Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients when excessive have the potential to cause environmental degradation, primarily by reducing water quality.  Nitrogen and phosphorus are also essential plant nutrients that are present in many fertilizers and soil amendments.  The contribution of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and soil amendments is controllable.  The following resources have been collected to help provide science-based guidance on managing plant nutrients to reduce negative impacts on water resources.

In 2012 the Massachusetts Legislature passed an act Relative to the Regulation of Plant Nutrients.  The act permitted the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to develop regulations for agriculture and non-agricultural turf to protect our natural resources, primarily surface and ground water.  The act also permitted the Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Nantucket Commission to develop plant nutrient ordinances.

State Regulations

An Act Relative to the Regulation of Plant Nutrients

MDAR 330 CMR 31.00

Local Regulations

Barnstable County Ordinance 13-07

Cape Cod Commission Model Bylaw

Barnstable County Regulations Summary









Martha’s Vineyard










The Cape Cod Commission’s model bylaw included a certification for fertilizer applicators.  The towns of Barnstable and Chatham regulations included fertilizer applicator certification.  The criteria for certification set forth in the model bylaw set standards to be considered proficient in the Best Management Practices.  Cape Cod Cooperative Extension can provide a certificate for those meeting the criteria in the model bylaw or by taking a test based on the Best Management Practices.

Fertilizer Certification Criteria

Best Management Practices for Soil & Nutrient Management in Turf Systems