 

Additional Information About Phosphorus

Along with nitrogen and potassium, phosphorus is an essential element for the development and strengthening of plant roots. Fortunately, many soil types contain enough phosphorus to allow roots to grow early on and prevent large amounts from being added all at once. It is especially effective when applied to the soil before planting, although post-planting fertilizers can be just as helpful.

Phosphorus can be found in most types of lawn fertilizer, where its percentage is indicated through the three-number fertilizer analysis imprinted on the bag. For example, if the fertilizer analysis is 12-2-14, the fertilizer contains 2% phosphorus. The other numbers indicate nitrogen and potassium, respectively.

It should be noted that some municipalities ban the use of phosphorus on lawns. Excessive phosphorus has been found to form algae blooms and create other problems in the waterways. Algae blooms are a dangerous occurrence that can kill fish and other water life. 

Because of this, many companies that produce fertilizer have started eliminating phosphorus from their synthetic product lines. Organic fertilizers have since become more widely used, although they still contain minimal amounts of phosphorus. Because soil naturally produces minimal amounts of phosphorus, large additives are usually not required to stimulate plant growth. In doing so, you could cause runoff that pollutes the water ways and potentially damages the soil quality permanently.

Phosphorus Deficiency

Unlike nitrogen or potassium, phosphorus deficiency is difficult to detect and diagnose.  Most plants do not show outward symptoms of phosphorus deficiency, apart from stunted growth in the early stages or much later when the damages become virtually irreparable. Some types of vegetables will show discoloration in the leaves, but otherwise, phosphorus deficiencies are a complicated problem to identify, much less resolve.

Soil tests should be able to accurately identify any problems in the soil. They can be purchased and done independently through hardware store kits, or done professionally through a lawn care service. 

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