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What constitutes a fertilizer in Pennsylvania?

A fertilizer Is a substance, including fertilizer material, mixed fertilizer, specialty fertilizer, and bulk fertilizer, containing one or more recognized plant nutrients that is used for its plant nutrient content and is designed for use or claimed to have value in promoting plant growth.

This definition does not apply to unmanipulated animal and plant manure, agricultural liming materials, wood ashes, and other exempted materials.

Please refer to the Fertilizer Law for additional information.

Why fertilize?

All living organisms need nutrients to survive. There are 17 essential nutrients that all plants require. Plants obtain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from the air and water, while the remaining nutrients are extracted from the soil. 

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are needed in large amounts and are, thus, primary macronutrients. Secondary macronutrients, like sulfur, calcium, and magnesium, and other micronutrients, like iron and copper are also necessary for healthy plants. 

Since plants extract these vital nutrients from the soil, the soil may need to be supplemented with fertilizers or other organic materials to promote proper plant growth.

How do you know how much fertilizer to apply?

Soil tests are a critical tool for determining plant nutrient needs. Using your soil test results and knowledge of nutrient requirements to determine fertilizer application rates will not only promote healthy plants, but also help prevent nutrient loss through runoff or damage from applying too much fertilizer. A soil test can help ensure proper fertilizer application, saving you money and  protecting the environment.

Soil test kits can be obtained from your local Penn State Extension office.

Proper fertilizer management can increase plant productivity, reduce management costs, and enhance environmental protection.

When considering fertilizer application, remember the 4Rs of Nutrient Management:  Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place.

Remember to use the right type and amount of fertilizer to meet the nutrient needs of your plants. In addition, make sure you apply the fertilizer in a manner that makes the nutrients available when the plant needs them while keeping the nutrients on site where the plants can use them.

Who is required to follow the Fertilizer Laws and Regulations?

Everyone who manufactures, guarantees, or applies fertilizer. This includes lawn care providers and homeowners/residents who self-apply fertilizer.