Roadsides Benefit From Waste, UF Researchers Say

GAINESVILLE--Roadside dumping may be the best way to keep state highways beautiful and safe, says a team of University of Florida researchers.

Litterbugs they aren't, however. The waste they want to see spread alongside Florida highways is made up of organic material.

"The goal is to make roadsides a friendly environment to establish grass and at the same time get rid of waste products in an environmentally friendly way," said turfgrass researcher Grady Miller, of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Miller and his colleagues were charged by the Florida Department of Transportation with finding a way to improve roadside soil. The improved soil would help grass grow, and grass helps to stabilize roadways.

The researchers turned to cities and counties, which produce mountains of nutrient-rich organic wastes. Rather than use up precious landfill space with the wastes, the cities were glad to put the material at the disposal of the UF researchers. Miller said the material cannot be used on crops because it sometimes contains metals or glass.

"There's no better location than roadsides," Miller said. "They're everywhere."

In general, roadside soil is too sandy to hold nutrients or water, making it difficult for grass to grow well. Importing topsoil and adding commercial fertilizer helps but is prohibitively expensive. So the researchers turned to organic wastes.

"The roadside is a very harsh condition in which to grow turf," Miller said. "The organic wastes add nutrients and hold water, making conditions more favorable for grass to grow."

The compost has an added advantage over commercial fertilizer, said researcher Bob Black, in that it releases nitrogen slowly. With commercial fertilizer, there's a quick flush of growth after the initial application but no sustained nourishment of the soil and grass.

Black said motorists cruising with their windows down might get a whiff of the compost after it's dumped from trucks, but once i

Contact: Cindy Spence
University of Florida

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