PSU and Partnering Universities Awarded New Grant to Reduce the Impacts of Lawn Care on Water Quality

July 12th, 2006 by Adam

A project to protect surface and groundwater quality through educational outreach to homeowners has been funded by a $480,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, and awarded to Plymouth State University and researchers at the Universities of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Changing Homeowner’s Lawn Care Behavior to Reduce Nutrient Runoff in New England’s Urbanizing Watersheds is the title of the grant for which Brian Eisenhauer, associate director of the Center for the Environment and assistant professor of sociology at PSU, will be leading the social science research effort.

“Homeowners often unknowingly create environmental problems in their own backyard based on their approach to, and products used in, lawn care,” explains Eisenhauer. “By determining the best practices for lawn care, as well as understanding homeowners’ expectations for their lawn, what factors determine product selection and assessing their understanding of the impact of what they do, or don’t do, an outreach program can be developed by Cooperative Extension programs in each state to help change homeowners’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior.”

Eisenhauer says the integrated approach to the environmental issue is what differentiates this effort from other research and outreach, and the social science research and student involvement at PSU is a critical component of the project. The focus of the behavioral research will be to identify the primary drivers of homeowners’ fertilizer choices and application behaviors relative to their environmental values, attitudes and norms, and the level of influence given to opinion leaders (i.e. master gardeners, local garden centers and media messages). To accomplish these goals a large portion of the grant will support research activities, in which students at PSU will be assisting.

These results will be matched with data from the environmental research in recommending specific fertilizer use, or non-use, to minimize water quality impacts throughout New England’s growing urbanized areas. Cooperative Extension programs at each of the participating state universities will develop appropriate messaging and delivery methods for communicating results and recommendations with residents in target neighborhoods.

Eisenhauer indicates that the three-year project is intended to serve as a model that can be adapted and duplicated regionally or nationally. For more information call Brian Eisenhauer at (603) 535-2497 or via email:

Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.