An article I wrote with Dr. Frank Rossi about the Park Grass experiment at Rothamsted has recently been published in the USGA Green Section Record. (Download the article here). This experiment has been ongoing for more than 150 years and it involves fertilizer treatments applied to grassland and the many measurements that have been made over the years on the experimental plots. One of these measurements is the botanical composition of the plots, and the results are amazing.
When nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulfate is applied as the only fertilizer, finer grasses predominate and weeds are not present. When potassium is applied, dandelions and other weeds proliferate. Lime also causes an increase in weedy species.
The recommendations for complete fertilizers along with lime treatments that are commonly made for for cool-season lawns and other general turf areas are probably contributing to an increase in weed abundance as well. Is it possible that less fertilizer could also lead to less weeds and less herbicide use? That is certainly something to consider, and Dr. Rossi and I suggest that the results of the Park Grass experiment are worthy of further attention from turfgrass managers.