Scotts plans phosphorus phaseout

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. said it will phase out phosphorus from lawn fertilizers, including the market-leading Scotts Turf Builder brand, by the end of 2012.

Additionally, the Marysville, Ohio-based company said it will sharpen its focus on more efficient and optimized ways to use nitrogen in its lawn fertilizer products. 

"We want to provide consumers with the tools they need to create the lawn and garden they want, while also being stewards of the environment," said Jim Hagedorn, chairman and CEO. "What better time to announce these initiatives than on World Water Day, and also at the start of another lawn and garden season." 

The company said it has concluded that most lawns in the United States can flourish without supplemental phosphorus applications. Because phosphorus is essential to the initial root development of grass, the nutrient will remain in the company's starter fertilizers, which are used for new lawns. Phosphorus will also remain in Scotts Miracle-Gro's lines of organic lawn food, as it naturally occurs in the organic materials contained in the products. The company's enhanced exploration of nitrogen technology will commence immediately, anticipating that the initiative will lead to a more efficient use of nitrogen in lawn fertilizers.

Hagedorn also said a central part of Scotts Miracle-Gro's new initiative is a multi-year commitment to new consumer communication, education and grassroots outreach regarding water quality and conservation.

The move was applauded by several environmental organizations, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "Today's choices by Scotts Miracle-Gro are a smart commitment to putting business to work for clean water," said Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, in a press release. "We look forward to continuing a partnership that helps put the Great Lakes on a healthy path for generations to come."

A more tempered approval came from Paul Tukey, founder of Safelawns.org, who said that Scotts' decision came as anti-phosphorus legislation was either passed or pending in upwards of 14 states around the country. "Scotts can see the writing on the wall," Tukey said. The move is a welcome change, "but I wish they did it decades sooner," he added.