Understanding Turf Needs

By Lou Newman, Regional Sales Manager

I recently had the opportunity to visit with a key account manager for a large fertilizer and chemical distributor in the Southeast. I was attending a seminar organized by the customer and was given the chance to speak to many prospective end users and spend time with the team of professional reps.

The account manager is a Nature Safe supporter and promotes it for numerous uses. He showed his product knowledge, not only of my product, but also of his large amount of other products available to him. Someone who can diagnose a problem and then use his full arsenal of products to remedy that problem reminds me of a good doctor. So, he shall be referred to as “Doc” for the rest of this story.

It seems Doc had a golf course call him and ask him to come by and take a look at a situation. He had a discoloration on his golf greens. Many spots were evidencing a purplish to reddish-purplish color on the tips and edges of the leaves. He asked Doc what he thought.

After considering a couple of different possibilities, Doc said he thought it looked like a phosphorus shortage. This is very unusual for this area, as P is readily supplied by certain substrata and can even be measured in the groundwater.

The account not only brought up these points, but he also showed Doc a fairly recent soil test that showed more than adequate levels of P. Doc examined the test and they discussed it a while. A P limitation looked like a low possibility. But Doc knows his stuff and suggested another soil test from a different lab. The lab used only measured total P, but the second could test for total P as well as available P.

The lab was able to get the results back quickly, and as Doc thought, available P was much lower than total P. Lots of things can lock up nutrients, pH, CEC, high levels of other ions, even OM. With these test results the Doc prescribed the following

  • Use a soluble P liquid feed 2-3 times. This will start a fast response cure for the existing tissue.
  • Apply Nature Safe 5-6-6. This will do two things – provide a long term solution and source of available P and stimulate microbial action which can aid in the release of some of the tied up phosphorus.
  • Start a regular feeding with 5-6-6 at fairly low rates, but applied every month, with slightly higher rates after aerations.

    Sure enough, with the liquid feed, color started to return to normal in just a couple of days. By the end of the second week, the color was back and the Nature Safe had started to release. The regular feedings and constant low level of Nature Safe have prevented the problem from returning.

The lessons from this are instructive:

  • Customer trust is important, or else Doc wouldn’t have been called in.
  • Experience and intuition convinced Doc of his diagnosis, in spite of the first test results.
  • Knowing the procedures at different labs and what the tests actually showed were key attributes.
  • Different products work in different ways and there is a use for them all.

    At Nature Safe, we make the best organic based fertilizers on the market. Period. But we believe in an integrated use of our products as well as others. We would never think you should use only Nature Safe to the exclusion of other fertilizers, but we do think you should use Nature Safe in EVERY situation where it applies. Sometimes, it’s just what the Doctor ordered!

     

Posted in Disease Suppression |

Nature Safe for Overseeding

By Al Lanoie, Regional Sales Manager

It is important to know that any effective overseeding program actually begins several months before the seed is spread. A number of factors should be taken into consideration when prepping an area for overseeding.

Thatch is a primary concern as a prominent thatch build up can inhibit seed germination and increase the difficulty of overseed blends to take root. Repeated light verticutting is recommended for the weeks leading up to overseeding to create a proper seed bed. With many chemical fertilizers, nutrition is made available through water solubility. This can create rapid leaf expansion which leads to increased clippings. Rapid expansion in the turf canopy can also mean shading of lower leaves below the mowing level. Even if clippings are collected, there is increased thatch build up from these shaded leaves. Nature Safe fertilizers produce thicker canopies rather than rapidly expanding leaf production. The use of Nature Safe can reduce the production of thatch as well as aid the decomposition of thatch.

By using the slowly available nitrogen contained in the proteins of Nature Safe, the feast and famine cycle often associated with chemical fertilizers is avoided. Nature Safe feeds slowly by making the nitrogen available to the plant through the life cycle of soil microbes. These living organisms respond to environmental conditions in the same manner as plants. With higher heat and moisture, plants require more nutrition and microbes are more active. In cooler periods, plant growth slows as does the microbe activity. By feeding the soil microbes with protein, Nature Safe provides the raw material for the expansion of the microbe population. A great energy source for soil microorganisms is carbon. And where can carbon be readily found? In thatch, as carbon is a main constituent of plant matter. By providing enough protein for the microbe population to increase, you also put pressure on the existing thatch by making it a food source.

Since Nature Safe has a very low salt index, you do not have to worry about burning newly emerged roots and growing tips. Nature Safe can take three to seven days to start releasing available nutrition and can be used by newly emerging roots at the most tender stage. This provides a large window of opportunity for application.

The slow availability also minimizes any leaching as only a small portion of the nutrition contained is available at any given moment. No worries about a heavy rain taking most of the fertilizer out of the range of new roots. Nature Safe stays in the root zone and provides the feed necessary to establish a solid overseed.

Nature Safe formulas derive their phosphorus from meat and bone meal which is also high in calcium. Calcium is a key component of cell wall construction. Since it is derived from a cooked organic source, it is readily available in chelated form for plant use. This steady and reliable source of calcium results in a hardy, durable plant that can better withstand the demands of traffic and cold temperatures.

Nature Safe can be applied at a rate of one pound of N per one thousand square feet from a few days before planting until up to one week after. It can be used in addition to sand or organic top dress and can be safely mixed with the top dress to reduce application time and labor.

Fall aeration should be done about eight weeks prior to overseeding. If done too close to seeding time, the turf can develop a spotty look as seed over the aeration holes will germinate faster and can show a deeper green. Playability will also suffer.

Statistics show that fewer clubs and sports fields do overseeding than they once did. And even those that do may have reduced the area they overseed. This makes it doubly important that you get all the sales you can from the overseeding programs in your territory, and that you insure the success of those customers who do overseed by promoting the benefits of Nature Safe.

Posted in Dormant Feed & Overseed |

How to Manage or Prevent Localized Dry Spot

By Al Lanoie, Regional Sales Manager

Localized dry spot can be a superintendent’s nightmare during the stressful summer months in the northeast. It usually appears from mid June through early September, but can be visible earlier or later in the growing season.

The main cause of localized dry spot, or water repellent soils, is a build-up of organic acids that form on soil particles. These organic acids are made of plant exudates and fungal hyphae, such as Fairy Ring, that are made up of non-polar molecules. Water is a polar molecule, therefore it cannot attach to soil particles for uniform hydration.

These non-polar coatings are always present and are a by-product of growing a good stand of turf. Localized dry spot is present in all turf situations. They are more prevalent on golf courses due to the different heights of cut and other stresses the turf endures. These organic coatings are even present in the winter months, but because of adequate moisture available, and lack of turf stress, localized dry spots are not evident.

Wetting agents, or soil surfactants, are one of the tools available to superintendents and turf managers to combat localized dry spot. Wetting agents have both a polar and a non-polar end to the molecule and create an adhesion sight in the soil. Therefore, the non-polar end attaches to the organic coating and the polar end can then hold water to hydrate the soil.

Another obstacle with uniform water movement into the soil is thatch. Thatch is also non-polar. Water will evaporate versus penetrate into the soil during the summer heat thus making the water unavailable to the roots. Nature Safe can be an important tool in managing localized dry spot. If used in a continuous program the natural ingredients will aid in deeper roots, disease management and thatch reduction. Nature Safe contains humus that not only affects nutrient holding capacity, but also water holding capacity.

Fall aeration is an ideal time to incorporate Nature Safe and begin the process of thatch reduction. It will establish a much deeper root system, improve soil porosity and the air and water ratios in the soil.

Nature Safe and soil surfactants are the winning combination to prevent and manage localized dry spots.

Pace Turfgrass Research Institute conducted an evaluation of fungicides and Nature Safe for control of localized dry spots and Fairy Ring. The results show that Nature Safe can successfully be used as a management tool in controlling localized dry spots and fungal invasion. Click here to view the research in its entirety.

Posted in Disease Suppression |

Zero Phosphorous – What Does All This Really Mean?

By Mike McCarthy, Regional Sales Manager

Reams of bureaucratic paperwork have been created to support the 12 states that have banned phosphorus fertilizer use. Among these states are: Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The banning of phosphorus started in Minnesota in the year 2002. Reportedly, the high phosphorus levels were harming the aquatic life, causing excessive algae and aquatic plant growth. Fertilizer runoff and sewage discharges are the cause of higher phosphate levels in the water. This runoff comes from yards, golf courses, gardens, etc. and runs into the surrounding ponds, creeks, rivers and bays. The overabundance of phosphate causes lower oxygen levels in the water harming fish and other aquatic animals.

The problem of high phosphate levels in water has evolved to more than just harming aquatic animals. “A 2010 interagency report of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) participated) warns that declining oxygen levels in U.S. waters are forming low-oxygen “dead zones” and destroying habitats” (Miller). This issue is becoming a bigger problem to us as well, causing our own water to become “dangerous” with high levels of phosphate.

The best way to approach this sensitive issue/topic was to let an expert take it from here:  perhaps many of you know Corey Angelo, Consultant/owner of Soil & Water Consulting now based in Hoboken, N.J. Corey started in golf course management after graduating from SUNY at Cobleskill, NY and later becoming a superintendent then moving and establishing his west coast business based in Las Vegas in 2005. So I asked Corey the question, “what does all this really mean” and rather than plagiarizing and/or abbreviating his comments, below is his direct quote:
“The uptake of phosphorus by plants in soils occurs through plant adsorption of the orthophosphate anion that is found in the soil solution. However, due to the complex chemistry of the soil, the amount of water soluble P that is actually available for plant uptake at any given time in the soil solution is exceptionally small. As a result, once phosphorus has been depleted from the soil solution it has to be replenished from soil phosphorus reserves. Interestingly, the ability of a soil to supply phosphorus to plants for uptake is highly dependent upon soil pH.

In general, under acidic conditions iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) readily adsorb water soluble P, while in alkaline soils, calcium predominately fixes or ties up P, but Fe is also important. All of these reactions reduce the availability of P to plants. For this reason, a soil water pH between 6.2 and 6.8 is ideal because it limits the activities of Al, Ca, and Fe, allowing P to be more available for plant uptake. Soil chemical extractants (Bray P I and -II, Mehlich-3, Olsen, and Colwell) attempt to estimate the amount of P that is potentially available to plants. Each extractant works slightly different and was developed for different soil conditions. Additionally, each extractant has been related to crop yield data so that fertilizer recommendations can be made.

It is my opinion, that keeping a high pH soil routinely acidified is an excellent way to “mine” the phosphorus that already exists in the soil. This can take place through rain events, irrigation events where acid injection is used, the application of acidifying fertilizers (ammonium sulfate, gypsum, etc) and the use of sprayable “synthetic acids”. Governmental restrictions on phosphorus can be warranted in certain areas of the country where there are many bodies of water. However, most phosphorus run-off from fertilizers is not due to professional users. However, we must work within the system. Through routine soil test data collection in various areas of the country, I have found that there is usually plenty of phosphorus in the soil. Due to several factors listed above, it is not readily available to the plants and that is why golf courses or sports fields may see a need to apply a fertilizer such as 11-55-00. With phosphorus usage being eliminated altogether in many areas, this is not an option. So, knowing exactly what is in the soil and water source is important when making a decision to apply phosphorus or not” (Angelo).

Our many thanks to Corey. If you need to ask him any questions, please feel free to call him at 702-756-403. He is always ready to help.

The good news is that Nature Safe provides both phosphorus free and products with organic “P” contents for all types of applications. Let’s first begin with aeration and using Nature Safe’s flagship premier organic product 8-3-5. It is available in super fine, fine, and coarse grades. Recently, Nature Safe introduced another new aeration product that is phosphorus free, 10-0-8 super fine, also contains a kelp extract (from Ocean Organics) to meet your zero phosphorus needs. Many distributor sales personnel and end users are excited about this new product’s special bio-catalyst to benefit their greens during the hot summer months. This allows smaller amounts of 1/4 to 1/3 lb applications every month during the arid drought like summer  conditions in addition to the zero phosphorus benefits.

Fairway applications have continued throughout the west coast territory as well as other markets around the country using both 21-3-7 and 27-0-2. With the cost of urea, most agree that it “pencils out” using a slow release blend of organics with UFLEXXTM. A world renowned resort superintendent in Las Vegas shared that the cost was less comparing the application rate and labor cost of a sewage-based organic. Those that are required to be phosphorus free, keep in mind that Nature Safe’s popular offering of 27-2-2 has now been completely phased out in favor of 27-0-2 and is immediately in stock for shipment. As an important side note, Nature Safe also has had a 50/50 blend of organics with ammonium sulfate with our 12-2-6 as another “tool in your belt” to help acidulate the soil by lowering the pH.

So whatever your needs are, Nature Safe’s commitment to address ever-changing state regulating requirements… we are here to serve you!

Bibliography

Angelo, Corey. Consultant/Owner of Soil & Water Consulting. Hoboken, N.J. (702) 756-4031

Miller, Kristen L. “State Laws Banning Phosphorus Fertilizer Use.” OLR Research Report. 1 Feb 2012. Web. 26 Jun 2012.

Posted in Phosphorous |

Zero Phosphorous Law Update

Zero Phosphorous Law Update
By Al Lanoie, Regional Sales Manager

I recently presented our Nature Safe products at a landscape and lawn care seminar in Danbury, CT. Many of the turf managers were from nearby Westchester County, NY where a zero phosphorus restriction and fertilizer application timing affect fertilizer users in this region.

Nature Safe addresses the zero phosphorus restrictions with product formulations like 9-0-9, 10-0-8 with kelp extract, 15-0-8 and the popular 27-0-2 with UFLEXXTM. The seminar attendees strongly supported these products and thought that as a fertilizer manufacturer Nature Safe has successfully addressed the zero phosphorus restriction with our product offering.

Here is an Update on the New York State Regulations as presented by a representative from the Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Beginning January 1, 2012, use of a phosphorus fertilizer on lawns or non-agricultural turf is restricted.
  • Application of any fertilizer on lawns or non-agricultural turf is prohibited between December 1 and April 1.
  • Application of any fertilizer on lawns or non-agricultural turf within 20 feet of a water body or on paved surfaces is restricted.

Distributors must display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizers and must post signs notifying customers of the terms of the laws.

Fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. We all know that the number in the middle is the percentage of phosphorus in the product.

The law allows an end user to continue to use phosphorus fertilizer on lawn and non-agricultural turf after January 1, 2012 if that fertilizer was purchased prior to the effective date of the law.

Fertilizers that are derived from composts may be applied to all turf sites between April 1st and November 30th, except within 20 feet of surface water. Despite flying under the radar, so to speak, most compost fertilizers (especially poultry litter-based fertilizers) often contain the highest amounts of contaminating phosphorous and contribute to leaching and run-off. We’re confident Nature Safe would fall under this compost exemption as well, but would not leach like manure derived products.

The most important message is to know your local laws as they can differ from county to county. Known restrictions in New York are as follows:

  • Suffolk County: No fertilizer application between November 1 and April 1.
  • Nassau County: No fertilizer application between November 15 and April 1.
  • Westchester County: Fertilizer must be zero phosphorus.
  • Chautauqua County: Fertilizer must be zero phosphorus. There’s no exception for 10 foot vegetative buffer or controlled application of the spreader which would be used within 20 feet of surface water.

New York is not the only state with phosphorous restrictions. New Jersey, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin and Florida have adopted lawn fertilizer reduction programs as well. You may want to further investigate the laws in these regions to see if there is an opportunity to introduce your customers to our zero phosphorous product line.

Posted in All, Phosphorous |

Is Your Turf Under ‘A-salt’?

Is Your Turf Under ‘A-salt’?
Reprinted in part from SportsTurf, May 2012, by Dara M. Park

Sports fields are constantly under attack. Insects, diseases, weeds, and shrinking budgets are the enemies. At least these enemies are visible. Yet there is another enemy lurking about: being assaulted with salts is becoming more common. Don’t assume that this issue pertains to places near the ocean. There are other ways salts sneak into turf.

Where salts come from
Yes, coastal areas see the greatest impacts from salt spray and/or irrigating with tidally influenced rivers, lakes and other surface waters. But salt problems are not limited to coastal areas. Other conditions where salts may be problematic include:

  • Turfgrass irrigated from naturally occurring saline aquifers.
  • Excessive removal of water from shallow freshwater aquifers can result in them being contaminated by saline water from underlying aquifers.
  • Irrigating with treated waste water; many times, salts are used as part of the treatment process.
  • Arid regions where salts concentrate in soils as water is lost through evapotranspiration and not replaced through rainfall or adequate irrigation.
  • Areas in droughts or dense populations where water conservation efforts result in constant water restrictions that limit irrigation.
  • Many deicers and snow melt chemicals are salt based. The salts are lost with water runoff. If that water is shunted to an irrigation pond, the pond water can become salinized.

Attacks on soil structure

There are many different salts out there: calcium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate just to name a few. Having many different salts present does not do much harm for your soil structure. Those divalent cations (2+ charges) magnesium (Mg2+) and calcium (Ca2+) act as bridges between the cation exchanges sites on soil particles. This results in aggregating the soil and promoting air and water movement.

And then there is sodium (Na+). Sodium is a monovalent cation (one + charge), and thus it does not act as a bridge between soil particles. Instead, Na fills each exchange site. In addition, Na is a very hydrous ion; it likes a lot of water. You can think of it as a very “bulky” ion and in being so, it pushes soil particles away from each other. This is called soil dispersion. When Na disperses soil particles there are little to no aggregates. Individual soil particles lay close together and the soil is susceptible to compaction resulting in very few pores for water and air movement. Water can no longer easily penetrate and move throughout the soil profile. Roots also have a hard time growing.

The degree of problems increases with the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of your soil. Since CEC is related to soil texture, knowing what your grass is growing on will help you quickly assess damage potential. Finer textured soils and soils with organic matter will have greater CEC than medium to coarse sand soils. Thus soil structure problems will be less in sandy soils.

Plant torture: salt induced battle scars
Under typical soil moisture conditions, plants have to overcome one major obstacle to take up water; the tension of water being held to soil particle surfaces. This is called matric tension. Plants must overcome another battle when salts are present, called osmotic tension. Think of this as the battle over water. Salts like water too and thus plants must work harder and exert more energy to battle the salts to take up the water. If too many salts are present, plants cannot take up enough water and begin to stress and wilt.

If Na disperses soil aggregates and ruins soil structure, turfgrasses may become water stressed because water is never getting to the root zone. Rather water from irrigation and rainfall is lost to runoff or evaporation from the surface. In addition, as water is taken up from the soil by the plant, some solutes are taken up as well. In concentrated amounts, toxicities can occur. Some turfgrasses have ways to deal with increased salts. For example, bermudagrass has salt excretion glands at the base of their blades. In general, warm-season grasses tend to be more salt tolerant than cool-season grasses. Grasses vary greatly in their tolerance to specific solutes. Besides root uptake, overhead irrigation with saline water may directly burn foliage. In both cases of direct injury, the plant may become stressed as it uses energy to repair tissue rather than for daily metabolic processes.

Knowing is half the battle

Any good attack starts with knowing your enemy. Get your irrigation water source analyzed. Make sure the test report includes Na, Cl, Mg, Ca, electrical conductivity, soil absorption ratio, and residual sodium carbonates. The lab should be able to help you interpret the results. If you have a saline and or sodium problem, you will need to also take soil samples to assess current soil conditions to determine which management practices you will need to take.

Management typically includes many of the following:

  • Aerifying to break up any salt crusts that may form (a great time to apply Nature Safe fertilizers)
  • Topdressing with coarse sand to improve water and air movement (incorporate Nature Safe into the topdressing)
  • Ensuring the drainage system is adequate.
  • Leaching the soil with every irrigation applying a leaching requirement if the soil salt status is to be maintained at its current level, or a reclamation factor if soil salt concentrations need to be lowered.
  • Applying an amendment directly to the soil or injected into the irrigation system to knock Na off the cation exchange sites and leach it past the root zone.

Nature Safe Fertilizers can also deliver solutions to help manage salt and water challenges. Nature Safe has a low salt index and contains chelated calcium that is slowly released to help leach salts from the soil. This results in lower total applied salts that minimize root damage and conditions the soil. Populations of beneficial microbes are increased and release minerals over a longer period. This reduces thatch composition and increases fertility efficiency.

With the cumulative use of Nature Safe, your turf will have better roots and higher reserves of carbohydrates, resulting in increased density and stress tolerance. The soil and plant will also utilize water more efficiently.

Posted in Disease Suppression |

Nature Safe and Spring Aeration

By Al Lanoie, Northeast Regional Manager

The subject of Nature Safe and spring aeration has been discussed and written about many times before. Here are some additional thoughts on the benefits of using Nature Safe at aeration time and how to increase sales opportunities in a stagnant golf market. The bottom line is if your customers go through the hassle of aeration, they should maximize the benefits of this critical cultural practice by fertilizing with Nature Safe.

Aerification improves long term turfgrass health and playability while creating short term turfgrass stresses and player inconveniences. The high amino acid content of Nature Safe contributes to faster turf recovery and less summer heat stress due to increase root mass and depth.

One of the most important reasons for aeration is the removal and reduction of thatch build up in turf – especially on putting surfaces. As thatch accumulates, the root zone receives less oxygen, water, and nutrients. Nature Safe aids in the reduction of thatch with sugars and carbohydrates that are present in the various formulations we offer.

In addition to improved aerification recovery times, superintendents using Nature Safe are also experiencing increased tolerance to other turfgrass stresses, such as heat, drought, cold and disease pressures compared to turf not treated with Nature Safe. These stress tolerance attributes are helping superintendents decrease their dependency on irrigation and less chemical inputs to manage their turfgrass.

If you do the math of just focusing on your top 25 customers and position Nature Safe only for aeration, the total benefits to your customer, your business and your wallet are amazing!

Here are recommended programs for greens, tees, fairways, and sports turf:

Greens (1 lb N/M)
5-6-6 F 17 bags/acre
8-3-5 SF 11 bags/acre
10-0-8 SF 9 bags/acre
12-2-6 F 7 bags/acre

Tees (In addition to above)
10-2-8 F 9 bags/acre
15-0-8 F 6 bags/acre

Fairways/Lawncare (In addition to above)
10-2-8 C 9 bags/acre
15-0-8 C 6 bags/acre
21-3-7 C 4 bags/acre
27-2-2/27-0-2 C 3 bags/acre

Contact your Nature Safe representative at 1-800-252-4727 if you have any questions about putting together a spring aerification package for your customers. Good luck and great selling during this Happy New Year!

Posted in All |

Does Nature Safe Have Any Competitors?

By Mike McCarthy, Western Regional Manager

There are two old adages: 1) “Copying is the sincerest form of flattery,” and 2)“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Such must be the case with a competitor’s newest organic manure blended product introductions and baseless claims of content and performance. Perhaps it should be suggested that a good brand name for their products might be “Whisper”, because it contains at the most, 33%-35% organic manure content by volume, and just a whisper of organic value.

Ever since Nature Safe’s successful introduction of 27-2-2/27-0-2 which is a 50/50 blend of Nature Safe’s USDA food grade animal proteins, combined with UFLEXXTM stabilized urea, the fertilizer marketplace has been inundated with cheap copycats trying to imitate and confuse customers by deceit, and blatantly making false claims…“It’s just like Nature Safe, only cheaper”. Yes, that is an actual quote relayed to me by a Denver, CO based golf course superintendent.

Yes, those competitors may have a cheaper cost per bag, but they are, in fact, definitely more expensive. These boastful competitors do not mention that they use chicken manure, sewage sludge or bio-solids to provide their lesser valued “organic” ingredient content.

Here are three main points of concern:

1. How available is the organic nitrogen to the turf/plant? Nature Safe has several university research studies indicating that our feather, meat, bone and blood meals are more readily available to the plant in 12 weeks. This happens more quickly than any other organic ingredients.

2. Amino acid content, which directly translates as “food quality value”, is as much as six times higher in Nature Safe animal protein ingredients as compared to chicken manure and sewage sludge. This is proven by independent research from Clemson University*.

3. Nature Safe’s salt content is .006% when all other organic manure contents are off the charts. Then what about the heavy metal content of sewage sludge? Do your soil and/or water tests show that you are deficient in Mercury, Cadmium and other heavy metals?

Just consider how available the organic nitrogen is to the plant. Research from North Carolina State University* further proved that it took up to two years to release the NPK value of chicken manure to the turf/plant. That same research also proved that the highest amount of N value from chicken manure was 3.6%. When you compare the nutrient release value of Nature Safe’s 13-0-0 at a 99% in three months versus organic manure ingredients that can take up to 24 months to fully release, the nutritional value would equal much less than 1% during that same period. You have to ask yourself how much value is in the bag?

Even if the competitor’s release values were similar (which they are not) consider the value of the food quality that is closer defined as amino acid content. Here is where Nature Safe Natural and Organic Fertilizers score the highest. A good example would be to compare the food value (basic seven) of a Twinkie as compared to filet mignon. Some would say that they are both delicious, but what is the “food quality value” comparison? Would your body and future health benefit more from the Twinkie or steak? That same logic of science holds true in the food quality benefit that is available to the soil microbes. How much value is in the bag?

Salt content may be only regional in importance, especially if you are concerned about drought-like conditions or if your water source is a problem. There are volumes of research available online that has considered the high salinity already present in the soil, perhaps you might want to reconsider adding even more salt from organic manure based fertilizers. Is it really cheaper in the long run?

So, to answer the article’s title question, “Does Nature Safe have any competitors?” The answer is a definite NO. Research, logic, applications and more importantly, the results have proven this repeatedly. It is imperative that you help your customer recognize the facts by reading the product label to correctly value and compare the true cost of available units of N to translate the value in the bag and not fall prey to “…but liars figure”.

Posted in All |

Soil Microbes = Free Labor

By Lou Newman, Southeastern Regional Manager

The economy continues to put pressure on superintendents everywhere. Rounds played continue to be at best level with last year. Costs go up while budgets are stagnant or decreasing and expectations are as high as ever. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to get some free labor to help provide nutrition to your course? There is, and it’s right under everybody’s nose…or should I say feet!
That’s right, in every soil there is the potential for free help from billions of helpers, if we would but use them. They are called microbes, microorganisms, soil life, biota or soil fauna. They exist in some form and at some level in every soil whether a sand based man-made green, a landscaped bed, a native fairway or an untouched wetland.

Soils have three major components, minerals, organic matter and biota. The major thrust of all research and learning for the past century has been with the mineral component. We are well versed in the required levels of all chemical elements. In this school of thought, soil is more or less viewed as only a means to hold roots and transfer soluble elements to the roots of the plant. And while this is obviously a critical and important facet of plant nutrition, it is not the full story.

Organic matter (OM) has a long acknowledged role in soil structure. While it comprises only about 2-5% of soil mass, it can play a large part in water holding capacity, drainage, soil buffering and compaction resistance. In the last two decades more and more turf managers (and farmers for that matter) understand the need to maintain adequate levels of OM. Once thought of as only the bane of turf managers in the form of thatch, OM in the soil profile is recognized as a necessary factor in the healthy growth of plants, especially roots.

We are now on the cusp of recognizing and utilizing the third major component of soil, and that is the soil life. Soil biota is a term that encompasses all living organisms from earthworms to bacteria. The vast majority of soil life is in the form of bacteria. These little guys are very intimately involved in a huge cross section of all chemical changes that occur in soil. They consume carbon, they convert nitrogen, they render insoluble minerals available, they secrete substances that build soil structure, they create heat that warms root zones as well as a myriad of other processes, some of which we are still discovering.

Fungi decompose organic matter, create humus and, perhaps most importantly, through Mycorrhiza, make vast amounts of nutrition available to plants by altering availability and increasing a roots capacity for water uptake and drought resistance.

We have long thought of bacteria and fungi only in the terms of pathogens that are to be avoided, controlled or eliminated. But we have overlooked the beneficial organisms and their effects. By promoting the growth of beneficial microbes, we reduce the possibility of incidence of pathogens. Only one organism can occupy a given space at a time. This is the biological rule termed competitive exclusion. Beneficials are far more adaptive than pathogens and given the chance will out-compete pathogens for a place in the soil.

These are the billions of little workers that we can use to help establish prize winning turf. These guys work 24/7. In warm weather, when plants grow faster and require more food, beneficial microbes also increase in activity. In cool weather, plants slow down, and so do these little guys. They help make insoluble chemical forms soluble, they capture soluble forms and hold it for a few days as part of their bodies. Though tiny, their sheer numbers amount to far more mass than historically recognized. And to keep them happy, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Harsh chemicals can reduce the number of soil microbes. Any sudden increase in chemistry can kill off beneficials, and in some cases make it easier for pathogens to get established
  • Most fertilizers are salt based, and the high application of soluble, salt based products can literally dry out microorganisms just as they can damage roots and cause desiccation.
  • Slow release fertilizers are better suited to maintaining microbe populations. The availability of chemicals in a slower release pattern does not disturb soil life to any great extent.
  • Microbes consume more than just simple available nutrients. They like carbon and proteins. This is what they are made of and it is natural that they are well suited for exploiting these substances for their own use.

Nature Safe is produced to feed this microbial population. Nature Safe is slow release nutrition, protein based nitrogen and phosphorous, is easy to apply, feeds for months, has an extremely low salt index and promotes the growth of soil microbes so they not only capture the nutrition in the Nature Safe, but also from native soil minerals and conventional fertilizers.

Plant nutrition is not a chemical system, it is a biochemical system, and recognizing it as such means you can do a better job. Used alone, or applied with conventional fertilizers in fairway blends, Nature Safe will increase the microbe populations putting all these guys to work for you. It’s free labor, who works overtime, with one goal in mind. Isn’t it time to put them to work for you?

Posted in All |

Turf Tip

Nature Safe provides information about how to fertilize your turf with region-specific programs that include standard rates and timings and formulation suggestions. There are many factors that influence these rates and timings. It is important that each turf area be fertilized according to its needs. For example, some areas require more nitrogen fertilization because they are highly trafficked and need additional N to promote growth and recovery. In other areas, well-established lawns may need less nitrogen fertilization because they have more organic matter in the soil. Go to Nature Safe’s web site at www.naturesafe.com or contact your Nature Safe representative for specific programs to fit your customer’s turf needs.

Posted in All, Turf Tips |

Nature Safe for Summer Stress and Overseed

By Natural Choice Editor

In the United States this year, golf course superintendents have been put to the test with all kinds of weather extremes. Mother Nature has reeked havoc in Florida and Texas with unbelievable heat and drought, tremendous flooding in parts of the Midwest and warmer than normal temperatures throughout the country. Nature Safe products can help turfgrass through all these extremes.

Nature Safe will not leach or runoff and, with a low salt index, Nature Safe has an extremely low burn potential and is ideal for improving the turf quality, appearance and health of these areas. Nature Safe will put energy back into the turf and improve turf density and soil water retention as well as encourage aggressive root development. These areas will be better equipped to deal with the conditions inherent to these problem areas.

Where Nature Safe is used on fairways, you will see improved appearance, improved health and less need for iron and other applications.

Nature Safe is also a natural for overseed, providing excellent seed establishment and a vigorous start to your overseed application. Nature Safe will also take care of your primary turf that is being stressed by the presence of the overseed. The overseed will use up much of the available energies and plant food in the soil that the primary turf would otherwise have access to. Nature Safe will enhance the health of your dominant turf during this stressful time and will not keep it from going dormant. This will become more evident in the spring when you transition from your overseed. Your dominant turf will have greater concentrations of energy and plant food that will allow it to aggressively put down roots and grow in the spring.

For bunker faces, steep slopes and mounds typically found in the fairway, use Nature Safe 10-2-8 at 3/4 lb. of N per application. Apply Nature Safe to these target areas as soon as possible. The turf in these areas is typically thin. Getting Nature Safe in the system now will help halt the thinning and will encourage new rooting and improved turf density and appearance. Make another application in late fall or early winter as a dormant feed. Your next application would be in early summer after transition.

When overseeding, apply Nature Safe one week prior to overseed application. Use Nature Safe 10-2-8 or 8-3-5 at 1/2 lb.- 3/4 lb. of N per 1,000 sq. ft. This will help your overseed get established and provide the dominant turf with adequate energy and plant food as it deals with the stress of overseed. This will also allow it to go dormant with increased reserves that will aid in transition in the spring.

Posted in All, Dormant Feed & Overseed, General, Summer Stress |

All Star Performance

By Mike McCarthy, West Coast Regional Manager

Maybe you recall from your childhood when your favorite uncle or other elder relative rubbed your tussled head of hair and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Your mind quickly raced through a wide variety of possibilities and you said, “Maybe an astronaut to leave my footprints on the moon or baseball player who hits the grand slam home run to win the World Series, or maybe even a turf grass expert that represents Nature Safe Natural and Organic Fertilizers!”

Some of those thoughts ran through my mind as I intently watched both All Star games this season. Foremost was the Triple A All Star game played at Spring Mobile Park, home to the Salt Lake Bees in Salt Lake City, Utah. As an invited guest (eating several hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks) I sat glued in my seat as the International League won 3 to 0 against my much beloved Pacific League. A day earlier, I had watched the National League win 5 to 1 over the American league game that was played and televised from Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. I proudly realized that both nationally renowned sports stadiums played on turf completely treated with Nature Safe products.

In the case of the Triple A Spring Mobile Park, the SL Bees team home stadium, their turf program is documented in a previous newsletter (November 2010) about how their newly renovated field was transformed completely using only Nature Safe fertilizers. More recently, after a music concert venue had destroyed a portion of the outfield, it was resodded using only Nature Safe 5-6-6 on the bare topsoil followed by an application of 10-2-8. Multiple applications of Nature Safe 27-2-2 with a 50/50 organic blend with UFLEXXTM Stabilized Urea were made later.

I had the privilege to walk the entire stadium at Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and site of the American-National League All Star game with Grant Trenbeath, Head Grounds Manager. He proudly detailed his high level of satisfaction with Nature Safe and promised his continued support and use with a similar Nature Safe fertilizer regimen that also included 5-6-6, 10-2-8 and 27-2-2. Grant proclaimed, “The field looked the best ever in 10 years.” I must admit that he applied ammonium sulfate along with a spray application of iron during the season.

It’s also interesting to note that Nature Safe Natural and Organic Fertilizers are used by several professional sports venues to include, but not limited to, Kansas City Royals (the host site for the 2012 All Star Game), Omaha Storm Chasers, Colorado Rockies, Indianapolis Indians, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, California Angels, Salt River Sports Complex (home to Rockies and Diamondbacks spring training), and Colorado Rapids Soccer. The grounds managers of these facilities recognize the benefits of Nature Safe in building a strong soil foundation leading to turf grass that is more resistant to drought, heat, shade and salt stressors.

All of this brought other success stories to mind as well. The 20-something-year-old All Star baseball players most likely began their young careers on the athletic fields of the public and private schools they attended. Public schools systems like Poway Unified Schools use Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 exclusively on all 42 of their athletic fields. Other educational facilities using Nature Safe include Boulder City Colorado Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools. Some of these athletes probably played a pick-up game of baseball at city parks in Walnut Creek and San Marcos, CA or Bend, OR where Nature Safe is exclusively utilized. Perhaps these players attended college and played baseball for San Diego State, University of California, Brigham Young University, Azusa Pacific University and Concordia University – all current success stories incorporating Nature Safe in their campus and athletic field turf programs.

Nature Safe Natural and Organic Fertilizers is proud of our all star performance. With parent company Griffin Industries/Darling International we will continue to demonstrate exceptional product quality, performance and industry leadership for another 68 years and beyond!

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Products Get Great Reviews

By Al Lanoie, Northeast Regional Manager

NS 10-0-8 With Kelp Extract

Nature Safe’s 10-0-8 with Kelp Extract has become a popular product and is receiving great reviews after its introduction at the 2011 Golf Industry Show. This new product is 100% organic utilizing Nature Safe’s blend of proteins and Ocean Organics® Kelp Extract. This kelp extract is made using Ocean Organics’ exclusive cold water extraction process to remove the nutrients from their seaweed. The kelp works with the proteins to aid root development, plant nutrient uptake and improve stress tolerance.

Following the Golf Course Show in Orlando, I worked with distributor Metro Turf Products and Labriola Landscaping and Lawn Care in White Plains, New York. Labriola is a long-term Nature Safe user and a firm believer in organic nutrition. They apply Nature Safe on some of the most exclusive properties including the Pepsi Cola World Headquarters.

During our meeting, the conversation centered on 10-0-8 and how the addition of kelp extract would be a superior blend to any other supplemental programs that Labriola was using in conjunction with Nature Safe. The kelp extract enhances the performance of the Nature Safe to provide a dense and fibrous root system that acts as a pre-stress conditioner. A truckload of product was ordered and applied.

Fast forward to July 2011. I met with Labriola to follow up on our spring meeting. They were very impressed with the performance of the 10-0-8. “The turf had never looked so good despite the summer stress. I think the rooting and denser turf contributed to the turf’s performance,” said Brian Rusnack of Labriola. “In addition to deeper rooting, weed competition was eliminated because of the health of the turf,” said Rusnack. “Supplemental applications to complement organic fertilizer applications would not be needed. I have become a firm believer in this product – seeing is believing and the performance of the turf speaks for itself.”

NS 10-2-8 With PBS 150 Long-term Soil Surfactant

This product is a blend of NS 10-2-8 with a long-term soil surfactant manufactured by Aqua-Aid and blended by NS distributor Andre and Son. This blend provides organic nutrition and prevents the formation of localized dry spot. It also enhances the delivery of water to the plant from irrigation and rainfall.

I met with Scott Dodson, Superintendent of the exclusive Park Club in Buffalo, New York. I mentioned this product would be great on bunker faces, tees, clubhouse grounds and approaches where the soil may differ from the soil used on putting surfaces. Scott used the product this spring and summer. “This product is phenomenal. The turf has been under heat and drought stress and has never been better. We even eliminated the need for over watering,” said Dodson. “The membership has complimented me on the grounds surrounding the 18th green and clubhouse because of the aesthetic beauty they were noticing and enjoying.”

These are two great products to get prepared for next year’s golf season.

Posted in All |

Turf Tip

Dollar Spot (Sclerotinia homoecarpa) is a common summer disease found on many turf species but is most common on Bermudagrass. This disease is found more prevalent on neglected turf or areas that are under moisture or nutritional stress caused by the lack of nitrogen. Warm humid weather with heavy dew promotes the disease, which begins as small (2-3 inch) circular dead spots throughout the turf. These small spots can then grow together to form much larger blighted turf. Fungicides are effective in controlling dollar spot but a good Nature Safe fertilization and watering program will also help manage this turf disease.

Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. wwells@ext.msstate.edu

Posted in All, Turf Tips |

The Power of Organics

Lou Newman, Regional Manager

Nature Safe not only formulates fertilizers for the professional sports turf, landscape and golf industries but we also sell extensively to the organic agriculture market. This organic segment of the overall value of all organic crops in the agriculture market has grown about 15-20% annually for the last decade. Today, organic agriculture products are estimated to be a $26 B (yes, billion!) market.

The principles of plant growth used by turf customers are exactly the same as those used by farmers and growers in corn, cotton, tobacco, soybeans, vegetables and fruits. Nature Safe has the same benefits when growing a crop for harvest as it does when growing a crop for durability and appearance.

These basics are the Nature Safe story. Feed the soil microorganisms that mineralize and make available plant nutrients and they, in turn, will feed the plants. In organic agriculture it is important to have a well balanced soil with active soil life. Research at many institutions across all crop lines have repeatedly shown that healthier, less stressed crops have far less loss in production from insects and diseases. Pathogens in general are opportunistic and will do the most damage against plants that have less vitality.

These basics are the Nature Safe story. Feed the soil microorganisms that mineralize and make available plant nutrients and they, in turn, will feed the plants. In organic agriculture it is important to have a well balanced soil with active soil life. Research at many institutions across all crop lines have repeatedly shown that healthier, less stressed crops have far less loss in production from insects and diseases. Pathogens in general are opportunistic and will do the most damage against plants that have less vitality.

Farmers are the most difficult to change and are the most skeptical consumers in the world. They have been successful over a long period, and have seen methods and products come and go. So, when I make a presentation to an agriculture group, I know they will want to see results.

This is just what happened to me in North Carolina. After a presentation a farmer approached me and with many of his colleagues standing by stated that if I was so sure that Nature Safe was so good, surely I would give him some to try on his pastures. If it worked, he’d be glad to pay for it later.

Well, if there’s anything tighter than a hill country farmer, it would be my boss, Rick Geise. I didn’t want to turn the guy down, but then again Rick would want some valid justification for something like this. Besides, the farm dealer at whose store I made the presentation was going pale just thinking about giving out free goods and then trying to collect based on feel good results.

So, having been in many a previous rodeo I told the gentleman let me do it this way. You buy what you need and if you are not satisfied, you tell the store owner and I’ll credit him with any refund he has to make to you. The farmer got a twinkle in his eye, I guess because he liked the haggling as much as anything and he agreed. All eyes were going to be on this fella’s pasture, no doubt.

I didn’t hear much of anything, but also was never asked for a credit. Then the other day the store owner sent me photos. Not only was the farmer satisfied, but by the end of the season, he preferred the organic fields. And if you look at the shots you can see why.

Side by side fields were fertilized on the same day at the same rate of N. The photos were taken last fall on rye grass pastures.

Nature Safe may be a simple idea, but the power of unleashing multiple trillions of soil microbes to work on your behalf should never be underestimated. This is what made a believer out of an otherwise doubtful farmer. The farmer can put more cattle on the Nature Safe side than on the same area of the conventional. Thus, he makes more money so his return is better. Besides, did you notice what those conventional fertilizers did to that tree?

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All, Organic Farming, Testimonial |

At Nature Safe, We’re Looking For Trouble

By Lou Newman, Regional Manager

Most companies avoid trouble, shy away from challenges and eschew difficult situations. NOT US! You always thought Nature Safe was kind of…well, different. We are and we’re proud of it.

Every course has trouble spots, and we want you to try us as the remedy. Let’s take a look at some problems that are common to many courses that should be looked at as opportunities for Nature Safe.

Greens: Sure, they need special attention and can make or break a course (or a superintendent’s career!). After aeration, greens are tender and fickle and need to be handled carefully. They are vulnerable to distress from moisture, heat, wind and disease. Nature Safe has built its reputation on providing nutrition to tender roots. Our slow release formulations do not dump fertilizer, so damaged roots can heal and grow without having to worry about burn or leaching. A year-round program of Nature Safe on greens and tees builds strong roots that regenerate quickly after aeration without excessive top growth. Our protein base feeds beneficial soil microbes and gives them the upper hand on crowding out pathogens which can mean less disease and spraying of chemicals.

Tees: I don’t know about your golf game, but there are times when, by the time we get to the green, I may not even be in the hole anymore! So, while greens are crucial, tees are actually the most used and seen parts of any course. No matter how bad I play on a hole, and no matter how early I cry “Mea Culpa,” I always get to tee off on the next hole. Plus, tees can get more traffic in more concentrated areas than greens. So treat them as carefully as you do greens. Using Nature Safe year-round will build strong roots so grass withstands the foot traffic. And on par 3’s, divot marks heal over faster.

Practice tees: Talk about traffic and divot marks, practice tees get the worst. Do not overlook this vital area in a Nature Safe program. Even people who don’t play that day may visit the practice tee. Their impression of the course could well come from 30 minutes on the practice area. Three to four Nature Safe applications a year will let the area withstand the wear and tear a lot better.

New sod: Whether patching, re-working or planting new, Nature Safe is the perfect product for use on sod and seeded areas. Tender new roots can thrive without fear of burning. You’ll need to water for the plants to grow, but you will not have to water just to insure the fertilizer does not burn or build up. As Nature Safe breaks down and becomes available it feeds as the plant grows. No harsh salts build up. The fertilizer will lie in place until adequate moisture is available for the plant to grow, then it will release as needed. Large rain events will not leach away nutrition as can happen even with some high tech coated fertilizers. And while high temps will allow more microbe activity and make more of the Nature Safe nutrition available, it will reach a point of diminished activity – just like plants that start to shut down at extremely high temps. Even some of the best complex nitrogen products available can run into faster release under high temperatures meaning the nitrogen you paid for will be wasted and not able to be used by the plant.

Dry spots: Every course has dry spots and they can drive superintendents crazy. Some are due to construction missteps where too much top soil was taken off. Some can be the result of years of erosion. Some are too exposed to south facings of winter winds. Some are on steep inclines and drain so fast that they are hard to keep watered. Try recommending a combination of Nature Safe and a good wetting agent/surfactant. You can bucket mix Nature Safe with any granular wetting agent. Spread it carefully on the dry spots and be sure to provide adequate water at the correct rate. Repeated use in these spots will mean a softening of the ground. The Nature Safe will nurture healthy roots which help in water percolation leading to a better grass canopy. The improved canopy will further add to the softening and root penetration leading to less and less evidence of the dryness problems.

Shady areas: Great trees on a course add character, beauty and challenges. But along with that comes shade, whether on fairways, roughs or greens. Research shows that the concentrated protein characteristics of Nature Safe help build grass even in shady situations. Nature Safe promotes the growth, activity and population increase of soil microorganisms. As unicellular animals, soil microbes generate carbon dioxide as a by-product of respiration, just like more complex animals. This increase in CO2 means grasses can store more energy in their roots more efficiently. This magnifies the impact of sunlight during photosynthesis. This higher content of stored food is what the plant relies on during heavy shade periods. Grasses decline less and at a much slower rate meaning better coverage that can withstand more shade.

High traffic: Ever been on a golf course and seen the cart tracks that criss-cross the fairway, particularly next to a cart limit sign or past a curb that keeps you on the cart path? These high traffic areas can become hard packed and eventually dry spots. The answer is a strong, vibrant root system. As the canopy is degraded by traffic, only strong roots can regenerate top growth. Plus these roots help break up any subsurface pan that develops and allows water percolation. Nature Safe’s slower, yet programmable delivery of easily digestible proteins build the root strength that is required to offset the wear and tear from high traffic.

Bunker faces: Hard to cut, water and feed, bunker faces can be maintenance nightmares. Highly soluble fertilizers create soft, leaf tissue with overly aggressive leaf expansion and elongation. Using Nature Safe means fewer application operations, which are usually by hand, as well as less need to cut back unnecessary growth. Nature Safe will provide deep green color with far less maintenance requirements.

So next time you are presented with any of these issues, just remember, at Nature Safe we’re looking for trouble!

Posted in All, General |

Analyzing Fertilizer Costs

By Lou Newman, Regional Manager

Usually our first analysis of fertilizer costs is a simple price per ton comparison: Example A is $400.00/ton and Example B is $600.00/ton. Example A is less expensive and is the better buy. Right?

Then we realize that the fertilizer analysis greatly affects the true cost of a fertilizer. The formulation for Example A is 8-8-8 at a cost of $16.67/unit of active ingredient. 8+8+8 = 24 ($400/24=16.67)

The formulation for Example B is 13-13-13 at a cost of $15.38/unit of active ingredient. 13+13+13 = 39 ($600/39 = $15.38).

Lo and behold the product that costs 50% more per ton is the better buy!

We soon understand that the form in which the fertilizer is delivered has a tremendous influence on the value we get.

Example C is a 21-0-0 that feeds for 21 days for $300/ton. One unit of N costs $.95. 2000 lbs. x 21% = 420 lbs. N. $300/420 lbs. = $.83/unit of N. 420 lbs. N/21 day release = 20 lbs./day N release. 20 lbs./day released @ $.83 = $16.63/day of N release.

Example D is a 40-0-0 that feeds for 112 days for $900/ton. One unit of N costs $1.25. 2,000 lbs. x 40% = 800 lbs. N. $900/800 lbs. = $1.13/unit of N. 800 lbs. N/112 day release = 7.14 lbs./day N release. 7.14 lbs./day release @ $1.13 = $8.07/day N release.

So, even though Example D costs more per ton and more per unit, it is more cost effective due to the form it is in and the release characteristics of that form.

Yet as informative as that is, today’s conditions warrant an even closer and more honest scrutiny of the effectiveness of a fertilizer. Business is still in a recovery stage. Budgets are tight. Environmental considerations are becoming more important and compelling. And every expenditure must be closely examined. That brings us to the next stage of analyzing fertilizer effectiveness, and that is…how much of what is applied is actually used by the plant? The University of Florida is doing extensive research on this with many forms of fertilizer. They have coined a term for the comparison figure. It is PAN, which stands for Plant Available Nutrition.

What are some of the factors affecting how much of a fertilizer is actually taken up by the plant?

Leaching. Soluble nutrition that is moved through the effective root zone without being utilized by the plant. This can reach up to 20% of the applied fertilizer, although 8-12% is considered normal.

Runoff. Soluble nutrition that is washed from the surface into surrounding areas without the target plants using it. This is a huge but unmeasured loss. Groundwater pollution, surface water pollution, wetland endangerment, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, fish kills from oxygen starvation…these are some of the evidence of fertilizer runoff. It is resulting in many areas enacting regulations and ordinances that limit the type and timing of fertilizer applications.

Volatilization. Nutrient chemicals being rendered gaseous by environmental factors. If you apply nitrogen and smell ammonia, then nitrogen is being volatilized. For example, recent research at Auburn University measured uncoated urea volatilization when surface applied to be routinely 25% of N! That’s a quarter of your money literally going up in smoke!

Solarization. Sunlight can cause some chemicals to change form and become less available to plants. This is particularly true with soluble liquid applications for foliar feeding. Largely unmeasured, evidence of the degree of severity of this phenomena is leaf burn, salt buildup and need to increase fertilizer amounts applied over time.

PAN should be considered for any fertilizer used and the relative cost of the product will be greatly affected by the consideration of the actual amount of fertilizer nutrition that the target plants utilize.

This is where Nature Safe shines.

1. Processed protein based organic fertilizer.

a. Processed protein means higher analysis than other organics; and b. processed protein means 100% release over 12 weeks. Other organics vary from 50-90% release over a full year.

2. Does not burn.

3. Does not leach.

4. No runoff.

5. Biologically released. The nutrition in Nature Safe is delivered in an unavailable form. This characteristic is what keeps it from leaching, volatilizing, solarizing or running off. It must be consumed by soil microorganisms to then become available to plants. Biological processes of both plants and animals are affected by heat and moisture. If it is warm and humid, plants grow faster and soil microbes (animals) are more active. Plant nutrition demand is higher and Nature Safe availability is higher. In cold weather, plant growth slows, but so does microbe activity. So, Nature Safe nutrition stays where it is until needed.

a. With chemical fertilizers, moisture can affect release. In many cases, especially in early spring or late fall, cool, wet conditions allow soluble fertilizer components to release without the plant being able to take them up. This nutrition is wasted, and is one factor in fertilizer elements leaching and running off.

b. Because Nature Safe is biologically released, it is 100% efficient, so what you pay for is actually used by the target plant.

So, to return to the math we did earlier, let’s see how PAN can make Nature Safe a better buy.

Example E is a 10-2-8 that feeds for 84 days @ $1,280/ton. One unit of active ingredient costs $3.20. 2,000 lbs. x 20% active ingredient = 400 lbs. $1,280/400 lbs. = $3.20/lb. active ingredient. 400 lbs. active ingredient/84 day release = 4.76 lbs. release/day. 4.76 lbs./day release @ $3.20/day = $15.23/day active ingredient release.

Example C = $16.63/day Example D = $8.07/day Example E = $15.23/day

Nature Safe looks better than you thought against a soluble product, doesn’t it?

Now, allow a little conjecture and consider pricing using PAN.

Example C = $16.63/day. It is not out of the question that a soluble N form of fertilizer could lose 35% of it’s contained analysis through leaching, vaporization, runoff and solarization, especially if ill timed regarding temperature and rain events. That cost would then rise to a whopping $23.28 per day!

Example D = $8.07/day. Even in this more complex form, losses of 25% are far more common that one would think, especially in temperatures that are very cool or very warm. Given a 25% unused nutrition, this cost rises to $10.08/day.

Example E = (Nature Safe) $15.23/day. With no loss due to environmental factors, it stays at $15.23/day.

How much of what is applied is actually used by the plant?

The perceived tremendous gap between Nature Safe and conventional fertilizers narrows considerably. It is actually a lower cost to use than some of the “cheap” forms of fertilizer, and much more competitive to the more complex forms. This is quite an accomplishment for an organic. And if that were the end of the story, you can still feel good about using Nature Safe. What else do you get for your money?

Unlike conventional chemical fertilizers, Nature Safe delivers far more than just nutritional elements!

a. Increases soil microorganism populations. This makes for healthier soil. Microbes increase the mineralization of native soil elements already present and make them more available to plants and can help delay the loss of applied fertilizers due to leaching and other factors. Active carbon processing microbes can also lessen thatch.

b. Micronutrients. Nature Safe can contain up to 75% proteins. Proteins are made up of amino acids and amino acids are natural chelating agents. Micronutrients that are part of the amino acid chains are readily available to plants. This makes for deep green foliage, healthy roots, heavy flowering and deep flower color.

c. Suppresses disease. When beneficial microbe populations are enhanced, pathogenic microorganisms are less able to compete, resulting in less need to control diseases with chemicals. This means less labor and lower chemical costs.

d. Humic Acids. Humic acids help plants take up nutrition and use them efficiently. Many products are now on the market that allow you to add humic acids and other bio-enhancers. Nature Safe already has them.

e. Greens foliage without flushing growth. Due to the nature of release by soil life, Nature Safe results in an even, programmable growth. This eliminates flush growth after application or a significant rain event. Eliminating flush growth lowers the amount of clippings collected and lessens thatch potential. Soft water growth is also linked to disease incidence.

Nature Safe comes in many formulations. Some are all organic and some are fortified with the many of the best nitrogen chemistries available. Cost analysis on these N fortified products would show an even closer comparison than the 10-2-8 all organic used in the exercise.

Some distributors have blending capabilities and use our 13-0-0 blending base to formulate custom fertilizers. By adding 200-500 lbs. of Nature Safe per ton in your conventional blend you gain the benefits of Nature Safe while also managing costs and tailoring your analysis to your particular needs.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

New 10-0-8 Super Fine with Kelp Extract

By Al Lanoie, Regional Manager

Nature Safe’s extensive product line of 100% organic nutrition has always featured 10-2-8 as a popular broad spectrum fertilizer for golf, schools, universities, sports turf, municipalities, lawn care and landscape customers.

Many areas of the country are restricting the use of phosphorus fertilizer, not only at certain times of the year, but for the entire growing season. The development of Nature Safe 10-0-8 Super Fine with a biocatalyst of kelp extract is a great option for those affected by a phosphorous ban as well for applications where the agronomic challenge requires the performance benefits of a biocatalyst.

The kelp comes from Ocean Organics, a manufacturer of turf products for over 30 years with extensive university research to back their product offering. Nature Safe is pleased to join forces with Ocean Organics to provide a new formulation to you and your customers. The biocatalyst is the synergistic combination of the most powerful blend of cytokinins and auxins applied to Nature Safe. This addition to the fertilizer enhances the effectiveness to increase the performance of the fertilizer earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Nature Safe with Kelp Extract will be the premier product to use at aeration as a pre-stress conditioner to develop the most dense fibrous root system before entering the heat and drought of the summer months.

Posted in All, News, Phosphorous |

It’s All About The Value

By Al Lanoie, Regional Manager

In the northeast territory, fertilizer costs and increased pricing is a big topic of discussion. The price of synthetic fertilizers continues to rise while Nature Safe’s pricing has remained consistent and unchanged for over a year. Now is the perfect time to consider products for spring aeration or to expand usage on larger turf areas, such as golf fairways. Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 is the most cost-effective formulation for this type of application. This product is also excellent for landscape and lawn care companies.

Nature Safe’s university research supports the performance of our products and the benefits of increasing soil microbial populations. Synthetic fertilizer and higher prices do not promote an increase in beneficial microbes. Microbial populations are increased by carbon; synthetic fertilizers do not have that advantage.

I always position Nature Safe as having the highest concentration of organic nutrition in a bag, and the best value out of the bag when the product is applied. Certain areas of the country are forcing fertilizer applications to be phosphorus free. Nature Safe offers 10-0-8 and 15-0-8 that help support the lawn care and landscape market segments in addition to municipalities, pars and recreation facilities that are affected by restrictions.

Value is important to all of the market segments mentioned above. They all have a defined annual budget and the turf managers at these facilities want to expand those budget dollars to other projects. As you can see, there are many benefits of an organic fertilizer in your turf management program.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs, Phosphorous |

A Shining Example

By Ken Quandt Regional Manager

The Woods Golf Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin is a shining example of the benefits derived from a regular and consistent Nature Safe program. When Ed Hoover first assumed the position of Superintendent at The Woods seven years ago, it was at best, a below average public golf course. The greens had been constructed with some poor soil mixes. Not only were the greens hard, they could not sustain healthy turf during the summer months. As a result, The Woods had a reputation for losing substantial amounts of turf on their greens every year. These greens were resodded twice before Ed came to The Woods, but they continued to die off every summer. They were also susceptible to summer diseases like dollar spot. The Woods is located only a very short distance from Lake Michigan and the cool nights with high humidity provide ideal conditions for dollar spot and other fungus diseases during the summer months. In the winter months the heavy snow cover provides the right conditions for snow mold. These conditions were responsible for a hefty outlay each year for control chemicals.

Ed had formerly worked for a Nature Safe distributor and he understood the cumulative effects of Nature Safe. He cautioned the club owners not to expect immediate miracles and he began a Nature Safe program. For the first two years, he deep tine aerated his greens twice per year, applied two bags of Nature Safe 5-6-6 per green, top dressed with a fine grade sand and dragged it, along with the Nature Safe into the holes. Ed now aerates only once a year. The greens slowly started to improve and they were playable for the entire summer with no turf loss. Each year since the Nature Safe program was instituted the greens have continued to improve. They are now much softer and hold a well played shot into the greens. The greens were also much less susceptible to diseases. Dollar spot and snow mold became less of a problem due to the high level of beneficial microbes being built up in the soil to compete with the pathogens and the fungicide expenditures declined each year.

The tees at the Woods also benefited from a Nature Safe 10-2-8 program. They have become some of the finest public golf course tees in the area. Here too, Ed was able to reduce the amount of chemicals needed to maintain his tees.

The fairways at The Woods benefited the most from a Nature Safe program. As with most northern-most golf course fairways, the fairways at The Woods are primarily composed of Poa and are susceptible to dollar spot and snow mold. In the past, just to have acceptable fairway turf, it was necessary to make several fungicide applications every year to control these diseases. Ed put his fairways on a Nature Safe 15-2-8 (Now 15-0-8) program that included three applications per year at the rate of one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet at each application. Almost immediately there was a reduction in the incidence of dollar spot and it continued to decline over time. Ed did not spray his fairways for dollar spot at all this past summer and he had no dollar spot problems. That amounts to a big savings in chemical expenditures. Ed continued with his winter applications of fungicides to control snow mold for several years. One winter, he was unable to get the fungicide applied before the snows came. That winter, the Green Bay area received over four feet of snow and Ed assumed that his fairways would be decimated with snow mold in the spring. To his surprise, there was much less snow mold than he had anticipated and the turf that had snow mold was only superficially affected. The snow mold affected only the leaf tips and the turf grew out of the damage. Prior to the Nature Safe program, snow mold would have killed all of the affected turf. As a result of this experience, Ed has ceased applying snow mold chemicals to his fairways at a huge savings to his club.

The overall condition of the turf at The Woods has improved so much over the past seven years that in 2010 the local golfers who frequent public golf courses voted The Woods to be the best public golf course in the Green Bay area. That is quite a tribute to Superintendent Ed Hoover and his faith in a regular Nature Safe program.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

What’s Your NPK Number?

By Mike McCarthy, Regional Manager

For the past few months, we have been boldly chronicling the value and sales of Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 UFLEXX™ blend with emphasis on golf fairways, municipalities, parks and recreation, school athletic fields, home owner associations and many others . . . almost too many success stories to recount. We would be remiss not to reveal yet another positive and successful rebuild/renovate/resod project in Salt Lake City, Utah at the home of Triple A Salt Lake Bees Baseball, the farm team for the California Angels.

Nature Safe’s newest western region distributor, Grass Roots in Ogden, Utah, also has a separate contracting division that has successfully used 27-2-2 on many sports fields at Bringham Young University, University of Utah, and Weber State University. Gary Ballingham, Grass Roots, Inc., shares his enthusiasm and excitement with a recent October 2010 renovation of Salt Lake Bees Spring Mobile Park using a combination of Nature Safe’s 8-3-5, 10-2-8 and 27-2-2. Here’s the project event diary by the numbers:

Specs: 100% Bluegrass sod was used from Graff’s Turf Farm, cut at 1/2″ cutting height, 5/8″ sod thickness. Sand was from a local sand company which did not meet ASTM sports turf guidelines for sand based fields but was cost-effective and did perk around 11″ per hour. Grow tarps were utilized on the infield only at night.

October 11: Preplant of Nature Safe fertilizer 8-3-5 at 3/4 lb. of N on sand base preparing for sod. Watered in fertilizer for 10 minutes and let fully dry for 24 hours before rolling (using a self-propelled greens roller) then dragged field for final grade with coco drag mat. Rewatered field again for 10 minutes.

October 12: 50,000 sq. ft. of sod in installed beginning with the infield and left field. Apply another application of Nature Safe 8-3-5 at 3/4 lb. of N on top of new sod.

October 13: Additional 60,000 sq. ft. of sod installed to complete infield. The same fertilizer program mentioned above is used. Skirts scheduled for sod installation on October 16 with same fertilization program.

“In my 30-year landscape/ construction history, I have never experienced turf that healed in such a short period of time.”Gary Ballingham

October 15: Mowed the infield for the first time and got three baskets of grass using Toro greens mower set at 5/8″. No caking up of any fertilizer on rollers and/or equipment because proper watering-in technique was adhered to throughout the project.

October 18: Infield sod showing remarkable roots on sides of sod rolls and between rolls. Mowed outfield with Tri-plex reel mowers set at 5/8″. Mowed infield grass again getting two baskets of grass.

October 20: Rooting of infield sod is strongly taking place and outfield sod is showing excellent, above average root penetration and healthy growth.

October 22: Infield sod is now showing no signs of new sod lines and looks like a regular infield. Roots established to the point you cannot lift up the sod without really pulling hard. Mowed infield grass with less than two baskets of grass collected.

October 25: Applied Nature Safe 10-2-8 at 3/4 lb. of N and followed up on October 28 with another application of 27-2-2 at 1/2 lb. of N.

October 30: Absolutely no signs of sod lines and all sod is securely knitted into place. No question of the sod being ready for first baseball game on March 17, 2011 — way ahead of schedule and under budget too — great numbers!

Ryan Kaspitzke, Field Manager from the Salt Lake Bees, is also displaying several Nature Safe environmental stewardship signs at the sports field’s entrances to promote the Bee’s commitment to the environment.

In addition to sports fields, Grass Roots is actively distributing Nature Safe to golf courses throughout the state of Utah and have gained organic fertilizer listing approvals on state and local government contracts and bid proposals. They have quickly earned the distinction in Utah as the “go-to-guys” recommending and applying Nature Safe 8-3-5 for greens and more to inoculate against snow mold disease.

So, what’s your Nature Safe number?

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Spring Dead Spot vs. Winterkill

By J. Geter, Reprinted From http://mccgcm.wordpress.com/2010/06/02

What is the difference between spring dead spot and winterkill? Spring Dead Spot (SDS) is a disease that attacks Bermudagrass in the fall and winter months. The damage is seen in the spring as the Bermudagrass begins to green up again. Circular spots appear that are weak or dead when the grass emerges from dormancy. These circular spots can range from a few inches to over a foot in diameter. In severe cases they will coalesce into one large spot. There is no clear cut control for SDS. Several years ago I researched the products available that control SDS. The option I chose is an organic fertilizer called Nature Safe. A study at Oklahoma State found that Nature Safe gives similar to better control than fungicides (study available at www.naturesafe.com/research).

Results of this study indicate that season long applications of Nature Safe reduce the prevalence of spring dead spot.

Since we began using Nature Safe on fairways, we have had good to excellent control of SDS. I have had several members confuse SDS with spot spraying weeds.

Winterkill is caused by direct low temperature kill. In other words, the cells in the plant freeze and burst. A winter like 2010 can be devastating to warm season grasses in the Atlanta area. The winter of 1995-1996 was the last major winterkill year. Marietta Country Club had to re-grass almost 30 acres in the spring of 1996. So comparatively speaking, we made it through this past winter in good shape. Most of our damage was to sod installed in spring and summer of 2009.

As of June, the SDS areas were well on their way to recovery and expected to fill in within 10 – 14 days. The worst of the winterkill areas were sodded in late May. We aerated and applied extra fertilizer to promote faster recovery in both the SDS and winterkill areas.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

The Best of Organics & Synthetic Fertilizers

By Mike McCarthy, Regional Manager

Across the United States, golf rounds and budgets continue to decrease based in part to the weaker economy. Most Nature Safe distributors are broadening their customer base by merging their strong core position within the golf industry into other market avenues such as lawn and landscape, cities and municipalities, athletic fields, school districts, etc.
This has been especially apparent throughout the west coast region where, in some cases, Nature Safe distributors have doubled their organic fertilizer dollar sales with the increased interest from these non-golf market segments with the promotion of Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 blend of organics and UFLEXX™ (stabilized urea from Agrotain). This product contains the “best of organics” using USDA food grade quality animal proteins of blood, meat, bone and feather meal inputs combined with the “best of synthetics” 46-0-0 UFLEXX™.

While making a joint sales presentation with a distributor sales rep, we promised an athletic director at a prestigious university eight to ten weeks of continued feeding with an emphasis on building a strong organic microbial population. The customer said that he doubted that Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 or any other fertilizer would provide that continued feeding time. He now confesses,

“It has been 14 weeks and I’m still earning compliments on the quality of my field.”

This satisfied and convinced customer is now recommending Nature Safe to other schools and universities that he consults for athletic turf. The testimonials keep rolling in and the excitement continues about the length of feeding with rich, dark green color and quality, dense turf.

That same distributor sales rep later commented to me that his success stems from focusing on just three main sales points before earning the immediate purchase order, and later, repeat orders.

1. Safety USDA food grade inputs consisting of animal proteins that are safe for the environment. Nature Safe applications are safe for all and do not require applicators to wear Tyvek suits or respirators to make the application. Nature Safe’s organic fertilizers are also listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

2. Cost Per Acre Applications of Nature Safe 27-2-2 cost approximately $100 per acre to deliver one pound of N per acre that will last up to eight to ten weeks (or longer) providing safe, strong color while building the soil microbial population and fighting off diseases.

3. Environmental Stewardship Using environmentally safe products is an important factor for customers in the private university, government agencies and cities, municipalities and school systems. To promote their commitment to the environment, Nature Safe customers are offered a complimentary sign informing others of their stewardship practices. One school district requested 43 personalized signs, one each to be bolted to the fencing around their school playgrounds and athletic fields giving notice to concerned parents that the school’s board is providing an environmentally friendly place for their children to play and learn. Ask your Nature Safe representative for details.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Protecting Your Investment in Sand-Based Turf

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Most new golf greens and tees are constructed with very porous root zones that are comprised primarily or entirely of sand and some golf course fairways have been plated with sand up to 12 inches thick. New athletic fields are also frequently made of sand. The reason that sand is selected for the root zone is to allow for deeper rooting and to provide better drainage following a rain or irrigation. The pore spaces between the sand particles allow better aeration for the roots and it provides an avenue of escape for excess moisture. Overall, this type of construction is very effective, but it can be quite costly.

Sand based root zones tend to be less fertile and have a lower concentration of soil microbes. A good organic fertilizer is an excellent choice for this type of situation to build soil microbe populations which will in turn provide the turf with excellent nutrition. Organics are safe to use because they have a lower tendency to burn the turf. Unfortunately though, some organics can contribute to slowing down the infiltration rate of the root zone and ash is the main culprit.

Ash is defined as what remains after an organic fertilizer is subjected to very high heat to remove the actual organic portion of the material. The ash is comprised of inorganic minerals that are extremely fine textured. In turf, such a burning off process never takes place. Instead, the soil microbes break down the organic material and leave behind ash plus anything they cannot digest, such as lignin. Now we have not only the ash content to worry about, but also the portion that cannot be digested by the microbes. The ash and other fine textured indigestible materials filter down into the root zone and over time, start to plug up some of the pore spaces between the sand particles.

Many manure type organic fertilizers contain up to 50% ash by weight. This ash comes from the sawdust, shavings and straw that is used as bedding for the animals that produced the manure. Since it is impossible to separate the bedding from the manure the entire material is composted and made into fertilizer. In most instances the manufacturer would not want to separate the bedding from the manure because a major portion of the nutrients claimed on the label, especially the potassium, are derived from the bedding material.

Sewage sludge types of fertilizer present a different problem. While these types of products do not normally contain any ash from wood shavings and straw, they do contain ash from other sources. The ash is comparable to extremely fine sand. Some universities have reported finding sewage sludge fertilizers that contain over 30% of this fine sand and ash by weight. It is anyone’s guess as to what this fine sand and ash can do to the infiltration rate of a porous root zone over time if such fertilizers are regularly applied.

Nature Safe has a very low ash content, and it is very easily digested by the soil microbes without leaving lots of indigestible portions behind. Most of the ash that is found in Nature Safe comes from the sulfate of potash that is used as a potassium source. This portion has to be claimed as ash, but we know that sulfate of potash does not plug up pore spaces. Our 10-2-8 has an ash content of 23%, but without the sulfate of potash it has an ash content of slightly under 9%. Once the sulfate of potash is accounted for, none of the Nature Safe formulations contain more than 10% ash.

The fact that most sewage sludge and manure type fertilizers have very low nitrogen contents compounds the problem. Typically, these types of fertilizer contain 5% or less nitrogen. That would mean that one would have to use twice as much of a 5% N product to apply the same amount of N per unit area than you would if you were using Nature Safe 10-2-8. Therefore if a manure product with 5% N and 45% ash was used to apply one pound of N per one thousand square feet you would have to use twice as many pounds of fertilizer to get the same amount of N that would be available in 10-2-8. Therefore, you would be applying nearly ten times as much ash with the manure product as you would with Nature Safe 10-2-8.

20 lbs. 5-2-4 Sustane with 45% ash = 1 lb. N and 9 lbs. ash

16.67 lbs. 6-2-0 Milorganite with 27% ash = 1 lb. N and 4.5 lbs. ash

10 lbs. Nature Safe 10-2-8 with 9% ash = 1 lb. N and 0.9 lbs. ash

It is pretty easy to see why Nature Safe is the product of choice for porous root zones even if you don’t take into account all of the other benefits it offers over sludge and manure products. It is a way to protect your investment in new sand greens or sand-based athletic fields. Once the pore spaces are clogged up with ash it is virtually impossible to get them opened. The best thing to do is to use Nature Safe and to think of it as an insurance policy on your investment.

Posted in About Nutrients, About Organic Fertilizers, All, Amino Acids, General |

Reinvigorating Summer Stressed Turf

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

The summer of 2010 has already been brutal in most areas of the country and it is projected to get worse. This appears to be the summer from Hell with the continual heat and humidity followed by drenching rains that saturated the soil. This forecast is expected to continue until early fall. The heat and saturated soils are devastating to cool season turf, causing plant roots to deteriorate. In addition, the warmer soils made it easier for soil borne diseases and nematodes to flourish. The end result is poorly rooted turf that can easily succumb to hot temperatures and other stress factors.

Nature Safe 5-6-6 is the product that was designed to be used in these situations. The most important reason to use 5-6-6 is for the high concentration of 7% calcium from bone meal that enhances root growth. When one pound of nitrogen is applied to the turf, 1.4 pounds of calcium are being applied and it is all chelated. That means it is attached to an amino acid complex. This chelation makes the calcium much more available to the plant and it keeps it from being chemically tied up in the soil. The chelated calcium causes an elongation and branching of the roots which produces a deeper and more fibrous root system. It helps the plant to replace the roots it lost during the stress periods.

When growing turf on sandy soils, such as USGA spec greens, it is particularly important to use chelated calcium. Frequently, turf that is being grown on sand has a limited root system due to calcium deficiency. The healthy roots may go down quite a ways into the soil mix, but they aren’t big and bushy. Even though the percent calcium base saturation level may be quite high, the C.E.C. may be 2.0 or less. That means that a major portion of the limited number of soil storage sites that are available are being occupied by calcium, but there still may not be enough available to produce good rooting in plants. If calcium is applied to the soil in a chemical form it tends to replace some of the potassium and magnesium that are stored in the limited number of soil storage sites. Any K or Mg that is displaced by Ca in a sandy soil is then subject to leaching. The type of chelated calcium from bone meal in Nature Safe does not displace any of the K and Mg, but it is very available to the plants. The result is improved root masses and healthier plants that can make better use of the nutrients and water that are available in the soil.

The phosphorus in 5-6-6 is also derived from bone meal and it is also chelated. Here too, the chelation helps to keep the phosphorus from being chemically tied up in the soil, making it more available to the plants. That also promotes a better root system.

Of course the most important reason to use 5-6-6 at aeration is for the amino acids that feed the soil microbes which in turn nourish and protect the plants. When 5-6-6 is applied at the rate of one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet and dragged into the aeration holes, a total of 6.24 pounds of readily digestible amino acids are being applied. Therefore, 5-6-6 delivers more pounds of amino acids per pound of nitrogen than any other product we make and tremendously more than any other similar product that is manufactured by other companies. These high levels of amino acids help to speed the recovery of the summer stressed turf and it hastens the turf’s ability to recover from the damage it suffers during the aeration process. The end result of using 5-6-6 at aeration is a healthier, denser turf with improved rooting and improved soil structure that will help the plant survive the coming winter and be healthier next spring. If Nature Safe is used again next spring it will help to make the plant better able to withstand the rigors of another summer from Hell. The time to start preparing for next year is this fall at aeration. Waiting until next spring may be too late.

Posted in All, Summer Stress |

Why Go Organic?

By Lou Newman, Regional Manager

Everything’s going organic, right? You can find organic produce, organic meat, and organic grains. You can find organically grown cotton shirts and organic tobacco products. I was in Chapel Hill, NC about six months ago and went by a furniture store that had a sign advertising, “We Have Organic Mattresses!” So what’s so great about organic?

Well, let’s face it. With all the hype, nothing can live up to the message. Organic can’t solve all the worlds’ problems. Studies repeatedly show that organic does not mean more nutritious. But even if the message has gotten out of hand, that doesn’t mean there aren’t real and valuable reasons to introduce organic fertility principles to your customers. But let’s be factual about what those are.

In strict chemical terminology, organic means any compound that contains carbon. But for legal and practical use, organic products are those utilizing inputs primarily derived from naturally occurring sources. So, while ground limestone has no carbon, it qualifies as an organic input because limestone occurs naturally and the only process it goes through is mechanical grinding.

The benefits of using naturally occurring fertility sources are:

  • Nutrient release characteristics
  • Making a resource of by-products
  • Beneficial soil life
  • Safe handling
  • Supplying a wide range of elements

The slow release nature of organics limits burn potential and prolongs the effectiveness of the fertilizer. It also eliminates the feast or famine cycle that characterizes many conventional fertilizers that can ultimately lead to plant stress and the possibility of susceptibility to disease. Nature Safe products feed in a consistent, programmable fashion for 10 to 12 weeks, with a low salt index that reduces burn potential to insignificance.

The use of by-products as a resource rather than a discarded liability is just good all-American business. Why throw away useful material when it can be re-used, recycled or converted to beneficial enterprise? It’s a double edged benefit; less waste created as well as more usable products. These days, professional turf and landscaping are under ever increasing scrutiny about the misuse of resources, overuse of chemicals and likely incidence of runoff and contamination. Using an organic immediately converts this potential black eye into a bragging point. It promotes stewardship, a valuable selling and marketing tool. Nature Safe utilizes animal protein by-products to make high analysis organic fertilizers that provide pronounced plant response.

How much of what we learn about soils relegates it to an inert medium of root anchoring and chemical exchange? Soils are a living, breathing ecosystem and to ignore the valuable contributions of soil-borne microorganisms, flora and fauna to plant health is unwise and costly. Soil characteristics of air space, tilth, structure, water holding capacity and buffering ability are all part of the plant growth equation. Plant nutrition and health, while having a chemical component, are BIO-CHEMICAL processes. To ignore the BIO part is to make the job more difficult and less effective. Nature Safe provides extremely digestible nutrition for soil life and enhances the ability of plants to take up, and soils to release, their stored fertilizer value.

Worker and consumer safety are important considerations for any manager. Regulations, insurance rates, compliance procedures and container disposal all must be taken into account for golf courses, sports fields, home lawns and other public grounds. Using naturally derived products can greatly reduce the impact of these considerations on management practices and bottom line results. Most Nature Safe products are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed, are not considered hazardous material nor do they require special handling.

While organic materials generally contain a broad spectrum of micronutrients, they are usually not listed on labels due to the low percentage at which they are present. Nonetheless, they supply needed components for plant health. The result is plants that make efficient use of all biological processes. The results are even, steady growth with deep color and high stress resistance. Nature Safe is derived from animal protein, and thus contains a wide spectrum of chemical elements. These proteins are attached to amino acid chains, making them chelated and more easily available to plants. A steady use of Nature Safe will produce plants that are deep in color, high in dry weight and recover well from stress.

Going organic is currently considered “trendy” and “new,” but it is actually the oldest and original method of agronomy. It’s time to put these millennia of accrued plant and soil knowledge to use. It enhances the environment, the soil’s health and the growth of your customers’ plants.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Stop Turf Stress

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Whenever we lose turf during the summer months, we try to find the cause. We run chemical analysis of the soil, leaf tissue analysis, send samples to plant pathology laboratories to check for fungus diseases, test the irrigation water, and perhaps, we may even look for other causes, such as nematodes or problems with the soil structure. Frequently though, none of these tests show any problems that were sufficient to cause the loss of turf. When that happens, we tend to chalk up the loss to “summer stress.” We assume that the heat of the summer just put so much stress on the plant that it weakened and died. What really killed the turf is a combination of many factors.

Additional factors that can be associated with summer turf loss include: elevated salt levels from certain types of fertilizer, poor soil structure, localized dry spots, high soil temperatures, reduced root systems, fungicide deficiencies, and many others. None of these factors are sufficient to do damage separately, but acting in unison, they become lethal. However, since nothing shows up on our test results, we blame it all on summer stress.

The regular use of Nature Safe fertilizers as a part of an overall turf program can help alleviate all of these problems. You cannot wait until you have a problem before you use Nature Safe and then expect miracles. Many of the benefits that can be derived from using Nature Safe are cumulative and can only be realized through regular use of the product.

Regular users of Nature Safe report better rooted and denser turf. This is a result of the improvements in soil structure and the premium ingredients in Nature Safe. Soil that is flocculated and friable is conducive to good growth. It is the Nature Safe fed microorganisms that cement soil particles together, thus creating cracks and fissures in the soil that allows air and water to reach the roots, which can then grow deeper and to spread out. This, coupled with the extremely low salt content of Nature Safe, allows the plant to make better use of the water and nutrients that are available to it. The extra turf density helps to shield the soil from the heating rays of the sun and keeps the soil cooler.

Pathogenic nematodes and fungi are always present in soils in all areas of the country. These organisms tend to be poor competitors for the food and space available in the soil; however, they are excellent survivors. Their populations usually remain low until the opportunity presents itself, then they rapidly multiply and create problems. Even though their populations may be low, they can still cause some stress on the plant. This is normally referred to as subclinical damage. Nature Safe has been shown to greatly increase the populations of beneficial soil microorganisms and to significantly reduce the populations of the pathogenic organisms. In addition, Nature Safe has repeatedly been shown to enhance the efficiency of fungicides. The end result is a healthier plant that can withstand more stress from other factors.

Posted in All, Summer Stress |

The Role of Amino Acids in the Chain of Life

By Mike McCarthy, Regional Manager and Judd Fitzgerald, Golf Enviro Systems

The following article was first published in the March 2010 issue of Colorado’s STMA newsletter and Rocky Mountain GCSA Spring Newsletter.

During a recent sales visit, Judd commented on the positive references in my sales presentation on the importance of the amino acid content in Nature Safe vs. “organic” competitors currently in the marketplace. Wanting to know more, he conducted some personal research. Take a few moments to read and understand Judd’s findings and how succinctly he shows the value of amino acids in his concluding paragraph.

It seems to be a hot topic that we need amino acids in the products that we apply to turf. I have even used the term amino acids to sell. This article explains the chain of life chronologically, where amino acids fit and why they are so important

First Link: Amino Acids

Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules that truly are the fundamental building blocks to all life. Think of amino acids as different shaped Lego’s® that when pieced together they form (miniature buildings) proteins.

There are over 100 amino acids that occur naturally; each of them differs in their side chain in chemistry. Twenty of them are involved in making up a protein in turfgrass, and are classified as whether they are non-essential or essential. Non-essential or dispensable amino acids are synthesized in the plant. They are alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, asparagine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Essential or indispensable amino acids cannot be synthesized in the plant and can only be obtained through soil nutrients. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Second Link: Proteins

A protein is a molecule composed of polymers of amino acids joined together by peptide bonds. It can be distinguished from fats and carbohydrates by containing nitrogen. Other components include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and sometimes phosphorus.

Proteins serve as building materials for growth and repair of tissues and also facilitate needed chemicals (enzymes) to regulate growth and life cycles. Proteins are like the mortar between the bricks of your home. Without protein molecules we would have a flaccid unconnected world. When a plant over produces Proteins one of its by-products are Glycogen, which is converted into a carbohydrate, and then used as an energy source.

Third Link: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are any of the group of organic compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually in the ratio of 1:2:1, hence the general formula: Cn (H2O) n. Examples include sugar, starch, cellulose and gums.

Carbohydrate molecules are essentially sugars used as food or fuel for the plant. We started with Amino Acids and have finally completed the chain which ends with carbohydrates that the plant actually consumes. There are varying forms of carbohydrates, but the importance is that they are the key element to all life as we know it!

Carbohydrates are produced in green plants by photosynthesis and serve as a major source of energy in animal diets. They also serve as structural components, such as cellulose in plants and chitin in some animals. Their derivatives play an essential role in the working process of the immune system, fertilization, pathogenesis, blood clotting and development.

Summary

Although the major importance of amino acids is in the formation of proteins, they can serve as a chelating agent for micro-nutrients. Amino Acids are also used as a base for certain herbicides. For example, the amino acid glycine with methyl phosphonate forms the herbicide glyphosate (Round-Up). Additionally, amino acids can be oxidized to urea and carbon dioxide as an energy source.

Since amino acids can be oxidized into urea, they are used as a nitrogen source in some turfgrass fertilizers. Amino acids can only be taken up by the plant as a single amino acid or peptide. Amino acids that are linked together like dipeptides (two amino acids) or larger peptides can’t be taken up by the plant directly. In organic fertilizers that contain sea kelp or other sources of protein that are not completely hydrolyzed, the plant depends on soil microbes to break down the protein for nitrogen utilization. The nitrogen is then mineralized and used by the turfgrass plant.

Since single amino acids can be taken up by the plant readily and partially hydrolyzed proteins (dipeptide or larger) are not available until microbial activity occurs, the analogies of “quick-release” and “slow-release” types of amino acids have been applied. On some fertilizer bags that contain amino acids, the terms “free” and “fixed” are used and are probably analogous to “quick” and “slow,” respectively. Amino acids are immobilized by coming in contact with surfaces with considerable electrical charge. In laboratory studies, amino acids are often fixed to charged membranes. In nature, amino acids can become fixed to soil particles like clay that have a charge.

Organic fertilizers like Nature Safe contain amino acids that are in the form of partially hydrolyzed proteins and have slow-release characteristics. A quick-release form of nitrogen may be needed or added to the product to get the initial nitrogen response. Single peptide amino acids can be applied and taken up by the turfgrass plant. However, their efficiency is still being studied.

I hope all this jargon didn’t bore you because all you really need to know is that Amino Acids are the (Lego’s) and they build Proteins, which acts like (Mortar) physically in the plant and nature, but when an over abundance of protein occurs we have a transition or creation of carbohydrates (food) that the plant consumes.

Amino Acids as a Sales Tool

During a sales presentation, Judd and I were able to convince our customer of these main differences when comparing Nature Safe to a 5-4-5 organic (chicken manure) fertilizer. Although, the competitor’s product is approximately $31 per bag compared to Nature Safe’s 10-2-8 at around $34 per bag!

Here’s the amino acid simple sales math: For this particular application, the customer would have to apply a total of 174 bags of 5-4-5 x $31 = $5,394 to deliver 1 lb of N per acre as compared to using Nature Safe 10-2-8 with 87 bags x $34 = $2,958 which means a Nature Safe savings of $2,436. Yes, those $avings are coupled with the fact that this customer will apply less salt and ash and have less odor in comparison to the competitor’s composted manure product. Research from Clemson University shows that Nature Safe’s 10-2-8 delivers double the 100% organic NPK value with about 11 times more than the com-
petitor’s amino acid content of 5.5% vs. 60.3% food value at half the cost.

Even more savings could be realized using Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 blended with UFLEXX™ which requires just three bags per acre to deliver the same 1 lb of N at less than $100.00 per acre application. The customer reported that “Nature Safe is a slam dunk winner” over composted manure product at approximately $3.00 less per bag but at 11 times less the nutrition value.

Sources Cited: Biology Online Dictionary. Web. 15 March 2010. Danneberger, Karl. “The Attributes of Amino Acids.” Golfdom. May 1, 2008

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Forget N, Think Amino Acids

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Turf professionals have been trained to think in terms of pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet of turf area. We say that the turf or any other crop requires a certain amount of nitrogen per season. It may be expressed in pounds per thousand or in pounds per acre. When one is using synthetic fertilizer thinking in these terms has some validity, but when organic fertilizer is used, it would be better to look at the pounds of amino acids per unit area.

When an organic fertilizer is applied to the soil it is a food source for the microbes. Initially there is very little in a pure organic fertilizer that can be directly used by the plants. The energy source for these microbes is the amino acid derived carbon. The microbes consume this energy and use it to build their populations. The more food they have, the more they multiply their numbers. They have life cycles of about twenty minutes, so they are constantly dying off and releasing nutrients in forms that can be used by plants. It is obvious then that the fertilizer that contains the highest level of amino acids is the one that will ultimately provide the most nutrition for the plant. The carbon from these amino acids is also the source of nutrition for the beneficial microbes that suppress diseases, break down thatch, build soil structure and provide carbon dioxide for the plants to use in photosynthesis. From years of experience and field observations, I have found that when using Nature Safe to overcome problems like disease or thatch, the minimum level of amino acids that is required for optimal performance on cool season turf on fairways is twelve pounds per thousand square feet per season and it must be spread out over at least four applications for maximum effect. Higher levels would be more beneficial, but twelve pounds is the minimum. When using 10-2-8 that translates to four applications per season at the rate of ½ pound of N per thousand square feet. For some greens growing on sand, the level will usually be higher. For warm season grasses such as Bermuda and Zoysia, the levels will definitely be higher due to their longer seasons.

What a customer is really purchasing when buying an organic fertilizer is a pile of amino acids, not an NPK source. When he purchases a product with a high percentage of amino acids, he is getting more amino acids for his money. A ton of a typical manure-based product that contains between 5% and 10% amino acids will yield between 100 or 200 pounds of amino acids for the money. Compared to a ton of Nature Safe 10-2-8, which contains 60.28% amino acids, you get over 1,200 pounds of amino acids. When viewed in those terms, it is relatively easy to see where the customer is getting the biggest bang for his buck.

The traditional way of comparing fertilizers is to look at the cost per pound of N being applied. A better comparison would be the number of pounds of amino acids that are being applied for every pound of N. That is usually calculated on the basis of pounds per thousand square feet. The chart below shows the number of pounds of amino acids that

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Consequences of Synthetic Fertilizers

by Lou Newman, Nature Safe Regional Manager

Every material that is applied to turf and soil has associated consequences. Although we apply fertilizers for their chemical content, the very elements we want to supply to plants have other effects on the entire soil environment. Too often we think of soil as nothing more than an anchor for roots and pipes to take water and nutrition to the leaves.

But soils are their own biological worlds, supporting wildlife in the form of microbes and insects. Soils provide native minerals for use by the plant; and their electrostatic charge and pH can determine the effectiveness of fertilizers and other chemicals.

Nature Safe provides a slow acting, low salt and biologically active source of nutrition. Compared ounce for ounce to synthetics, it can look high priced. Before you dismiss Nature Safe as being out of your budget, you need to be aware of the hidden costs of that so called “inexpensive” fertilizer.

Synthetic nitrogen, in its more soluble forms, creates as many or more issues than it resolves. Yes, it is less per ton on the invoice, but what about the long term extra costs? The very solubility that makes it cheap allows nutrition to go unused; either as a gas (ever smell ammonia when applying? That’s some of the N you just paid for), as runoff or through leaching. If you apply it, and the plant can’t use it, money has been wasted.

The relative harshness of chemical N means other effects on the soil. Take a look at the chart on Page 4. This simply illustrates the other effects synthetic N application has on soils.

  • Lack of carbon applied with the N starves soil microbes. This leads to lower organic matter and allows soils to compact, reducing its ability to buffer the myriad of minerals present or applied. Soil compaction is a main component in root loss. Root loss means turf that is more stressed, which leads to the need for more fertilizer and plant protection chemicals. The bottom line: higher overall cost.
  • When applying chemical N, you need to apply more water. This leads to a surge of growth. The N is quickly used or displaced, resulting in reduced growth rate. This is called “surge and starve.” It leads to thatch build-up, which can harbor pathogens. So, chemicals need to be applied to prevent damage. Now you’re not only using more water and applying more chemicals, (higher costs), but the grass is weakened and susceptible to damage from mechanical means.
  • The more soluble forms of N, or any chemical fertilizer, are soluble because they are a form of salt and dissolve well in water. But because of this characteristic, they leave behind salts in the soil. Salts have a detrimental affect on soil microorganisms. This provides an opportunity for pathogens to flourish and also contributes to soil compaction. Of course, here we are again with a situation that must be remedied by an application of more chemicals or an increase in labor. Guess what that means? You got it, higher costs.

So, the next time you think organics cost too much, pull out a copy of the chart. Realize that the use of Nature Safe not only grows great grass, but if considered as part of the whole system, can lower costs!

Posted in About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

Nature Safe is Rich in Microorganisms

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

A complement of soil microorganisms is an important part of a quality organic fertilizer. Contrary to popular belief, these microorganisms rarely colonize in the soil unless the soil is totally sterile, which only occurs if the soil has been artificially sterilized. These invading organisms never significantly contribute to the activities of the soil ecosystem. What they do is serve as a stimulus for the native microorganisms to build their numbers and fight off the outside invaders.

When a foreign army invades a sovereign nation, the nation that has been invaded quickly builds their armed forces to fight off the invaders. The native microorganisms do much the same thing. As they build their numbers the native microorganisms consume the invaders and eventually wipe them out. It is the food value from the amino acids contained in Nature Safe that allow the native microbes to build their populations to massive proportions. Nature Safe contains up to ten times more readily available organic nutrients from amino acids than its closest competitors. That is the BIG advantage of Nature Safe. The microbes that were artificially introduced only acted as a stimulant.

Some organic fertilizers do not add any microorganisms but, it is important for a wide variety of microorganisms to be present in an organic fertilizer to stimulate the growth of as many different native species as possible. For the record, however, some of the microorganisms that are contained in Nature Safe include:

  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bacillus cerus
  • Bacillus polymyxa
  • Bacillus megaterium
  • Flavobacterium
  • Penicillium
  • Rhizopus
  • Aspergillus
  • Sassharomyces
  • Torula, and
  • Rhodotorula

Some companies try to stipulate how many microbes of each species are present in their product. This number is usually expressed in terms of the microbe numbers per gram of product. While that may look impressive on paper, it is impossible to guarantee. These microbes are living, breathing organisms and their populations tend to be quite dynamic. In a short period of time, their numbers can rise and fall dramatically.

The methods used to introduce these microorganisms into the soil are also important. Some people try to introduce them as a liquid spray along with their fungicide applications. These products are commonly referred to as “bugs in a jug.” While the liquid products contain quite a few different species of microbes, they are not very effective. When applied to the leaf surface during the day, the ultra violet rays from the sun kill most of the microbes before they can be watered into the turf. The only alternative is to spray the turf after the sun goes down, and that is not a very popular time for turf managers to do their spraying. When these microorganisms are introduced in a granular fertilizer, they are somewhat protected from the UV rays because they are inside the particle. The particle does not stick to the leaf, but rolls off of it and down into the turf canopy where it is further protected from the UV rays.

As usual, Nature Safe stands alone at the head of the pack. Some products can provide a few of the benefits derived from using Nature Safe, but none can match Nature Safe on a point by point basis and still provide the readily available food for the soil microbes that are in Nature Safe. Some microbes feed only on less readily available organic sources such as plant residue, manure, and sludges. These microbes rarely change in numbers, rarely run out of food, and they grow and reproduce slowly. Therefore, feeding them sludges and manure is not going to change their numbers appreciably. If you really want to greatly increase the soil microbe populations, you have to feed the microbes that consume readily available organic nutrients, and that is accomplished by applying Nature Safe.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Why Turf Managers Choose Nature Safe

By Al Lanoie, Regional Manager

Throughout my travels in the Northeast region, I consistently talk to both new prospects and current customers about their fertility needs, budget constraints and, of course, Nature Safe’s performance. The following summarizes why more and more turf professionals make Nature Safe their Natural Choice for Soil and Plant Nutrition.

Turf Managers using Nature Safe Fertilizers appreciate the value of natural fertility. Nature Safe fertilizers are designed to work together with nature and accelerate the building of natural fertility in the topsoil. Nature Safe fertilizers compliment Mother Nature with the ability to grow turf to its full genetic potential while sustaining and amending the topsoil.

Naturally fertile soils grow stronger, healthier and greener turf without as much water as conventionally fertilized grass. Grass grown in these soils remain green longer in the fall and greens up faster in the spring. Due to healthier soil mineral values, turf grass grown in naturally fertile soil is less susceptible to disease, insect attack and fungus. Nine university research studies support those findings. Turf managers who use Nature Safe realize that in order to grow superior turf they must actually grow two different crops. The first is healthy soil microbial populations, while the second is the actual turf grass. Soil microbes are the basis of all natural and organic fertility.

Every bag of Nature Safe fertilizer delivers the optimum nutrition levels for healthy topsoils that are rich in natural fertility. During manufacturing, Nature Safe is formulated to provide soil microbes with a full range of primary, secondary and trace minerals. Nature Safe contains a high level of chelated minerals which are bound to an organic molecule to make them more available to the plants and soil microbes.

Nature Safe provides the highest concentration of nutrition in the bag and the most predictable release of nutrition bringing the best value for your budget dollar.

Posted in All, General |

Keeping Turf Diseases at Bay

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

Most superintendents who use Nature Safe as a regular part of their fertility program have found that fungus diseases attack their turf less frequently and with less severity. We know that we can control some diseases, such as Necrotic Ring Spot, by fertilizing with Nature Safe on a regular basis and totally eschewing fungicides. On other diseases like Brown Patch, Dollar Spot and even Snow Mold, Nature Safe will usually have a suppressing effect, but it will not totally eliminate them. Our research work and field experiences have shown reductions of these diseases of over fifty percent as compared to plots that were fertilized with synthetic fertilizer. Having greens or tees that have fifty or even seventy-five percent less disease than untreated areas makes for wonderful research data. Yet, some organic purists, and even some makers of organic products, would have you to believe that if you are on an organic program, you cannot use any chemicals or you will supposedly destroy the effects of the organic products being applied. Evidently, you are supposed to live with some disease on your turf because you are using organic products. Try explaining that one to the greens chairman at an exclusive country club.

All of our research at Nature Safe indicates that there is a synergistic relationship between Nature Safe and fungicides. We get better results where chemicals are used in moderation along with a regular Nature Safe program. To better understand this apparent contradiction, consider what happens when you spray an insecticide in an attempt to control flies or mosquitoes. When you spray, you do not kill only the flies or the mosquitoes. You also kill many other species of insects that are present. Some of these species may be quite beneficial, such as spiders or honey bees. Others may not seem to be beneficial directly to man, but they all have a role to play in the overall scheme of things. The same thing occurs when a fungicide is applied to turf. If the original target was the organism that causes Brown Patch, that is not the only organism that is killed. Usually a wide range of soil borne microorganisms will be killed. Some will be pathogenic organisms, but many others will be beneficial organisms.

One of the characteristics of most beneficial organisms is their remarkable ability to reproduce themselves quite rapidly if a food source is available to them. When Nature Safe is the regular fertilizer on a given plot of turf, the beneficial organisms will reproduce much more rapidly than the pathogenic organisms because Nature Safe provides the food energy in the form of amino acids that is needed for growth and reproduction. That means that when a fungicide is applied a broad range of organisms can be adversely affected. Both beneficial and pathogenic organisms can be killed, but the beneficial organisms have the ability to reproduce much faster than the pathogens if they have a good food source. Therefore, the ratio of beneficial organisms to pathogenic organisms is being changed. The end results are higher levels of beneficial organisms and lower levels of pathogenic organisms. Is it any wonder then, that we continually see a lower incidence of diseases where Nature Safe is used? This does not mean that we can totally eliminate the use of fungicides at any point in time, but it does mean that we can probably reduce the rate and/or the frequency of chemical applications. Some golf clubs have reported reductions of over twenty-five percent in their chemical budgets after switching to a regular Nature Safe program.

There are nine university studies available on our web site (create a link to the research segment of the web site here) that focus on Nature Safe’s disease management properties in conjunction with fungicide use. This research can help you understand the benefits of incorporating Nature Safe into your fertility program.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

“Bio” Products and Nature Safe

by Lou Newman, Nature Safe Regional Manager

I recently attended the Carolina Golf Course Superintendents Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It is always brimming with a multiplicity of seminar possibilities. There was a four hour session led by Dr. Richard Cooper, NCSU, titled “Understanding Biostimulants and Biological Products.” Usually, just about any session that had the prefix “bio” in it assured me a very quiet, lonely time in a remote and hard to find room where questions from the presenter fell onto few ears and caused awkward silences. That’s what I expected here. How wrong I was!

The room, although not overly large, was packed and the session had been closed due to no more seats. This was true of only two other sessions out of a total of over 40. Dr. Cooper gave a lively, informed presentation. Rather than having to pull responses from the attendees, the session was conducted as a running conversation. Now, you might think that only the youngest, more environmentally oriented superintendents would attend. Wrong again! There were ladies and gentlemen of all ages, the oldest being, well, almost my age! (Whew, that is old!).

Here’s what I found out.

Biostimulants, those products that contain auxins, cytokinins and other plant hormones, have a measurable impact on the production of roots and the uptake of nutrients and enhance metabolism. These stimulants can be derived from a host of sources, the most common being kelp (sea weed), B-vitamins, yucca and yeasts. They provide enzymes, chemical buffers and even some microorganisms (notably mycorrhiza) that are found naturally in the source materials and are concentrated for commercial application. Dr. Cooper’s research showed that at high rates they can influence rooting, but this may not lead to readily visible quality, so use only if your budget can justify.

Humic acids are a catchall name for a wide variety of naturally occurring compounds. They are effective in aiding growth, though the exact mechanism is not specifically known. It is believed that they affect membrane permeability and aid in the absorption of nutritional elements. Chlorophyll production increases, which promotes photosynthesis and the efficient use of mineral nutrition. Dr. Cooper’s research shows that the introduction of humate substances into the root zone gave greater rooting than the control plants. Getting the biostimulants into the root zone, though, is an issue.

Microbial inoculates, affectionately known as Bugs in a Jug, is the addition of beneficial microorganism packages used to inoculate soils with desired microbe populations that then reproduce to aid plant growth or elemental availability. Despite the good intentions, or scientific logic behind these products, it has been repeatedly found that there is no physical or practical way to affect native soil microbe populations. There are just too many existing microorganisms, in the hundreds of billions, and the sheer volume of existing soil verses what can be applied.

Then Dr. Cooper said some very important things.

First, whether using biostimulants or humic acids to spur root growth, neither do any good without actual nutrition being added to the process. For plants to induce new roots or expand existing roots, they must have the basic building blocks of plant matter to capitalize on the use of any additional growth enhancers.

Second, the most important factor in choosing fertilizers is the amino acid content. High soluble N sources will give short term feed, but the lack of amino acids inhibits the biological process of plant feeding. Plant nutrient uptake is not just a chemical process, it is a biochemical process. So, pick fertilizers that build the soil and, in turn, will build the plant.

Third, building the soil, especially on greens that are already under stress from mowing, is the best way to decrease additional stress related damage due to heat, drought, cold and disease.

Nature Safe provides ample nutrition for plants to take advantage of the growth spurred by enhancement products. In fact, it has the highest levels of nutrition in the bag of any organic.

Nature Safe has high amino acid content. By using a digestible protein as the basis for our N source, we increase the percentage of amino acid content in the protein we use. This means not only are our analyses higher, but the content is more potent due to the constituent make up as well as the easier digestibility by soil microorganism.

Since the nutrition derived from Nature Safe is made available by the biological process of microorganism breakdown, Nature Safe feeds in the very biochemical manner described by Dr. Cooper. This also means that when the biological processes for plant growth speed up or slow down due to environmental factors, the release of soluble nutrition by microbes also speeds up or slows down at the same rate. This is the very characteristic that makes Nature Safe so efficient.

We have always recommended the best way to plant health is through soil health. Soil and plants represent a symbiotic relationship that is integral to the long term health, beauty, viability and stress resistance of turf and other plants.

 

Posted in About "Bio" Products, All |

Dollar Spot On Steroids

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

An apparent new strain of dollar spot has reared its ugly head across parts of the upper Midwest this season. It looks like any other dollar spot, but it seems to be very aggressive and it does not respond well to the more traditional control fungicides. Fungicides like Iprodione and Chlorothalonil, either used separately or in combinations, have been the old standbys for dollar spot, but neither chemical has been effective in battling this apparent new strain. The cost of applying these two chemicals is around $80 per acre according to most superintendents. However, they have now been forced to go to more expensive chemicals that cost up to $140 per acre to get even minimal control.

That is the bad news. The good news is that the disease has been either relatively easy to control or nonexistent on turf that has been on a regular Nature Safe program. In some instances, Nature Safe turf that did not receive any fungicide applications had much less disease than nearby turf that had received applications of fungicide. At one golf course in Michigan, the superintendent had divided one fairway to trial Nature Safe next to his standard synthetic product. He applied Iprodione fungicide at the rate of three ounces per thousand to the side of the fairway that was fertilized with the synthetic product. On the Nature Safe side he made two applications (June and August) of 10-2-8 and did not apply any fungicide. As you can see from the pictures taken in early October, the Nature Safe side suffered very little damage from dollar spot while the side that had synthetic fertilizer plus Iprodione was severely infested.

While dollar spot is a problem almost every year, it seems to intensify every two or three years and becomes a major problem. This seems to be the year it is gearing up to cause major problems and it seems to have acquired some resistance to the fungicides. That could mean that we are going to have continuing problems next year and beyond. A regular Nature Safe program, even at lower rates, is the best way to combat this problem and to help insure quality turf in the future. While pathogens can develop immunities to fungicides they cannot develop immunity to the beneficial organisms that compete with them. It is the high level of amino acids in Nature Safe that feed the beneficial organisms and helps them to fight the pathogens and suppress the various diseases. Now is the time to get started on a Nature Safe program. If you wait until this resistant strain of dollar spot catches up with you, it will be too late to avoid some turf damage.

 

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

What Causes New Turf Diseases?

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

In recent years, it seems as though every time we pick up a turf magazine or newsletter, we read about some weird new disease that is suddenly wreaking havoc on the fine turf in some part of the country. Typically, it’s caused by an organism that we have never heard of before that has suddenly become virulent. Everyone scrambles to find a chemical that will control this new super bug before it can wipe out too much turf. Usually, if turf managers are willing to shell out enough money, some chemical is found.

The interesting thing is, if we talk with turfgrass pathologists and ask them where this new disease came from, they will tell us that it’s not a new disease at all, but an organism that has been around for eons without causing any trouble. The question then arises as to why it is causing problems now? The answer can include many things, such as lower height of cut, heavier play, artificial soil mixes, different genetics, etc. Fertility practices are seldom singled out as a cause for these new diseases, yet many times it’s a major culprit.

Up until World War II, most fertility programs for turf and agriculture were primarily organic in nature. People knew that synthetic nitrogen sources such as ammonium nitrate and urea caused a major response in plants, but they were too expensive at the time to be of any economic importance. During the war, however, there was a great need for synthetic nitrogens to use as a basis for explosives. As a result, numerous manufacturing plants were built and new and cheaper sources of natural gas, which is required for nitrogen production, were developed. Suddenly, though, the war ended and there was no need for the explosives. Because the plants had been paid for with huge war-time profits and there was large supplies of natural gas that were now available at reasonable costs, it was now possible to produce synthetic nitrogen sources that made it economically feasible to use.

In order to promote the use of these new synthetic nitrogen sources, the manufacturing companies sponsored a lot of university research. They provided grants that paid for the education of many future professors at the time. Naturally, these professors recommended the extensive use of synthetic nitrogen because they were the most familiar with it, and it seemed like a step up from the old ways of using organic materials. In the high-tech post war era, everyone wanted to do things the new modern way, not the old, supposedly outdated way. In addition, these new synthetic nitrogen sources revolutionized American agriculture by greatly increasing crop yields.

What no one realized at the time was that the synthetic nitrogen sources contained no amino acid carbon. They did contain carbon which is why some of them are referred to as synthetic organics. Amino acid carbon is the energy source for the beneficial soil microbes. It serves as their bacon and eggs or their bread and butter. The synthetic nitrogen sources provided nitrogen in a form that can be used directly by plants and completely bypasses the soil microbes. The result was that the beneficial microbes began to starve and slowly die off. Slow release synthetic sources were introduced to try to reduce the problems that arose with fertilizer burn, but they still didn’t supply the amino acid carbon required by the soil microbes.

The beneficial microbes compete directly with the pathogenic organisms, so when their numbers become depleted, the pathogenic organisms have very little competition. When this happens, some of the less vigorous pathogenic organisms have a chance to come to the forefront and create disease problems that have never been seen before. This problem becomes compounded when it occurs in artificial soils that tend to be somewhat sterile anyway.

The use of a product like Nature Safe on a regular basis provides the energy source that the beneficial microbes require for growth and reproduction. The beneficial microbes, which are better competitors than the pathogens, keep many of the pathogenic organisms in check and do not allow them to build up their populations to the point where they can create problems. No wonder turf managers who use Nature Safe as a regular part of their programs report fewer problems with turf diseases, new or old.

Posted in All, Amino Acids, Disease Suppression |

You Must Use PAN to Figure Fertilizer Cost

by Lou Newman, Nature Safe Regional Manager

I recently completed some research regarding the relative availability and uptake of applied plant nutrition. Time was spent looking through research papers and results posted on the Internet. I mistakenly thought the pickings would be slim and I would have to search far and wide to get some background.

How wrong I was! It appears every research paper, whether academic or industrial, amateur or professional, doctorate or undergrad are all posted in some form or another somewhere on the Web. Many of them are posted in multiple places. At first this was a bit overwhelming, but it turns out to have made the task at hand a little easier. The only limit was my time and patience.

I was looking for evidence of the nutrient release time from manure products from any third party source. I found plenty, but ended up citing six. They were from Clemson, University of Florida, University of Hawaii, Purdue, N.C. State and the University of Georgia. The exact findings varied somewhat from each institution depending on their overall climate. But the evidence showed that manure releases nitrogen at the rate of 50-90% of total applied N over the period of 12 months. Low was in Purdue (Indiana), high was in Hawaii. The difference in average daily soil temperature was the main factor in the difference.

The fact is, compared to Nature Safe, any manure, sludge or compost product releases much more slowly — 50-90% in 12 months — compared to Nature Safe which is 85-100% release in three to four months! Right away this shows you have to take into consideration many factors other than simple N content.

There was a term that was used in some of the papers that pinpointed the real crux of the issue when figuring how much fertilizer to use and, even more importantly, the REAL cost of the nutrients you apply. That term is PAN. This was originally used to signify Plant Available Nitrogen, but is now in customary use as Plant Available Nutrition. It signifies how much nutrition is actually used by, and usable to, the plant. It is becoming the standard measure of the efficacy of any fertilizer, whether chemical or organic. Some of the facts I gathered in my readings regarding a fertilizer’s potency:

Leaching: Soluble fertilizers readily mix with water and are carried through the soil profile before plants can use them. Leaching has been measured at highs of 20% of soluble nitrogen loss, although 8-12% is considered normal. This is mostly because plants cannot absorb nitrogen as fast as soluble nitrogen is available, so it passes through the root zone without doing any feeding.

Runoff: Soluble fertilizers combine with water and are carried off into streams, rivers and lakes. Organics can be physically moved, but to a much lower extent. Runoff is such a huge problem that the US Department of Agriculture and and the Department of Environmental Quality are starting to implement restrictions on fertilizer application in order to limit the occurrence. The state of Florida was most recently put under orders to limit sales of fertilizer because of runoff into groundwater. This is under litigation.

Volatilization: This happens when nutrient chemicals take on a gaseous form of the chemical and is lost in the atmosphere. Think of smelling ammonia while applying NH4NO3 or urea. If you smell ammonia, you are losing nitrogen.

Solariation: A chemical reaction to exposure to sunlight can render fertilizer elements to an unavailable form. Solarization has seldom been measured, but most superintendents know to water in applications not only to prevent leaf burn but also to maximize the impact of their fertilizer. In greenhouse and nursery situations, where many soluble liquid feeds are used, the rapid decline in a fertilizer’s effect has been acknowledged for years, even if not quantified.

Any of the above processes eats into your fertilizer budget. You end up paying for chemicals that the grass can’t use. No matter how low the price, if the turf doesn’t get anything from it, it can be very expensive. Do you have money to waste on fertilizers that don’t feed the plants? As much as 25% of a fertilizer’s ammoniacal nitrogen content can volatilize during application. This includes organic fertilizers with ammoniacal nitrogen content too.

All of these factors can dramatically diminish the amount of nutrition that a plant can utilize. Yet, applicators are paying for all of it. One of the most striking characteristics of Nature Safe is that what you pay for is delivered in a form and rate that is most efficiently used by the plant. In fact, due to the need for biological release through the action of microorganisms, if the plant growth rate is slowed by temperature, then so is the action of the microbes. This keeps the nutrition in the soil until the plant demands it.

If Nature Safe looks expensive due to the relatively lower analysis compared to chemical fertilizers, try factoring in 10-15% loss due to volatilization, 10% loss due to leaching, maybe 5-10% in runoff and who knows how much in solarization. And if it’s a coated fertilizer, remember that part of each 50 lb. bag is inert coating, usually 3-5% of total weight.

So, if you are tired of the expense of labor to put out fertilizer that the turf can’t use, are tired of paying for fertilizer that can lose 20% or more of it’s potency and are tired of the expense of having fertilizer wash away because it’s ready when the plant isn’t, then realize that the PAN, the Plant Available Nutrition in Nature Safe, is the wise buy. Homogenous, organic, stable and biologically activated, Nature Safe is there when you (and your turf) need it.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Beneficial Microorganisms Versus Pathogens

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

Here is a constant but unseen war being waged in your soil, regardless of what is grown in it. This war is a life and death struggle between the beneficial organisms (the Good Guys) and the pathogenic organisms (the Bad Guys). When the good guys prevail we end up with better soil structure and healthier rooted plants that have a much lower incidence of diseases. Therefore it is to our advantage if we can tip the scales in favor of the Good Guys.

There are some fundamental differences between beneficial organisms and pathogens. Beneficial organisms are good competitors and are able to reproduce much faster and in greater numbers than pathogens if they have a good food source. To effectively tip the scales in your favor, the beneficial organisms need food in the form of amino acids in a readily digestible form. These amino acids only come from a couple of sources in nature – decaying plants, animals, and microorganisms, and soil organic matter. Nature Safe contains up to ten times more amino acids per pound of nitrogen than many competitive products.
Pathogens on the other hand are good survivors, but poor competitors. In order to survive, pathogens spend most of their time in a state of dormancy where they do not have to compete. They simply wait for the plants to come under stress and then they become active, build their numbers and attack. Plants that are grown in soils that contain high populations of beneficial organisms are less likely to be stressed in the first place.

Beneficial organisms have two distinctly different ways in which they protect plants. As they live and reproduce the beneficial organisms surround the root system of the plant (the rhizosphere) and produce powerful antibodies that kill or repel many of the pathogens. These antibodies are effective against active pathogens, but they do not have much effect on dormant pathogens. Have no fears though, all is not lost. Dormant pathogens succumb to gasses that are produced as a by-product by the soil microbes as they consume the amino acid energy contained in Nature Safe. These gasses have been shown to be toxic to parasitic nematodes and fungus diseases that are dormant. Suppressing the parasitic nematodes helps to produce a healthier root system to protect the plant from seasonal diseases such as snow mold.

There are times when it still becomes necessary to apply a fungicide or other control chemical. These chemicals are not very selective for the target species. They tend to kill a wide range of soil organisms, both good and bad.

If the soil is being fed with the rich amino acids in Nature Safe, the overall ratio of beneficial organisms to pathogens is being altered to favor the Good Guys. When the pathogens try to get started again they are faced with overwhelming populations of beneficial organisms that are blocking their paths.

Using Nature Safe with high concentrations of amino acids will continually tip the scales in your favor by producing healthier plants that require less chemical inputs. That in turn lowers the overall cost of production or maintenance.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Manure-Based Fertilizers: Store/Ship High in Transit

by Mike McCarthy, Nature Safe Regional Manager

An interesting trivia tidbit was brought to my attention by Randy Waligura, President of Texana Seed Company, Nature Safe’s Ag distributor in Garwood, Texas. While building a strong agriculture base in the original 13 colonies, our forefathers realized the urgent need for fertilizer and the limited local sources available. They requested their old standby manure and had large amounts shipped from England.

Transoceanic transportation required heavy bales of dry manure stacked in a ship’s hold for the Atlantic crossing. During the months-long trip, the tightly compacted manure bales developed ‘gases,’ and combined with whale oil fueled flame lanterns, created explosions and the loss of several ships and crews. And some days you think that you have a tough job!

The solution was to wrap each bale in a protective canvas coating and suspend the bales from the ceiling of the ship’s hold. Each bale was boldly labeled Store/Ship High In Transit to insure proper care and handling during transportation. However, because “time is always money” the abbreviation S.H.I.T. was used, thus the vernacular. Today, that word origin is being more widely used to identify more than just fertilizer, but I will keep this article mainly to the point of the definition and value as it relates to fertilizer derived from manure and other by-products.

In today’s marketplace, whether there are three primary sources of fertilizer: 1) composted which is derived from animal manures and their bedding materials; 2) sewage sludge produced from human waste combined with industrial by-products; and 3) constructed fertilizers made from natural animal proteins.

Manure nutrient values are widely touted as high in nitrogen but in the low single digits. Independent university research estimates approximately 3.6% nitrogen value contending with several factors such as, but not limited to, animal’s diet, temperature, humidity, water content, bedding components and most of all composting practices and procedures that are not regulated/ controlled, leaving much to speculation and manufacturer’s label marketing, etc.

Composted fertilizer product labels indicate that approximately 40% of the nitrogen is water soluble and quickly released for immediate green-up and possible urea burn. This also produces flush growth with the remaining 60% water insoluble nitrogen and other nutrients to be released for up to two years. Research from North Carolina State* concludes much of the nutrient value is not immediately available for release when the turf or crop requires the nutrients.

The sewage sludge production processes subjects materials to high heat necessary to reduce/eliminate E. coli, salmonella and a wide range of unhealthy bacteria. Using heat sanitizing on raw manure has a non-beneficial effect on the end product’s NPK value and inhibits nutrient release and availability to the plant when it is needed. These manufacturing practices contribute to a very high 6% to 8% ash content in comparison to .06% ash content of Nature Safe.

Nature Safe’s 13-0-0 blending base is the highest amount of organic listed nitrogen available on the market today and is widely used as one of the ingredients in other Nature Safe Fertilizers, such as 10-2-8 and 27-2-2. This specialized blending product is OMRI Listed® and is allowed under NOP guidelines validating its use in the production of organic certified crops and can be used without restrictions.

At a recent sales presentation I compared Nature Safe 10-2-8 to a chicken manure-based 5-4-5 formulation. It was easy to show the customer the main differences of nutrient availability and cost. For starters, the 5-4-5 formulation costs approximately $3 more per bag with less nutrient availability.

For this particular application, the customer would have to apply a total of 174 bags of 5-4-5 to deliver 1 lb of N per acre versus 87 bags of Nature Safe 10-2-8 which translates to a budget reduction of over $2,400! In addition, this customer will apply less ash and salt to their turf or crop. Research from Clemson University shows that Nature Safe’s 10-2-8 delivers double the 100% organic NPK value with about 11 times more than the competitor’s amino acid content providing food value at half the cost.

If only our British forefathers could have just used Nature Safe Natural & Organic Fertilizers . . . maybe history could have been rewritten!

Posted in All, Organic Farming |

Overcome Odor Objection

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Greg Osbourne, Horticulturist at Missouri Botanical Garden, made his first and last application of Nature Safe 10-2-8 because he thought the smell was objectionable. I explained that any smell he detected was coming from components that were very similar to dog foods. Greg owns a dog and feeds it Iams dog food. I asked him if he thought that product was smelly. He didn’t think so. We did a side-by-side comparison of the two products and there was very little difference in odor. Greg is now using Nature Safe on a regular basis.

Posted in All, General |

Research Supports Organic Fertilizers Versus Synthetics

By Kevin Brady, 11-Year-Old Elementary School Student

If you want to know the truth about something, ask an 11-year-old! This is certainly the case with young Kevin Brady, turf science prodigy and son of proud father, Mark Brady. Mark is superintendent of Monoosnock Country Club in Leominster, MA. As a Nature Safe user himself, he was also interested in Kevin’s science project comparing fertility results of Nature Safe with a good quality conventional fertilizer. Here are the results in Kevin’s own words.

My name is Kevin Brady and I’m writing because I thought you would be interested in hearing about my science project using Nature Safe Fertilizer.

I found a web site online about using organic and inorganic fertilizers and comparing their rates of growth. I started the project on May 10th and used soil and rye grass seeds. The fertilizers were Nature Safe’s 15-2-8 and Anderson’s 16-4-8, one on each side. I then wrote in a journal and documented every day what I saw.

The organic side germinated at seven days, a whole three days earlier than the inorganic side. It also started growing in thicker and faster than the inorganic side, and ended up much fuller and longer at the end of the month.

We thank Kevin for sharing his project and expect that he received an ‘A.’ For most, we’d settle for our kids’ turfgrass interest to at least extend to mowing the lawn. We predict a bright and possibly green future for Kevin.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

Las Vegas Golf Course Employs Multiple Uses of Nature Safe Fertilizers

By Mike McCarthy, Regional Manager

That popular phrase about Las Vegas is adjusted somewhat to better tell the story that takes place in a suburb of Henderson, Nevada, ten miles southeast from the bright neon lights of “The Strip.” That is home for Wildhorse Golf Club, an 18 hole, par 70 golf course owned by the City of Henderson.

Scott Sutton, Superintendent, and his staff of 13, have guided this award-winning property through a tough economy and budget reductions with a commitment to excellence and conserving the environment. Under Scott’s guidance, Wildhorse is on target to become Audubon Sanctuary Certified, joining only two other Las Vegas Valley courses with that prestigious distinction.

Dennis Maskill of Simplot Partners introduced Scott to Nature Safe 27-2-2 blended with UFLEXX. During a Sales Presentation Seminar versus “Brand S,” this formulation presented many positive and profitable opportunities at around $100 per acre for 1 lb. of N. Scott immediately recognized the “dollars and sense” and placed a truckload order for immediate shipment. His order included Nature Safe’s 13-0-0 Super Fine for greens, 8-5-5 Landscape for color beds and 27-2-2 Coarse for fairways and tees.

Scott and his staff aerified the greens pulling 5/8” cores and criss-crossing with 3/8” solid tines and applied Nature Safe’s 13-0-0 Super Fine. “I was amazed that within five to six days all of the greens were completely healed. I’ll follow-up every two to three weeks using ½ lb. of N per application during the summer season,” said Scott.

“I applied NS 27-2-2 wall to wall and was impressed with the ease of application especially since I was initially concerned about the bulk density of the two-particle blend. There was no mower roller/ bagging pickup or caking and it quickly watered in. Management was equally impressed with color and no flush growth – with no need for additional mowing or added labor costs. I also like that the 27-2-2 formulation will help feed the soil microbe population when the Bermudagrass comes out of dormancy in early spring.”

Scott also reported that the color beds were doing exceptionally well. While many other courses needed to change out the color landscaping three or four times per year (more expense). He attributes the use of organics only require him to change out twice a year.
Scott truly believes that organics has helped him to reduce nitrates in his shallow ground water supply (sometimes at less than 4”) to less than 4 ppm from +60 ppm of nitrate. Scott was also pleased that Nature Safe’s salt index is less than 1% which allows him to stay on target with the Audubon certification process by reducing toxins in water runoff.

Through Nature Safe’s Sign Program, Wildhorse GC received complimentary signs informing others of their environmental stewardship practices. This further demonstrates their commitment to the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program by fulfilling the Outreach and Education segment for certification. The signage also helps educate the players and citizens of Henderson.

I asked Scott how he thought we could better present Nature Safe to other superintendents so that they would recognize its benefits. He said that many of his comrades think that all organics are too expensive. What that really means is that they want to continue with the “old school” thinking of just pounding NPK and really do not want to try organics. Scott added that they really can’t afford NOT to try it because Nature Safe “pencils out” per unit of N.

As noted in this article’s headline “. . . is spreading everywhere,” the introduction and success of NS 27-2-2 has greatly helped increase Nature Safe’s overall product line-up almost everywhere in the southwest/pacific northwest region.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Nature Safe Fertilizers Give You Something Extra

By Lou Newman, Regional Manager

I grew up in south Louisiana, where roots run deep into French culture. Many practices, customs and sayings have come to us from this French branch of our history. One custom in particular that survives in many forms is the practice of lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap). This means “a little something extra.”

For centuries French merchants (merchant, by the way, is a French word!) upon completion of a purchase (also French, well, you get the idea!), might throw in a little extra item for no additional charge. This was called “lagniappe.” It might be a piece of penny candy for the children, or an extra cookie or roll at the baker’s, or free extra laces for a pair of shoes. It was a thank you for doing business with them. And it created increased value to the buyer for the good or service.

You can still find that same sense of increased value with the sale and use of Nature Safe. No, we’re not giving away extra product, but you need to be aware that when using Nature Safe you are getting far more than the simple fertilizer analysis printed on the bag.

All fertilizers have to have guaranteed analysis. With almost all conventional fertilizers, and most other organic fertilizers, you get the N-P-K, and that’s it. Not so with Nature Safe. Sure you get the N-P-K, but what else comes with it?

Increased microbial action. Nature Safe, through the inclusion of simple sugars and carbohydrates, gives an immediate boost to the level of soil microorganism activity and population. This means faster and more pronounced response in plants that are feeding. The microbes make the analysis available so the plant can use it.

Increased soil organic matter content. Nature Safe, being primarily animal derived protein, leaves soil with more of the humus, wax, lignin and oil that comprise organic matter. The life of a soil relies on organic matter to capture nutrients and hold them for plant use, improve soil structure for better drainage and oxygen penetration, retain moisture and resist erosion.

Efficient and economical use of nutrition. Because Nature Safe is released through animal (microbes) action, availability decreases when temperatures are cool and increases when temperatures are warm. This is exactly how a plant responds to temperature. So the nutrition is available AS THE PLANT NEEDS IT! It doesn’t dump faster than the plant can use it in hot weather and it doesn’t run off during a rain storm in cool weather. It stays where you put it until biological processes make it available at basically the same relative rate that the plant grows. Is a fertilizer really cheaper if it runs into your retention pond before the grass can use it?

Repeatable and programmable performance. Many organics can vary in exact composition because they are collected, but not compounded. Nature Safe is made with the highest of standards of quality control, with raw material and finished product testing to insure specifications are met with each and every lot. You get a response you can count on every use, with no surprises when you least want them.

Suppression of disease and predatory nematodes. Yes, it’s a fertilizer, and we aren’t saying it can replace your pest and disease control, but studies show and users will tell you that regular use of Nature Safe can lower the incidence of many diseases and let you save some of your oh so tight budget on pesticides and their application. By feeding and maximizing the presence of beneficial microbes, you leave less room for pathogens to get established. You can find the studies listed on our website and you probably already know a user that is realizing the benefits of less chemical application.

Controlled growth. Because the nutrition in Nature Safe is available evenly over a long period, turf growth is consistent and broadly expressed. Phosphorus goes directly to cell elongation for longer leaves, stems and internodes. Nitrogen affects leaf expansion and size. If either, or both, are too rapidly available, in the presence of high amounts of available water, you get lots of succulent growth with low dry weight. This leads to mowing more often and production of larger amounts of clippings, with the resultant labor. If these elements are more slowly available, growth is better balanced throughout the plant, i.e., roots, stolons, and rhizomes as well as leaves and stems. Thicker turf, that has higher dry weight, makes a better playing surface, resists stress better and recovers faster from damage.

You can always count on the nutrition of Nature Safe and it’s the lagniappe that keep customers coming back for more.

Posted in All, General |

Use Nature Safe at Aeration

Lou Newman, Regional Manager

Greens and tees are the high profile portions of any golf course, so special care must be taken to keep them vibrant. Superintendents, even those that use no other organics, know about using Nature Safe at aeration. They may not use another organic all year but know aeration is a prime opportunity to use Nature Safe.

For years, Nature Safe has been most widely used as a complement to greens aeration. It feeds evenly for a prolonged period, is easier on roots than any other product, is easy to spread, will not leach and promotes a sustained recovery from aeration damage. Here are additional benefits of using Nature Safe at aeration:

The highest analysis organic on the market. This is due to using proteins blended for maximum impact.

It is 100% available in 10-12 weeks. Nature Safe is made from animal proteins, making them highly digestible by soil microorganisms for easy conversion to nutrition. Manures and sludges start out with proteins that have NOT been digested. Their processing does not make them a digestible food source for microbes.

Nature Safe is consistently manufactured. We control and test all incoming source components of Nature Safe. Formulation rates are adjusted accordingly so our fertilizers are of guaranteed analysis and release. No surprises by spotty release, carry over nutrition or incomplete decomposition.

Extremely low ash content. Since Nature Safe is not cellulose based, as are most other organics, our ash content is negligible. The porosity of the soil is not clogged by the ash. Repeated use of sludge or manure based organics can lead to an impairment of water and air percolation through the soil profile. Other detrimental factors are slow growth, reduced root growth and an increased opportunity for disease.

Cumulative results. A continued program of Nature Safe can help suppress disease by promoting beneficial microorganisms that out compete pathogenic organisms and reduce disease pressure.

Steady, deep greening of turf. Nature Safe’s structured nutritional release avoids nutrient dump in high moisture and high heat conditions. This reduces growth, meaning fewer clippings, and is more cost effective since all nutrition paid for is delivered to the plant. Growth with higher dry weight content also means plants that are more resistant to stress.

Easy application. Nature Safe is easy to spread through all conventional delivery systems and far less labor intensive than spray applications.

Posted in Aeration, All |

Nature Safe Provides A Rich Source of Calcium

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Calcium is an element that is often overlooked and misunderstood. In essence, it is the king of the elements. Plants need more calcium by weight and volume than any other element. Calcium is the key to building soil fertility.

In many instances, calcium is thought of as merely a soil amendment used to neutralize acidity, but it does not. Calcium carbonate, which is usually applied as limestone, is what actually neutralizes acidity. The carbonate ions combine with the hydrogen ions that cause acidity to form carbon dioxide and water. Using up the free hydrogen ions neutralizes the acidity. The calcium is just along for the ride.

Calcium has many benefits for the plant. It increases the availability of the other elements that are tied up in chemical forms that are unavailable to the plant. It builds soil structure by causing a flocculation of the soil particles to produce a granulated soil rather than an adobe brick soil. Adequate amounts of available calcium promote the branching and elongation of the root system. It helps to promote cell division and it produces strong cell walls that are more resistant to invasion by pathogens.

Typical soil tests will often show a high level of calcium, but the vast majority of it is normally tied up in chemical forms that are not very available to the plant. Therefore, plants growing in high calcium soils may be suffering from a calcium deficiency. Furthermore, the availability of calcium is greatly decreased by high levels of potassium. It seems as though many turf managers pour on more and more potassium because they think it will toughen up their turf. This practice tends to lead to even greater calcium deficiencies. In addition, calcium cannot be transported inside the plant from old structure to new ones. Therefore, the plant needs a continual supply of calcium throughout the growing season.

This is where Nature Safe comes to the rescue. Almost all of our complete grades of fertilizer contain a substantial amount of calcium and it is all released in a chelated form (hooked to an amino acid). That keeps the calcium from being tied up chemically in the soil and it makes it readily available to the plant even if the other calcium in the soil is tied up. This readily available chelated calcium is one of the secrets behind the performance turf managers see when they use Nature Safe. This chelated source of calcium promotes the elongation and branching of the roots to produce a deeper, more fibrous root system that makes better use of available nutrients and water.

The Nature Safe product that contains the highest level of calcium is 5-6-6, with 7% calcium. That means that for every pound of nitrogen that is applied, a total of 1.4 pounds of calcium is supplied to the plants. Compared to the total amount of calcium contained in an average soil that is not very much, but since it is all available to the plant it makes a major contribution to plant health. While this chelated calcium will not serve to balance a soil that is in need of calcium, it will tend to the plant’s needs extremely well. It is still advisable to add sufficient chemical calcium from high calcium limestone or other sources to bring up the overall level of calcium in the soil. Just bear in mind that the chemical calcium will not be nearly as beneficial to the plant as the meat and bone meal calcium that is contained in Nature Safe.

Spring aeration is the best time to apply 5-6-6 to any turf. When it gets into the aeration holes it will cause a much more rapid recovery from aeration injury and the marvelous root system it produces will pay dividends for the entire year. If the 5-6-6 is followed up with regular applications of a product like Nature Safe 8-3-5 for the rest of the year the benefits to the turf will be evident all season long.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |

Nature Safe Fertilizers Saves You Money

By Lou Newman, Regional Manager

For years, all fertilizers were judged on their price per ton. If Fertilizer A cost $500 a ton, then it was cheaper than Fertilizer B with a price of $600 per ton. It seemed easy to always pick the lower price and figure that was the best deal.

Over time though, superintendents (and farmers for that matter) became more sophisticated. They knew more about plant nutrition and how plants varied in their nutritional needs. They began to break down fertilizers into total nutrients. So, a 10-5-10 held 25% nutrition while a 12-6-12 had 30%. This led to a few calculations by the growers and users as to the price per pound of nutrients supplied. Thus, only figuring cost per ton was not the best way to judge a bargain, but rather cost per pound of nutrient supplied.

As budgets for fertilizer started to get more critically analyzed, superintendents took another step toward figuring actual cost in trying to realize any savings in their expenses. Fertilizer formula alone wasn’t enough, but they began to take into account nutrient availability. This led to considering nutrient sources.

If a manager needed 15% N, but didn’t want it all available at one time, he started taking into account the source from which the nutrition was derived. He figured % N, % Soluble N, % Water Insoluble N, % coated material and other factors. Particle size, inherent elemental availability, ease of application and many other considerations were factored into buying decisions. It’s a rather complex process to finding the best price.

Today, even more factors have to be taken into account. Fertilizer budget line items also impact equipment budget line items, which have an impact on labor budgets. Water use and cost, as well as runoff and leaching, must be considered for any turf management system, whether golf, sports or recreation. No longer is there any wiggle room in budgets, and only the sharpest and most astute managers can succeed.

As a plant nutrition specialist and key supplier to the turf industry, we must think past cost per ton, past cost per pound of nutrient supplied and past cost per pound of nutrient available. Each turf management situation is a system, and in a system every action affects other parts of the system.

So, how does Nature Safe save money? By supplying slowly available nutrition that resists leaching and runoff, that is 100% available, that is ready to be taken up when the plant needs it and at a reasonable cost, in an easily applied form on a consistent and programmable basis.

Supplying Nutrition. No other organic has the level of nutrition IN THE BAG, as does Nature Safe. Our experience and proprietary sources allow us to formulate organic analyses higher than other organics and comparable to many conventional fertilizers

Slowly Available. Nutrition Nature Safe releases over a 10-12 week period, avoiding nutrient dump. The typical nutrient dump of more soluble compounds means, WASTE from runoff, WASTE from leaching, MORE WATER demand to avoid burning and RAMPANT growth that requires MORE mowing. It also means lower dry weight and more succulent and tender growth that is easy prey to insects, and especially fungi. How much are you saving with low priced soluble compounds when a high percentage is wasted by runoff and leaching and more is spent on water and labor for mowing?

100% Available. Typical organics, such as manures, sludges and composts, release 30 – 50% of their nutrition over the first year, making their already low analysis effectively much lower. With Nature Safe you get what you pay for and you know how it will be used.

Ready When the Plants Are. All the availability in the world doesn’t help if release is too fast or too slow to help the plant. Nature Safe nutrition is well suited to achieving good growth without loss or damage.

Programmable Products. Nature Safe is tested multiple times to insure consistent, high quality that is up to specs so it fits into an overall production program. No surprises means you can build application practices that are repeatable and effective and that positively impact the overall IPM effectiveness of your customer’s programs. In addition, the longer a Nature Safe program is used, the more effective and efficient it becomes (see
fertilizer factory effect information on page 4 of our brochure).

Nature Safe saves on:

  • Nutrition in the bag that is not wasted
  • Nutrition that is available, and at a rate the plant can use it
  • Less labor and cost on watering
  • Less labor and machine upkeep on mowing
  • Less clippings produced
  • No special application tools needed
  • Repeatable practices for consistency and ease in training personnel
  • Lower disease pressure, meaning less spraying
  • Lower fungicide cost
  • Better stress resistance can mean more durability in drought or heavy rain

Don’t be fooled by the cost of a ton. Nature Safe can save you tons throughout the year, in many aspects of your operation.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Suppression of Spring Dead Spot in Bermudagrass

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Bermudagrass is a serious problem throughout most areas where Bermudagrass is grown as a fine turf for golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. While there are three different organisms that cause Spring Dead Spot, the most virulent one is Ophiosphaerella herpotricha. This organism is responsible for Spring Dead Spot in the more arid areas of the country like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. It has proven to be very difficult and very expensive to control with fungicide applications.

Traditionally, turf managers use low cost water-soluble synthetic fertilizers in their fertility programs on Bermudagrass and then put some serious money into fungicides to try to control the disease. In recent years, some turf managers have been reporting success with using Nature Safe rather than fungicides to suppress Spring Dead Spot. The ones that had the best results used Nature Safe as their regular fertilizer throughout the season and they continued making Nature Safe applications into the fall of the year. Some turf managers in more humid coastal areas, such as Alabama and Mississippi, reported making Nature Safe applications as late as December. The late season applications are important to keep the soil microbe activity at high enough levels to be able to compete with the pathogen. If the more traditional method of fertilizing Bermudagrass is followed, normally all applications of fertilizer are stopped late in the summer. With Nature Safe, it is important to make applications late in the year to keep soil microbe activity at a maximum when the disease becomes active late in the fall. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, Nature Safe will not overly stimulate the Bermudagrass with late season applications. In fact, these late season applications of Nature Safe accelerate the spring green up rate of the Bermudagrass.

The study conducted at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma looked at using season long applications of Nature Safe 10-2-8 on fairway type Tifway 419 Bermudagrass versus similar turf that was fertilized with synthetic fertilizers and others that received applications of fungicides. The final application of Nature Safe was made on October 3 and the turf was monitored and rated throughout the following spring. The final rating was done on May 22. The data shows that less disease occurred on the Nature Safe plots and that the diseased areas that did occur on the Nature Safe plots recovered much faster during the spring months. Compared to the plots where synthetic fertilizer was used, the Nature Safe plots showed a lessened severity of disease and higher turf quality. The Nature Safe plots were rated as nearly equal to plots that had received several fungicide applications. Comparing photographs of the plots in the spring of 2005 with similar photos taken in the spring in 2006, the Nature Safe plots showed marked improvements over the plots that received synthetic fertilizer and were rated as nearly as good as the plots that were treated with fungicides.

The disease severity ratings were done on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 equaled no living plants in the diseased areas, 3 equaled 50% living plants in the patches and 6 equaled no evidence of disease. On May 22 the Nature Safe plots were rated at 5.50 versus 3.75 for the synthetically fertilized plots and 5.25 for the plots that received fungicides.

Turfgrass quality ratings were done on a scale of 1 to 6 where 1 equaled large, well defined patches and unsightly turfgrass, 3 equaled moderately acceptable turfgrass and 6 equaled thick healthy turf with no appearance of patches of disease. On May 22, the Nature Safe plots were rated at 5.00 versus 3.50 on the synthetically fertilized plots and 5.00 on the plots receiving fungicides.

The results of this one year trial suggest that making season long applications of Nature Safe to Bermudagrass turf will help to suppress Spring Dead Spot and promote more rapid recovery in the spring without the use of fungicides. In areas of the country where less virulent species of the pathogen exist, the results would be even better. As with most diseases, Nature Safe becomes more effective in suppressing them after it is used for more than one season. We expect to see improvements in disease suppression and overall turf quality in the second and third years of a Nature Safe program without the use of fungicides.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

The Secret of Nature Safe Fertilizers

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

The quality of a plot of turf grass is generally judged by visual characteristics such as color, uniformity, density, wear tolerance, heat tolerance and disease resistance. Those are all above ground characteristics that we can see and appreciate. But roots, the most important part of the plant, are rarely seen. As a result, many of us tend to overlook their importance until a lack of rooting starts to affect the above ground portions of the plant. Once that happens it is often too late to rapidly restore the plant to health.

Nature Safe has long been noted for the healthy turf it can produce and that healthy turf is a direct result of the increased root health. Some people assume this root health is simply a function of the even, consistent fertility supplied by the amino acids in Nature Safe. While that is certainly part of the reason for better roots, there is much more to the story.

The story starts with the chelated nutrients in Nature Safe that are more available to the plant than the standard chemical nutrients. Calcium is the most important. All of the calcium in Nature Safe comes from meat and bone meal. When this calcium is broken down by the soil microbes it is in a chelated form, which means it is attached to an amino acid. While chelated calcium is very easily taken up by the plant roots, it also promotes elongation and branching of the roots. The result is a deeper, more fibrous root system that is better able to make use of the nutrients and the water that is available.

Nature Safe also feeds the soil microbes that are in competition with the pathogens in the soil. While all true organics will feed the beneficial microbes to some extent, Nature Safe does it better because of the higher levels of amino acids found in all of our products. It is the amino acids that serve as food for the microbes. The beneficial microbes congregate around the roots in the rhizosphere because they feed on the amino acids that are being exuded from the roots. Plants exude about 40% of the food they make through their roots to attract the beneficial microbes.

Like all living creatures on the face of the Earth, microbes have ways to protect themselves from their enemies. In the animal kingdom for instance, porcupines have their sharp quills and skunks have their horrible odor to protect themselves. Beneficial soil microbes have the ability to exude antibodies that repel and kill their enemies. One of the many organisims that is found to occur naturally in most soils and is also contained in Nature Safe is Bacillus subtilis which has been shown in recent studies to produce antibiotics including some called iturins that help the bacteria compete with other microorganisms either by killing them or reducing their growth rate. It has also been shown to interfere with the attachment of the pathogen to the plant. By feeding and introducing additional organisms such a B. subtilis and others their numbers are increased exponentially. This greatly increases the number of beneficial organisms in the rhizosphere which serves to better protect the roots. The roots are in effect wrapped in a protective layer of beneficial microbes. Therefore the roots tend to be much healthier so they grow deeper and produce more root hairs.

Since pathogens are not very good competitors, many of them stay in a state of dormancy most of the time in order to survive. They can sense when plants are under stress and then rapidly become active to attack the plant. The antibodies that the soil microbes produce are very effective on the active pathogens, but not the dormant ones. However, the dormant pathogens succumb to gasses that are produced as a by-product by the soil microbes as they consume the energy in the amino acids. Work done by Dr. George Lazarovits in Canada showed that these gases are toxic to many dormant pathogens as well as some other organisms such as nematodes. By killing so many dormant pathogens there are fewer pathogens to infect the plants when the weather conditions are right for the disease to attack. This is particularly true with seasonal diseases such as snow mold.

Nematodes are found in all soils and they are beginning to cause damage much further North than ever before. They may not cause any readily apparent damage in the more northerly climates, but they are always sucking on the roots and causing more stress to be put on the plant. This commonly referred to as subclinical damage. The same gasses that kill dormant pathogens have been found to be toxic to parasitic nematodes. Reducing the populations of nematodes allows the roots to more fully develop and the plants to be much healthier and more vigorous.

The more we learn about these marvelous and totally unseen processes that occur in the soil, the more we come to understand the true secret to Nature Safe performance regardless of the kinds of plants grown.

Posted in All, General |

Product Research Ignores What Is Most Important

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

According to an article I read at the Ohio State University Turf Field Day, a good deal of the research was directed toward dollar spot control. Accordingly, many of the attendees’ questions were about the same subject. The research that was discussed consisted of different fungicides at different rates and different timings of applications. They also studied fertility programs that used both water soluble and slow release synthetic fertilizers. They were examining ways to kill the pathogens and feed the plants with nutrients that were directly available to the plants, completely bypassing looking at ways to feed the beneficial microbes. That is almost always the approach used in typical university research programs. Research conducted by seven universities demonstrated that when Nature Safe is applied on a regular basis most plant diseases significantly decline and overall plant health increases. Dollar spot responds to Nature Safe even more than some of the other pathogens. Yet universities do not even acknowledge the correlation.

There are many reasons for the apparent lack of interest that we see in university research programs. The primary reason is that most of the research conducted at the university level is being paid for by grants from the chemical companies and they do not want to see any research done on methods that would reduce their sales. It is difficult to blame them for that. Their objective is to find compounds they can patent and make millions of dollars on in a few short years. That pays them back very handsomely for their research expenditures. There is an old saying that he who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune. In this case the chemical companies are paying the fiddler so they are obviously going to get to dictate what kind of research is being done.
The university research people themselves have been trained from the time they were in diapers to embrace the chemical approach. In their view, there is a chemical solution to every problem. As a result, most university research personnel have not been exposed to organics of any kind and they usually ignore them.

In Canada, things work a little differently. The Canadian government has effectively banned the sale of many turf chemicals. However, the government has sponsored many research projects that demonstrate the benefits of organic products for both turf and agriculture.

The question then is why don’t organic companies sponsor more university research to demonstrate the benefits of organics? Most organic companies are small and they just don’t have the funds or the desire to do much in the way of research. In some instances they also have doubts as to how well their products will compare in such field trials because they know that their products lack consistency.

Nature Safe has sponsored more university research than any other organic company, but the amount that we sponsor pales in comparison to the large chemical companies. Nature Safe’s products are always consistent and feed the microbes that compete with pathogens. Nature Safe has the highest level of digestible amino acids and feeds far better than any other organic product on the market.

We could spend a lot of money on research projects and discover that feeding a particular organism does great things for the plant, but naturally occurring elements or organisms cannot be patented. It would be like trying to patent air and then charging people to breathe. The bottom line is that we do not need to, nor could we afford to spend more money to confirm and reconfirm the benefits of using Nature Safe. All we have to do is ask the people who use Nature Safe regularly. Their numbers are growing every year and their voices are getting more and more difficult to ignore.

Posted in All, Research |

Snow Mold Success Starts Now

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Over the years, Nature Safe users have reported a significant reduction in the incidence of snow mold on turf that is treated regularly with Nature Safe the previous growing season. It is particularly noticeable where, for one reason or another, the normal application of snow mold preventative fungicide was not applied. Normally, if no preventative treatment is made, and the winter conditions are severe, the result is a considerable amount of dead grass from snow mold. Snow mold can be devastating even where a preventative treatment is applied. So, it is especially remarkable that very little damage occurs when no chemicals are applied in the fall.

That is exactly what happened at The Woods Golf Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin this past winter. Due to poor weather conditions, Ed Hoover, the Superintendent at The Woods, was unable to make an application of snow mold control fungicide on his Poa annua fairways. Poa is one of the most susceptible species to snow mold.

We know that Green Bay winters are usually bad from watching the famous Green Bay Packers play on the “frozen tundra,” but the winter of 2007-2008 was one of the most severe. Several feet of snow blanketed the area all winter and there were many periods where cold snow melt water ran across the underlying turf. You could not imagine better conditions for a severe infestation of snow mold.

When the snow finally melted, Ed was sure that his fairways would be devastated. Much to Ed’s surprise there was only superficial damage on the leaf tips. Ed said that in previous years snow mold completely killed the grass and he had to either seed or sod. This year was different. All the turf was alive and it grew out of the superficial leaf damage. Naturally, Ed and the club were ecstatic.

How did this “miracle” occur? The only thing Ed did differently last summer was to use Nature Safe 15-2-8 on his fairways. He made three applications at the rate of ¾ pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. These applications were made in May, June and August. Ed felt that his fairways last summer were the best they have ever been, but he had no inkling of the extra benefits that he was going to get from his Nature Safe usage.

What happened here is really no mystery. Research conducted by Dr. George Lazarovits1 shows that as beneficial soil microbes consume the energy contained in the high levels of amino acids in Nature Safe, they give off gasses that are toxic to many pathogens in the soil. These gasses are more toxic to pathogens that are in a dormant stage than they are to actively working pathogens. When Nature Safe is applied on a regular basis during the growing season the toxic gasses kill more and more of the dormant pathogens (such as snow mold) each time it is applied. That means that the inoculums normally available to start an outbreak of disease would not be present to create a problem when weather conditions become ideal.

Nature Safe will not eliminate snow mold and it will still be necessary to apply a snow mold control fungicide. It is safe to say that any snow mold that occurs will be much less of a problem than it would be on areas not treated with Nature Safe and that any applied snow mold control fungicides will be more effective.

It’s important to make sure that no one is being misled as to the winter benefits of Nature Safe. For winter disease benefits, Nature Safe should be applied at least three times during the summer months so that the gasses being given off by the microbes have a chance to kill as much inoculums as possible. One late fall application will certainly help, but it will not be sufficient to achieve the kind of results that were observed at The Woods Golf Club. For turf that is susceptible to snow mold, the time to get it started on Nature Safe is to apply it first thing in the spring and continue throughout the summer.

More About Snow Mold

Snow mold is a fungal disease that appears in early spring as the snow melts. There are two types of snow molds, gray and pink, that become active under the snow cover.

Gray snow mold survives hot summer temperatures in the soil or in infected plant debris as sclerotia, resistant fungal structures, while pink snow mold survives as mycelium or spores in infected plant debris. Fungal growth begins in the winter, beneath a cover of snow on unfrozen ground. Growth can take place at temperatures slightly below freezing and may continue after snow melt, as long as the grass remains cool and wet. Gray snow mold activity stops when the temperature exceeds 45°F or the surface dries. Pink snow mold activity may continue during wet weather in the fall and spring, as long as the temperature is between 32°F and 60°F.

Symptoms first appear in the turf as circular, straw colored patches when the snow melts in the spring. These patches continue to enlarge as long as the grass remains cold and wet. Grass within the patch often has a matted appearance and colored fungal growth. The fungal growth may cover the entire patch or develop along the margins, with gray snow mold being white to gray in color and pink snow mold being white to pink in color. Occasionally, fungal fruiting bodies (mushrooms) may be seen emerging from infected turf. Hard structures, called sclerotia, may also develop on the leaves and crowns of plants infected by gray snow mold, not pink. The sclerotia are spherical in shape and roughly the size of a pinhead. Their presence helps to distinguish gray snow mold from pink snow mold.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

How to Manage or Prevent Localized Dry Spot

by Al Lanoie, Regional Manager

Localized dry spot can be a superintendent’s nightmare during the stressful summer months in the Northeast. It usually appears from mid June through early September, but can be visible earlier or later in the growing season.

The main cause of localized dry spot, or water repellent soils, is a build-up of organic acids that form on soil particles. These organic acids are made of plant exudates and fungal hyphae, such as Fairy Ring, that are made up of non-polar molecules. Water is a polar molecule, therefore it cannot attach to soil particles for uniform hydration.

These non-polar coatings are always present and are a by-product of growing a good stand of turf. Localized dry spot is present in all turf situations. They are more prevalent on golf courses due to the different heights of cut and other stresses the turf endures. These organic coatings are even present in the winter months, but because of adequate moisture available, and lack of turf stress, localized dry spots are not evident.

Wetting agents, or soil surfactants, are one of the tools available to superintendents and turf managers to combat localized dry spot. Wetting agents have both a polar and a non-polar end to the molecule and create an adhesion sight in the soil. Therefore, the non-polar end attaches to the organic coating and the polar end can then hold water to hydrate the soil.

Another obstacle with uniform water movement into the soil is thatch. Thatch is also non-polar. Water will evaporate versus penetrate into the soil during the summer heat thus making the water unavailable to the roots.

Nature Safe can be an important tool in managing localized dry spot. If used in a continuous program the natural ingredients will aid in deeper roots, disease management and thatch reduction. Nature Safe contains humus that not only affects nutrient holding capacity, but also water holding capacity.

Fall aeration is an ideal time to incorporate Nature Safe and begin the process of thatch reduction. It will establish a much deeper root system, improve soil porosity and the air and water ratios in the soil.

Nature Safe and soil surfactants are the winning combination to prevent and manage localized dry spots.

Pace Turfgrass Research Institute conducted an evaluation of fungicides and Nature Safe for control of localized dry spots and Fairy Ring. The results show that Nature Safe can successfully be used as a management tool in controlling localized dry spots and fungal invasion.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

The Tool for Aeration: 5-6-6

By: Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Whenever greens or tees are aerated, the first product that should be considered for fertility should be Nature Safe 5-6-6. This formulation is specifically designed for aeration, new construction and over seeding.

The most important reason to use 5-6-6 at aeration is the high concentration of humic acid. It contains approximately four times the amount of humic acid found in any other Nature Safe product. This humic acid is derived from the highest quality Leonardite humus and increases the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil. That is particularly important for turf grown on sandy soils. The humic acid helps to hold nutrients and water in the sand without plugging up the pore spaces that allow for good drainage. Conversely, in heavier soils, humic acid helps bond together soil particles. This gives rise to a soft, crumbly soil structure. Humic acids also stimulate soil microorganisms that improve soil structure. Lastly, humic acids have chelating properties that increases the availability and uptake of many nutrients including phosphorus.

Turf grown on sand has a limited root system due to calcium deficiency. The roots may go down quite a way into the soil mix, but they’re not as big and bushy. Even though the percent calcium base saturation level of a sandy soil may be quite high, the CEC may be 2.0 or less.

If calcium is added to the soil in a chemical form, it subjects the stored potassium and magnesium to leaching and there is still not enough calcium available for the plants.

Nature Safe 5-6-6 contains 7% calcium from bone meal. That means for every pound of nitrogen that is applied, 1.4 pounds of calcium is applied.

This type of calcium is released in a chelated form that it does not displace the available potassium or magnesium in the soil. The result is improved root mass and healthier plants that can make better use of the nutrients and water available in the soil.

All of the phosphorus in 5-6-6 is derived from bone meal. Because it is also released in a chelated form, it is not as likely to be tied up in the soil in insoluble forms, as is the case with chemical forms of P. As a result, the phosphorus is more readily available to the plant.

The most important reason to use 5-6-6 at aeration is for the amino acids that feed the soil microbes, which in turn nourish and protect the plant. When 5-6-6 is applied at the rate of one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., a total of 6.24 pounds of readily digestible amino acids are being applied. Nature Safe 5-6-6 delivers more pounds of amino acids per pound of nitrogen than any other product we make and tremendously more than similar products manufactured by other companies. These amino acids help speed the recovery of the turf from the damage it suffers during the aeration process. The result of using 5-6-6 at aeration is a healthier denser turf with greatly improved rooting and soil structure that will help the plant survive the rigors of summer.

Posted in Aeration, All |

The Decline and Fall of a Nature Safe Program

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Anyone who has ever correctly used a Nature Safe program will attest to the fact that it works and it works well. The benefits are many and include disease suppression, soil structure enhancement, thatch reduction, enhanced rooting, superior density and uniform growth. Of course, the secret to getting the most out of a Nature Safe program is to use it regularly. The longer one uses the program, the better the results tend to be.

Occasionally I come across a Nature Safe user who claims that his Nature Safe program no longer works for him. A customer who had been using Nature Safe 10-2-8 on his bentgrass fairways was singing the praises of Nature Safe as he had greatly reduced his thatch problem, practically eliminated a severe dollar spot problem and produces a well rooted and dense turf in the process.

Three years later, he claimed the program was no longer working for him. He now has thatch problems, dollar spot is a major problem and he is experiencing excessive growth. He feels that something in Nature Safe has changed.

When we looked at what his practices were three years ago versus this year, there was a world of difference, but the superintendent didn’t realize how much his program had changed. Three years ago he was applying about a third of a pound of nitrogen per month from 10-2-8. At that rate, he would have been applying a little over two pounds of nitrogen per thousand per year. However, in the past three years he has slowly tweaked his program to the point where he is, in all reality, no longer on a true Nature Safe program. He has gradually gotten to the point where he makes only two summer applications of Nature Safe that total about 6/10 of a pound of nitrogen. The rest of his program now consists of synthetic fertilizer. He felt that because he was still using the same amount of nitrogen per unit area, he should be getting better results.

When a Nature Safe program is used, the amount of nitrogen that is being applied is not of great importance like it is when applying synthetic products. The most important consideration is how much and how often amino acids are being applied. On cool season turf, a minimum of about 12 pounds per thousand of amino acids spread over at least four applications during the season are required to achieve optimum results. If 10-2-8 is being used, which contains 60.3% amino acids, it is necessary to apply at least two pounds of nitrogen per thousand scattered over at least four applications. If it is scattered over five or six applications the results will be even better. That will total 20 pounds of 10-2-8 per thousand, which translates to slightly over 12 pounds of amino acids. Just remember, 12 pounds of amino acids per thousand square feet per season is not the maximum, it is the minimum for optimum performance. The superintendent described above is applying 6/10 of a pound of nitrogen per thousand per year from Nature Safe. If he is using 10-2-8, that amounts to less than four pounds of amino acids per thousand per year divided between only two applications. Little wonder then that the results were less than ideal.

When a new Nature Safe program is initiated, results are not always immediately obvious because it takes some time to build up the populations of beneficial soil microbes to high enough levels to be effective. Once their numbers have been built up, they also do not decline rapidly. If the amount of food that is available to them declines, they slowly decline in numbers. Therefore, if someone tweaks his Nature Safe program a little at a time by slowly reducing the number of applications or the amount of each application, he will not see an immediate decline in his results. He tends to look at the turf and see little difference, so he thinks he has found a way to reduce the cost of his program without affecting the quality of his turf. If the program is tweaked a little every year, in a few years it is no longer effective and the superintendent arrives at the conclusion that Nature Safe no longer works for him.

I even had one superintendent tell me that the pathogens that were attacking his turf had developed an immunity to the beneficial organisms, thereby forcing him to use more fungicides. Of course there is no way that pathogens can become immune to the beneficial organisms. They can develop immunities to specific chemicals over time, but they cannot develop immunities to living organisms. These beneficial microbes are not really killing the pathogens, they are just out competing them, and no organism can develop immunity to competition. In this instance the superintendent had switched from Nature Safe to a chicken manure product to save some money. His new product had a very low percentage of amino acids and it did not adequately feed the beneficial microbes, so there were not enough of them available to properly compete with the pathogens. He saved some money on fertilizer, but he spent much more on fungicides.

I think that the most important lesson that can be learned here is that when using a Nature Safe program, the amount of nitrogen that is being applied is of little importance. What really matters is the amount of amino acids that are being applied and how often the applications are being made. If we can forget about the N, P and K numbers on the bag and focus on the amino acid content instead, we will have a much greater chance of producing the finest turf possible.

Posted in All, General |

Why Use Nature Safe on Fairways?

Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

That’s the question Joe Bambino, Superintendent at Wynmoor Golf Community in Ft. Lauderdale, asked me during a sales call. Joe also wanted to know why he should continue to use Nature Safe instead of switching to a manure-based organic.

To answer Joe’s questions, we decided to set up a side-by-side comparison of Nature Safe 13-0-0 with manure-based organic Perdue 4-2-3 on his sandiest fairways. Before the comparison, Joe did the math to determine comparable rates of N: 246 lbs. of NS 13-0-0 and 800 lbs. of Perdue 4-2-3.

Most soils in Florida are high in P, so the use of additional P is not going to provide any value and will not have any impact upon the results of the test since P is so slowly available to the plant. The K can be supplemented with SOP or K-Mag, so side-by-side comparisons can be done with validity.

Even though there wasn’t an outstanding difference in product performance during the three month trial, there were some definite differences that Joe mentioned during our follow-up meeting. “Our membership noticed the manure’s strong odor. I also had to put down four times more Perdue and it did not blend into the fairway grass as easily as the Nature Safe,” said Joe. “The handling and efficiency differences of the two products are enough for me to continue using Nature Safe on my fairways.”

In addition to cost and efficiency benefits, Nature Safe’s fertility is readily available to the plant, improving stress tolerance and reducing disease pressures. The metals in manures can present fertility balance issues thus leaving plants susceptible to low stress tolerance and diseases.

If fairways are weak and need a boost, the use of Nature Safe will help stimulate microbial activity and keep the stress of winter from wreaking havoc on fairways.

Posted in All, General |

All Organics Are Not Equal

By Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

The quality of a plot of turf grass is generally judged by visual characteristics such as color, uniformity, density, wear tolerance, heat tolerance and disease resistance. Those are all above ground characteristics that we can see and appreciate. But roots, the most important part of the plant, are rarely seen. As a result, many of us tend to overlook their importance until a lack of rooting starts to affect the above ground portions of the plant. Once that happens it is often too late to rapidly restore the plant to health.

Nature Safe has long been noted for the healthy turf it can produce and that healthy turf is a direct result of the increased root health. Some people assume this root health is simply a function of the even, consistent fertility supplied by the amino acids in Nature Safe. While that is certainly part of the reason for better roots, there is much more to the story.

The story starts with the chelated nutrients in Nature Safe that are more available to the plant than the standard chemical nutrients. Calcium is the most important. All of the calcium in Nature Safe comes from meat and bone meal. When this calcium is broken down by the soil microbes it is in a chelated form, which means it is attached to an amino acid. While chelated calcium is very easily taken up by the plant roots, it also promotes elongation and branching of the roots. The result is a deeper, more fibrous root system that is better able to make use of the nutrients and the water that is available.

Nature Safe also feeds the soil microbes that are in competition with the pathogens in the soil. While all true organics will feed the beneficial microbes to some extent, Nature Safe does it better because of the higher levels of amino acids found in all of our products. It is the amino acids that serve as food for the microbes. The beneficial microbes congregate around the roots in the rhizosphere because they feed on the amino acids that are being exuded from the roots. Plants exude about 40% of the food they make through their roots to attract the beneficial microbes.

Like all living creatures on the face of the Earth, microbes have ways to protect themselves from their enemies. In the animal kingdom for instance, porcupines have their sharp quills and skunks have their horrible odor to protect themselves. Beneficial soil microbes have the ability to exude antibodies that repel and kill their enemies. One of the many organisims that is found to occur naturally in most soils and is also contained in Nature Safe is Bacillus subtilis which has been shown in recent studies to produce antibiotics including some called iturins that help the bacteria compete with other microorganisms either by killing them or reducing their growth rate. It has also been shown to interfere with the attachment of the pathogen to the plant. By feeding and introducing additional organisms such a B. subtilis and others their numbers are increased exponentially. This greatly increases the number of beneficial organisms in the rhizosphere which serves to better protect the roots. The roots are in effect wrapped in a protective layer of beneficial microbes. Therefore the roots tend to be much healthier so they grow deeper and produce more root hairs.

Since pathogens are not very good competitors, many of them stay in a state of dormancy most of the time in order to survive. They can sense when plants are under stress and then rapidly become active to attack the plant. The antibodies that the soil microbes produce are very effective on the active pathogens, but not the dormant ones. However, the dormant pathogens succumb to gasses that are produced as a by-product by the soil microbes as they consume the energy in the amino acids. Work done by Dr. George Lazarovits in Canada showed that these gases are toxic to many dormant pathogens as well as some other organisms such as nematodes. By killing so many dormant pathogens there are fewer pathogens to infect the plants when the weather conditions are right for the disease to attack. This is particularly true with seasonal diseases such as snow mold.

Nematodes are found in all soils and they are beginning to cause damage much further North than ever before. They may not cause any readily apparent damage in the more northerly climates, but they are always sucking on the roots and causing more stress to be put on the plant. This commonly referred to as subclinical damage. The same gasses that kill dormant pathogens have been found to be toxic to parasitic nematodes. Reducing the populations of nematodes allows the roots to more fully develop and the plants to be much healthier and more vigorous.

The more we learn about these marvelous and totally unseen processes that occur in the soil, the more we come to understand the true secret to Nature Safe performance regardless of the kinds of plants grown.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Plants Don’t Know the Difference Between Synthetic and Organic Fertilizers

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Manufacturers and distributors of synthetic fertilizers have long perpetuated the idea that plants cannot tell the difference between organic nitrogen and synthetic nitrogen. Their reasoning is there is no reason to use organic fertilizer when the synthetic nitrogen is less costly per unit of nitrogen. To some degree this line of reasoning is correct. In order for a plant to be able to use nitrogen it must be in either the nitrate form or the ammoniacal form. Synthetic fertilizers supply nitro­gen in these two forms and it is directly available to the plant. The nitrogen in an organic product like Nature Safe must be broken down by the soil microbes into ammoniacal or nitrate forms. By the time the plant uses it, Nature Safe’s nitro­gen is no different than synthetic nitrogen.

If the form of nitrogen used by the plant were the end of the story, there would probably not be much reason to use Nature Safe in place of synthetic sources. However, this is just the beginning of the story, not the end. The rest of the story is all about what happened in the soil while the rich supply of amino acids contained in Nature Safe were being converted into nutrients that are usable by the plant.

While the turf manager may ultimately be getting the same nitrogen in both synthetic products and Nature Safe, he is not getting the other tremendous benefits of using Nature Safe. Of course, he will get the even, controlled growth with no growth surges from Nature Safe, but there’s more than just predictable growth happening. One of the major benefits of using Nature Safe is a deeper, more fibrous root system. This is due to the rich supply of chelated calcium from bone meal that promotes the elongation and branching of roots, allowing the plant to make better use of the nutrients and water that is available. In addition, many of the soil microbes that are being fed by Nature Safe tend to congregate in an area around the roots known as the rhizosphere. These microbes, such as bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi are able to protect themselves by emitting natural antibiotics that repel or kill their enemies. You have undoubtedly heard of some of these antibiotics because they are manufactured commercially for human use. They include penicillin, streptomycin, aureomycin, terramycin, chloromycetin and tetracycline. These same antibiotics will also repel or kill many of the soil borne patho­gens that might attack the roots of the plant. Sometimes the damage caused to the roots is classified as sub clinical because it does not do enough damage to cause visual symptoms, but it does weaken the plant and put it under more stress. This stress, coupled with the stress the plant is under from numerous other factors, can sometimes be enough to do major damage. A food source like Nature Safe that is rich in amino acids will cause a huge increase in the populations of beneficial microbes, which in turn offers increased protection to the roots.

Nature Safe also has a very low salt index and a lower salt content in the soil reduces the plant’s need for water. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that a plant with deep, fibrous, healthy roots growing in a low salt environment will be able to withstand the rigors of summer stress much better.

The population explosion of beneficial microbes also plays a major role in the suppression of many foliar turf diseases. Diseases such as Dollar Spot, Brown Patch and Necrotic Ring Spot, just to name a few, can all be significantly reduced with regular use of Nature Safe. It will not eliminate the need for fungicides, but it will extend the windows between spray applications and increase the efficacy of the chemical. The end result is healthier turf and lower chemical costs. The same explosion of beneficial soil microbes also help to reduce localized dry spots and thatch

One benefit of using Nature Safe on a regular basis that is often overlooked is the increase in the quality of turf grown in a semi-shaded environment. This is due to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide that is given off by the microbe population and used in the photosynthetic process by the plant. The extra CO² allows the plant to make more food during the time it has sunlight and this extra food helps it to make it through the non-sunlit hours without eating into its stored reserves. This helps to produce better turf in shaded areas. Of course some of the CO² combines with soil water to form carbonic acid which helps to increase the solubility of some of the minerals that would not otherwise be available to the plant.

While plants may not know the difference between Nature Safe nitrogen and synthetic nitrogen, professional turf manag­ers can tell the difference in the health, density and survivability of their turf in a relatively short period of time.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

All About Phosphorous

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

In recent years, many state and local governing bodies increasingly elected to impose bans or restrictions on the use of turf fertilizers containing phosphorus. These agencies are trying to blame turf fertilizers for polluting streams and lakes with phosphorus, but these same agencies do not consider how much of the pollution comes from farm fields and other sources. The agricultural community across the country has too much political clout for most legislative bodies to mess with. Instead, they take on easier targets like the turf industry. In most instances the legislators passing the laws have very little knowledge of the importance of phosphorus to plants of all kinds. Even when the evidence is presented to them they ignore it and proceed with passing new laws to regulate phosphorus so that they appear to be politically correct. A few years ago Dr. Wayne Kussow from the University of Wisconsin conducted field trials that proved that run off and leaching of phosphorus from turf areas was extremely small. He presented this data to several governing bodies while they were deliberating over proposed laws. Yet these people felt that they had to be politically correct so they passed the laws and no one paid any attention to the facts.

What legislators have failed to realize is that phosphorus is vitally important to plant health, and no plants can be grown indefinitely without phosphorus. It is vital for root growth and for all of the chemical reactions within the plant. Energy for all chemical reactions within the plant comes from adenosine triphosphate, commonly referred to as ATP, which is a phosphorus containing compound. Phosphorus is also a vital component of all the enzymes in the plant that govern such things as cell division and photosynthesis. Without these compounds no plant can exist for long.

While most soils do not contain adequate levels of phosphorus, soil tests will reveal that many soils have fairly high levels of phosphorus, but much of it is tied up in chemical forms that plants cannot use. Each year turf uses up some of the phosphorus in the soil and after a few years problems can ensue. Back in the 1970s some one came up with idea that phosphorus was responsible for the proliferation of Poa annua. Of course no one wanted Poa so most golf course superintendents began demanding zero phosphate fertilizers. Like all other Poa annua control schemes that I have seen over the years, limiting phosphorus did not work. The Poa annua continued to proliferate. However, after several years of applying these zero phosphate fertilizers many superintendents began to experience turf problems. When soil tests were run it was discovered that the soils were deficient in phosphorus. By that time most superintendents had long ago given up on controlling Poa annua so they just went back to applying fertilizers containing phosphate. Much of the same thing is going to happen on soils where phosphorus has been banned by these new laws. This time however, it will take a change in the laws to allow it to be once again applied to turf.

The phosphorus in Nature Safe is less likely to leach or run off than traditional chemical forms such as super phosphate and triple super phosphate. That is because all the phosphorus in Nature Safe is derived from steamed bone meal and it is in a chelated form. That simply means that the phosphorus is hooked to an amino acid, which makes it much more available to the plants. It does not get tied up in the soil due to adverse chemical reactions, but it is a form of controlled release fertilizer that does not leach out of even sandy soils. Because it is more available to the plants, steamed bone meal phosphorus can be used in more limited quantities and still supply more than adequate phosphorus to the plant. Nature Safe supplies not only the highest level of nutrition to the plant, but also supplies it in the forms that are most available to the plant, and phosphorus is no exception. In addition, it is the safest and the most Earth friendly fertilizer available today.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, Environmental, Phosphorous |

Feeding Soil Microbes

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

In the past, I have been guilty of oversimplifying the importance of carbon as a food source for soil microbes. I said soil microbes eat carbon and that carbon comes from the amino acids. Using the amount of carbon present in a given fertilizer is a convenient yardstick to measure its food value for soil microbes. Because of that, some manufacturers of synthetic nitrogen sources think that their products feed the soil microbes because they contain carbon compounds. Products such as urea, methylene urea, urea formaldehyde and IBDU all contain carbon compounds, but these carbon compounds do very little, if anything, to feed the soil microbes. All these products do a wonderful job of feeding the plant, but they do little or nothing for the vital soil microbes. If carbon was truly the food source for soil microbes, coal dust would be the best fertilizer in the world.

The true food source for soil microbes is amino acids. Amino acids are complex structures of carbon rings held together by peptide bonds. These structures are so complex that they are not well understood even by most organic chemists or microbiologists, but they all agree that amino acids are the food source for the soil microbes. While I am not an organic chemist or a microbiologist, from what I understand, it is the peptide bonds between the carbon rings that contain the energy that soil microbes require. The microbes are able to break these bonds to obtain the energy that they require. They use this energy to assimilate the carbon. Therefore, the more amino acids that are present the more energy that will be available for the soil microbes to use in the assimilation of the all important carbon.

Amino acids can come from three different sources: decaying animal tissue, decaying plant tissue or soil organic matter. Synthetic fertilizers contain none of these sources. However, because some of them do contain carbon compounds they are usually referred to as synthetic organics, but they are devoid of amino acids. Therefore the soil microbes don’t have any energy source that will help them assimilate the carbon that is available.

Nature Safe contains proteins that are made up of amino acids derived from animal processing. According to a research paper published by Dr. George Lazarovits from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “Of the numerous products tested proteinaceous products derived from the animal processing industries such as Nature Safe, were found to be the most consistent in their effects for increasing soil microorganism populations while at the same time reducing the populations of a spectrum of plant pathogens including bacteria, fungi and nematode species.” Furthermore, Dr. Lazarovits’ work showed that synthetic fertilizers did not increase microbial populations, and they actually produced small decreases in numbers. The carbon in the synthetic fertilizers did not serve as food for the soil microbes. Nature Safe, on the other hand, produced between a twenty-four and a forty fold increase in soil microbes within 76 hours after it was applied.

If a your only goal is to provide a nitrogen source for his turf, one of the synthetic organic products would certainly be a good choice. However, if you are interested in feeding the soil microbes and letting them take care of the plant’s needs while at the same time reducing populations of disease causing organisms and improving the overall health of the turf, then Nature Safe should be your product of choice.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Turfgrass Fertility & Poor Water Quality

Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

Dr. Ronnie Duncan is a leading breeder of Seashore Paspalum and spent many years developing cultural practices to ensure superintendents’ success in managing this turfgrass. I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dr. Duncan and have outlined below the key points he made. The information is relevant to anyone who might be managing grass in situations where the water is high in sodium or bicarbonates, or the water quality is generally less than ideal.
Several of Dr. Duncan’s comments are applicable to the use of Nature Safe on Seashore Paspalums and should be taken into consideration.

Properly managed Seashore Paspalums can tolerate Na in the water at 6000 PPM (drinking water is normally 300-500 PPM). However, if management practices are not undertaken to manage salts, even Paspalums will not survive in highly saline environments.

High levels of sodium require calcium to sequester the salt and allow the Seashore Paspalum, or other turfgrass, to survive in an environment that is detrimental to the plant. It is best to frequently apply Ca in small increments.

Thatch helps the turf hold salts, which has a detrimental impact on microbial activity. Aeration can help get rid of salts by breaking up the thatch and increasing the level of oxygen in the soil. Another key to thatch control in Seashore Paspalum is N management. Paspalums primarily uptake nitrate forms of N since this is the only form of N present in sea water. Paspalum has low N requirements. Hence, a slow release N is a good form of N.

Superintendents with high bicarbonates in their water can be acidifying the water to remove the bicarbonates. In doing so, the water can have a detrimental impact on soil microbial activity, especially if pH of the water drops below five.

Seashore Paspalum requires about one-third the amount of N of a Bermudagrass.

“Calcium Therapy” is part of a Seashore Paspalum fertility program. Use calcium at a ratio of two parts Ca to one part Mg. If you don’t maintain this ratio, the turf will yellow. Dr. Duncan indicated that a Ca complex with sugar alcohols or amino acids is a good form to apply.

Other valuable components of a turf management program in situations where water quality is an issue include amino acids, humus, vitamins and enzymes.

All of these points support the use of Nature Safe in a nutrient management program for Seashore Paspalums. Several of the product features dovetail directly into key points about management of turf in situations where water quality is poor.

The calcium in Nature Safe comes from steamed bone meal, not acidified bone meal. The calcium is chelated on an amino acid which makes it more readily available to the plant than other forms of Ca and is slowly released.

Nature Safe is an excellent fertilizer to use at aeration which helps reduce the detrimental impact of salts.

Nature Safe contains Cookie Meal® which is a source of sugars. Other ingredients include humus, vitamins and enzymes which are beneficial to the soil microbes.

There are 11 different beneficial microorganisms in Nature Safe. They are in spore form and only become active when exposed to moisture. They help add to microbial populations in saline environments where microorganism populations are challenged by the saline environment or water treatments.

The N in Nature Safe is slow release N, available to the plant for 12-16 weeks after application. It contains very little ammonicial N, unlike sludge and manure, so the plant is truly being slow-fed.

The use of NS 5-6-6 at aeration with 7% chelated calcium would be a beneficial part of a Seashore Paspalum fertility program. For fairways, us NS 7-12-0 with 10% chelated calcium in a blend with other sources of N and K is also an excel­lent tool for use with Seashore Paspalum.
For more information on the use of Nature Safe in a Seashore Paspalum program contact your Nature Safe sales rep.

Posted in All, General |

Effective Water Management

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Water restrictions are increasingly put into place throughout the country. Some restrictions are temporary and localized, but many are of longer duration and spread over a wide geographic area. These water restrictions can be a big problem for golf courses that require copious amounts of water to keep their fairways, greens and tees in the lush condition that the playing public expects. Low cutting heights, heavy traffic and high salt content fertilizers all combine to make the situation even worse. In addition, many new golf courses are built on areas that are deemed unsuitable for either farming or the construction of buildings. The soils in these areas are usually hard clays or extremely porous sand and gravel. In either case, extensive irrigation or fertilization is usually required to produce a decent turf.

The use of Nature Safe Fertilizers on a regular basis can help with these problems in several ways.

The most obvious way is to reduce the salt content of the soil. Most synthetic fertilizers contain a high level of soluble salts. These salts increase the plant’s need for water just like eating salty pretzels or peanuts increases your desire for your favorite liquid refreshment. Nature Safe contains very low levels of salts, so the plant can subsist on less water.

Nature Safe promotes a much deeper and more fibrous root system on the plant because it contains chelated calcium and phosphorus that is derived from cooked bone meal. These two elements promote root depth and root mass that allows the plant to make better use of available moisture.

Nature Safe promotes beneficial soil microbes that compete with many pathogens that normally weaken and restrict turf roots. This helps add to the root mass and allows the plant to make the best use of available water.

Nature Safe feeds the soil microbes that flocculate the soil and give it a granular structure rather than an adobe brick structure. The better soil structure promotes better and deeper rooting.

Healthier roots produce a thicker, denser turf that shade and insulate the soil better, keeping the soil cooler. Roots growing in cooler soils use less water.

Localized dry spot is typically not a problem when Nature Safe is used regularly because it promotes the soil microbes that compete with the organisms that cause localized dry spot. Therefore, less water is used to get these spots as wet as they should be.

There is not one specific thing that Nature Safe does to help you effectively manage an irrigation program. All of the factors above are intertwined. When one factor improves, it helps the whole ecosystem improve; but if one factor takes a turn for the worse, it has a negative impact on the whole ecosystem. That is why turf keeps getting better the longer it is fertilized regularly with Nature Safe. As acceptable quality irrigation water becomes more scarce and expensive, Nature Safe will continue to be the product of choice.

Posted in All, General |

Nature Safe’s Phosphorus

Rick Geise, Brand Manager

Spring aeration translates into increased plant demand and therefore, increased applications of higher phosphorus concentrated fertilizers. For environmentalists, phosphorus is the “root” (pun intended) of all evil. Many municipalities around the country are putting the heat on phosphorus with restrictions and other legislative efforts to reduce the nutrients’ potential negative effects. These negative effects are primarily a result of runoff in lakes and streams from inorganic phosphorus that has leached. However, Nature Safe‘s entire product line uses only organic phosphorus.

The phosphorus source in Nature Safe Natural & Organic Fertilizer formulations is meat and bone meal. The phosphorus is naturally occurring and partially chelated, meaning the nutrient is tied to an amino acid that translates into a unique interaction with calcium to create a higher level of bioavailability. Through our processing technology of these materials, the ingredients feature a high level of digestibility for soil microbes. The soil microbes then digest the ingredients and release the nutrients to the plant through the root system in a process called mineralization.

Phosphorus has many catalytic and structural functions appearing in connection with carbohydrate production in the plant. As noted above, the opposite charges of calcium and phosphorus creates an interaction that results in a delivery system for both to the plant. That is why phosphorus from bone meal is so valuable. It is in the presence of calcium which makes it biochemically available.

As a trivalent anion, phosphate is fairly insoluble and immobile. It is not highly ionized, or available. Hence, in the soil it is moved from its highly insoluble state to a condition of more activity by decaying organic matter giving off its resulting carbonic acid. Also, the nitrogen in the organic form would be transformed by the soil microorganisms more effectively when made available in conjunction with calcium.

In comparison, inorganic forms of phosphorus are often treated with some form of acid to make the phosphorus soluble. As a result, inorganic phosphorus sources are typically immediately taken up by the plant. However, since the plant immediately receives the phosphorus it needs short-term, the remaining phosphorus has a tendency to leach. In addition, the longer-term phosphorus needs of the plant are not met.

As you know, the organic ingredients in Nature Safe to include all phosphorus sources are listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). In addition, as a leading rendering company in the U.S., if we were to never sell another bag of Nature Safe, all of these ingredients would be sold as animal feeds and pet food ingredients. They are, in actuality, part of the food chain.

I hope the above sheds some light on what more areas of country are seeing as a dark subject.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, Phosphorous |

From Planting to Playing in Six Weeks

Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

Chad Malone, Superintendent, Moccasin Bend Golf Club, Chattanooga, TN, experienced a significant response from Nature Safe while growing-in his USGA bentgrass greens this past summer/fall. Chad attributes this noteworthy response to the spring aeration application of Nature Safe 5-6-6.

“I also used NS 5-6-6 at seeding and was playing on my Crenshaw greens in six weeks,” said Chad. “The Nature Safe is a key reason the bentgrass grew-in so quickly. I think this program is valuable to sales reps that recommend programs for grow-ins.”

Chad made his first application to the greens after they were filled with a sand/peat mix and floated. He used NS 5-6-6 at a rate of 18 lbs. of fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. at planting, mixing the Nature Safe with the seed. The seed went down on September 8. The greens were played on October 19. “I had so much confidence in the playability and durability of the greens that I left for a trip to New York City the day after I opened the greens for play.”

Once seeded, Chad began a weekly fertilizer application of 10-21-18 and 17-14-14, rotating the formulations weekly. The applications started with 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. Once the bentgrass was established (about five weeks after seeding), the formulation was reduced to .5 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. The 17-14-14 blend is NS 13-0-0 blending base. Chad used a total of 5 lbs. N in the six weeks from planting to playing.

Chad also had Steve Ellis incorporate NS 13-0-0 blending base into his greens mix. The NS 13-0-0 replaced Milorganite because the food sources in Nature Safe are more readily digestible and available to the plant.

“One of the challenges that I thought I’d see from the Nature Safe application is a lot of puffiness. Instead, I found the grass firm,” stated Chad. “I also suggest the use of a good fungicide program on any young seeding to prevent fungus from wrecking havoc. I will be reseeding more greens this summer and will use Nature Safe in the pre-plant and post-emergence fertility programs.”

This quick grow-in response has been experienced by other superintendents in the Southeastern U.S. and demonstrates why Nature Safe should be considered every time you put together a grow-in fertilizer program.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

The Building Blocks to Healthier Turf and Root Systems

Al Lanoie, Regional Manager

For years, top conditioned athletes and body builders have supplemented their diets with essential amino acids. These amino acids are key components to dense muscle growth and to muscle cell recovery. These same amino acids are also key components for overall turf health. Whether you are trying to develop a stronger, healthier body for enhanced athletic performance, or a stronger healthier turf plant, amino acids are a necessity.

Glutamic acid is an essential amino acid that supports muscle growth. Nature Safe Fertilizers contain a high percentage of glutamic acid. This gives the plant the necessary nutritional supplement for root elongation and increased root density. The roots deliver nutrients to the plant and provides for overall plant health.

The branch chain amino acids, which are leucine, isoleucine and valine, make up 35% of the amino acid content of a muscle and are utilized during heavy resistance training. In a turf plant, these amino acids are necessary to build resistance to the stresses of summer. All of these branch chain amino acids are in Nature Safe.

Amino acids are also the building blocks for plant cell growth. It is important to incorporate amino acids into your turf management programs – especially during aeration. They are essential to a stronger more durable turf playing surface, whether it’s a golf course, sports field, or a home lawn.

Nature Safe provides the highest concentrations of amino acids than any commercial fertilizer – the building blocks to a better turf!

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Thinking Aeration? Think Nature Safe

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Aeration is one of the turf maintenance operations that are the most dreaded. The golfers hate it because it disrupts their pleasant day at the golf course. The golf pro hates it because he is the one who hears most of the griping from the golfers. The club house manager hates it because the golfers coming into the clubhouse drag dirt and sand from the greens into the clubhouse on their shoes. The golf course superintendents hate it because aeration is a time consuming operation, it’s labor intensive and hard on equipment.

Given the fact that everyone involved with the aeration process hates it, why does anyone bother doing it? The simple answer, of course, is because of the tremendous agronomic benefits derived from it. The aeration process removes some of the thatch and other objectionable organic matter that builds up in the top few inches of the soil. It relieves compaction and helps the plant produce a better root system that will help it survive stressful times during the season.

It would make sense to derive the maximum benefit from aeration and that is where Nature Safe comes into the picture. There is no other product that can produce the results that are achieved with Nature Safe when used in conjunction with aeration. The two products of choice on greens and tees are NS 8-3-5 or NS 5-6-6. Both formulations contain the highest levels of amino acids of any organic product available on the market. These readily digestible amino acids feed the beneficial soil microbes and cause their populations to explode. They have life cycles that last about 20 minutes, but they multiply so rapidly that a single bacterium can multiply to over 1,000 in less than three hours. As they die off, nutrients are released in forms that can be used by plants. However, while they are alive, they help to protect the roots of the plant from many soil borne pathogens such as fungi and nematodes that would normally be detrimental to root development.

From the standpoint of root development, the most important element provided by 5-6-6 or 8-3-5 is chelated calcium. Nature Safe 5-6-6 contains 7% calcium and 8-3-5 contains 3% calcium. All of the calcium in Nature Safe comes from bone meal which is released in a chelated form. That is, it is hooked to an amino acid that greatly increases the availability of the calcium to the plants without radically altering the pH of the soil. Readily available calcium in the soil will aid in the elongation and branching of the roots, which contributes to producing a bigger, more fibrous root mass that will be better able to make use of available nutrients and water.

Both 8-3-5 and 5-6-6 contain humic acid derived from the highest quality Leonardite humus, which helps to hold nutrients and water in sandy soil by increasing the cation exchange capacity without plugging up the pore spaces. In heavier soils, the humic acid helps soil particles bond together, creating a soft, crumbly soil rather than an adobe brick soil. Humic acids also have chelating properties that increases the availability and uptake of many nutrients including phosphorus.

When used during aeration, Nature Safe should be applied at the rate of 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. It should be applied after the aeration cores have been harvested and prior to the application of top dressing material. When the top dressing is drag matted into the surface of the green, some of the fertilizer will be dragged into the holes and some will remain on the surface between the holes. Applying the fertilizer after the topdressing is applied will result in too much of it being moved into the holes and not enough of it remaining on the surface of the green.

The benefits derived from using Nature Safe at aeration will accrue for the entire season. The increased root mass will give the turf the ability to withstand the rigors of summer and result in better turf with less need for irrigation. The increased populations of beneficial microbes will help suppress many types of diseases for months to come and results in a lesser need for fungicides and other plant protectants. Healthier roots, less irrigation and fewer chemicals result in budgetary savings that will more than offset any additional costs for Nature Safe. When all is said and done, Nature Safe proves to be not only the most effective way to manage fine turf, but also the most cost effective.

Posted in Aeration, All |

Soil Microbes and Mother Nature

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

In the millions of years since plant life first appeared on the face of the Earth, Mother Nature has worked continually to develop a marvelous system to nurture and protect plants. This protection comes from a tremendously complex system of soil microbes that even the most erudite among us can even come close to comprehending. We know what a few of the organisms do, but we have a very poor understanding of what functions the vast majority of them perform or how they interact with each other. One thing that we do know is that plant life is the most vital form of life in our world. Without the food they produce through photosynthesis no other forms of life could exist. No other form of life has the ability to produce food, they only consume it. Perhaps that is why Mother Nature went to such great lengths to hone and perfect the soil microbe system to care for plants. We have learned that when the soil microbe system is healthy and balanced that plants flourish. However when the system gets out of whack plants struggle and die and pathogens and parasites run rampant.

In the relatively short time that man has inhabited the Earth, we benefited from this microbe system and we learned to use it and to cooperate with it. Most of the time we really didn’t understand what we were doing, but through trial and error we came to understand what must be done to grow healthy plants. Much like an Indian planting corn and putting a fish into every hill that he planted, he knew it worked, but he really didn’t know why it worked. It has only been in the past several decades since the end of World War II that we have decided that we no longer need the soil microbes. We have extensively used synthetic forms of fertilizer that are directly available to the plants and do nothing to feed the soil microbes. We use more and more chemicals that do severe damage to the beneficial microbial populations and leave the door open for the pathogenic organisms.

Increasingly though we are finding that cooperating with Mother Nature is vastly superior to trying to fight her at every turn. Feeding the soil microbes and allowing them to protect and nurture the plants has proven its value. Plant protectants such as fungicides, insecticides and herbicides are needed at times, but they should only be used when absolutely necessary and then they should be used sparingly. We know that when they are used they destroy vast numbers of soil microbes, both pathogenic and beneficial. However the beneficial microbes have the ability to reproduce much more rapidly than the pathogens if they have a food source. The end result is a greater ratio of beneficial organisms to pathogenic organisms. Without that food source, the reverse often occurs and the pathogens increase in numbers at the expense of the beneficial organisms. When that occurs we then have to apply increased amounts of plant protectants to cope with the problems, which in turn makes the situation even worse.

When Nature Safe is used regularly in a turf program it provides unparalleled food value to the soil microbes which insure that Mother Nature’s wonderful system will keep working in harmony with the plants, hopefully for several million more years to come.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Managing Seashore Paspalum

Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

On the headwaters of the May River, a tidal estuary in the lowcountry of South Carolina, lies the May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff. Chris Johnson is Superintendent of this Sea Isle 1 Paspalum with Champion greens golf course.

The course had been grassed in 2003. In 2005, Chris realized that the Paspalum was not as vigorous or stress resistant as he would like. He was using slow release forms of N in his applications and decided to research the use of organics. Chris turned to Ned Mullis of Harrell’s Fertilizer with some interest in Nature Safe products as a possible solution.

One of the possibilities that Ned and Chris worked on was the use of a slow release organic that would feed his greens and fairways even in the dead of winter when soil temperatures can dip into the 40s. Because of the high amino acid content Nature Safe continues to work as soil temperatures drop. Other organics need to have soil temperatures in the 50s.

Ned suggested a program that incorporates Nature Safe 8-3-5 on the Champion greens and 8-5-5 on the fairways at a rate of ½ lb. N every eight weeks.

The Champion greens like to be slowly fed. Too much N from any source causes the grass to be less stress tolerant. While incorporating 8-3-5 into his base fertility on greens and supplementing with a soluble fertilizer program, Chris has seen much less of a challenge from summer stress caused by the heat and humidity that plague coastal SC in the summer.

Chris and Ned came up with a custom fairway application that Harrell’s manufactures. A one ton blend includes 1,000 lbs. of Nature Safe 13-0-0 and blended with Muraite of Potash and minors. This provides Chris with a 6-0-24 formulation, which has improved the vigor and stress tolerance of his Paspalum. This 1:4 balance of N:K is important in ensuring strong root development while providing enough N to promote a durable canopy.

“Nature Safe has been part of the puzzle that has improved consistency and quality in my grasses,” said Chris.

If you are looking for a program for Paspalum, Nature Safe is an excellent choice to incorporate into a total fertility program.

Posted in All, General |

Testimonial: Victory at Victory Field

Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Victory Field in Indianapolis, Indiana is the home of the AAA Indianapolis Indians baseball team. It is a magnificent venue for baseball and it is recognized as one of the finest minor league baseball facilities in the country. The playing field is constructed on a base of sand that is 10 inches thick and it is covered with a blend of improved bluegrasses that were sodded in the fall of 2003.

A couple years ago, Head Groundskeeper, Joey Stevenson, took over the reigns from Jamie Mehringer at Victory Field. Jamie now applies his experience and agronomic expertise to promoting related products and services to the sports turf market throughout the state of Indiana. Joey has picked up where Jamie left off and does a tremendous job keeping Victory Field immaculate.

Located in downtown Indianapolis, the climate in America’s heartland is prone to generate many types of turf diseases. Prior to using Nature Safe and despite a regular spray program, there was still some turf loss from related disease like Summer Patch. The surviving turf was also not tolerant enough to stand up to the traffic from prolonged home stands.

After considerable research, Victory Field went on a program that uses Nature Safe 10-2-8 and 12-2-6 as the base fertilizers with a goal to produce a strong, healthy turf that is able to stand up to the heavy traffic patterns. They also wanted a healthy soil microbe system that was better able to suppress diseases that regularly plague the field. Nature Safe 12-2-6, fortified with ammonium sulfate, was applied in late fall and early spring. Nature Safe 10-2-8 was applied monthly at one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. for the rest of the year.

Since using Nature Safe, Victory Field has virtually eliminated disease outbreaks. The wear tolerance has dramatically improved and the color has been better than ever. At the same time, the slow even feed of Nature Safe has kept shoot growth under control. Mowing the field every other day resulted in limited clipping yield and no flushes of growth. The added safety factor of Nature Safe has also resulted in peace-of-mind that fertilizer burns would not be a problem.

The incredible turf conditions at Victory Field has made Joey somewhat of a local celebrity. The related video link of his television news interview is available on our home page.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Winter Feed for Southern Turf

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

In the southern United States, fertilization of golf course putting greens during the winter months is an important period in a turf manager’s fertility program.

Throughout this period days are shorter resulting in less net photosynthesis. Low soil temperatures significantly reduce microbial activity and nutrient cycling. The result is a turfgrass plant that struggles to obtain essential nutrients at the time it needs it most.

Nature Safe is an important component of a winter feeding program. Many turf managers use 0.25 to 0.5 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. of 8-3-5 SF per application to provide an organic source of soluble nutrients for both the plant and microbial community.

University research shows that turf managers can benefit from the use of organic sources of fertilizer during winter (Lazarovits, Agriculture & Agri-Food, Canada, 1999). Dr. Lazarovits observed that Nature Safe continued to feed microbes at soil temperatures below 50 degrees. Nature Safe is active at low temperatures because of the animal meal components used to make Nature Safe fertilizer. The amino acids are bound together in a manner that allows the nutrients to release at temperatures where other organics don’t.

Nature Safe N is released more consistently over time than N from other organic fertilizer sources. Manure and sludge-based organics have an uneven release curve and can unexpectedly release large amounts of N during warm spells. This can cause a strong flush of lush growth that is invariably killed when the next cold spell hits.

Nature Safe will not cause undesirable flushes of growth, decomposes thatch, builds root mass, promotes turf density and enhances disease management.

Posted in All, General |

Nature Safe Economics

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

When approached about using Nature Safe on their fairways, many superintendents automatically respond that they cannot afford the extra cost. They fail to understand that when they purchase a synthetic fertilizer they are just getting N, P and K that does little or nothing to feed the soil microbes, even if it is in a slow release form. With Nature Safe, they are getting a complete turf maintenance system.

Nature Safe provides vast amounts of food for the soil microbes. These microbes do wonderful things for the plant including protecting it from pathogens, breaking down thatch, building soil structure, reducing the plant’s need for water due to increased rooting and lower salt content and increasing the plant’s rate of photosynthesis due to the higher levels of carbon dioxide that the increased microbe population produces.

Nature Safe’s university research proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that disease pressures are much lower when Nature Safe is used as the regular fertilizer versus synthetic products. The cost per acre to fertilize fairways may be less with a top quality synthetic fertilizer, but the overall cost, including control chemicals, is usually higher.

I recently worked out a program for a superintendent located in an area known for Dollar Spot infestations. He was using ParEx 24-4-12 on 25 acres of bentgrass fairways at the rate of 3 lbs. of N/1,000 sq. ft. for the season. This superintendent makes several fairway fungicide applications per year in an attempt to control Dollar Spot. We did some mathematics together and came up with the following:

ParEx 24-4-12 costs $115.75 for 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. For one application to 25 acres, the cost is $2,893.75. For three applications, or cost for the year, the total is $8,681.

Nature Safe 15-2-8 costs $156 for 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. For one application to 25 acres, the cost is $3,900. For three applications, or cost for the year, the total is $11,700. A cost difference of $3,019 more per year for the Nature Safe 15-2-8.

Now, the cost of the fungicides for the fairways. The superintendent alternates his fungicide applications between 26 GT and a combination of Daconil and Banner. The 26 GT is used at the rate of 4 oz./1,000 sq. ft. and the Daconil is applied at 3 oz./1,000 sq. ft. along with 1 oz. of Banner. For one application on 25 acres, the 26 GT costs $3,697 and one application of the combination of Daconil and Banner costs $3,564. (These costs are just for the chemical used and do not take into account the cost of applying them.)

The extra $3,019 cost of using Nature Safe 15-2-8 is more than offset if just one application of fungicides could be eliminated during the year. In actual practice, it is not unusual for more than one application to be eliminated if Nature Safe is used on a regular basis.

These figures do not take other cost saving factors into account, such as the reduced need for wetting agents, irrigation costs due to lower salts and increased rooting and the reduced need for aeration due to better soil structure – all the benefits that Nature Safe promotes. When these factors are plugged into the equation, it becomes eminently clear that Nature Safe is the lowest cost way to maintain quality fairway turf.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Testimonial: Nature Safe Trial Results, Chattanooga, TN.

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

Steve Ellis of Harrell’s Fertilizer Inc. set up a trial at Council Fire Golf Course in Chattanooga, Tennessee. An A1/A4 nursery green was used to compare endoROOTS and Nature Safe 5-6-6. Both fertilizers were applied at 1 lb. N/1,000 square feet and lightly incorporated into the root zone prior to planting. Two weeks after planting, the Nature Safe 5-6-6 out-performed the endoROOTS (see photo). The segment that received the Nature Safe application has a thicker stand and is greener. The endoROOTS was touted as having mycorrhizae that are supposed to help with rooting and growth. This test clearly shows that the high amino acids contained in our meat and bone meal out-performed the mycorrhizae.

Another reason for the outstanding performance of the Nature Safe product is that the phosphorus is naturally chelated being derived from steamed meat and bone meal. This natural chelation means it is readily available to the young developing roots more readily that other phosphorus sources.

What’s the take away message? Until this trial, some assumed that mycorrhizae was superior to amino acids derived from animal meals. This trial proves otherwise. If you are a Doubting Thomas, set up a side by side trial to see for yourself.

Posted in All, Testimonial |

Giving Snow Mold the Cold Shoulder

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

In recent years, many professional turf managers have noticed and reported a reduction in Snow Mold activity on turf that is regularly fertilized with Nature Safe.

This was also true when a turf manager was unable to protect his turf with a recognized fungicide. Occasionally this occurs because of an unusually early snowfall followed by cold weather and additional snows. In some instances, such as athletic turf, there is never any intent to protect it with a fungicide. Regardless, the results are the same. Turf fertilized with Nature Safe during the growing season experienced fewer problems with Snow Mold than the surrounding turf that had not had the benefit of Nature Safe. While these results were appreciated, there was no real understanding as to exactly why they occurred.

Interestingly enough, the research conducted on nematode suppression helped provide a plausible answer to the riddle. Nematodes are a big problem on southern turf. Nature Safe greatly reduces nematodes more than what could be achieved with a very toxic chemical like Nemacur. That was somewhat baffling since Nature Safe is totally non-toxic and Nemacur is at the other end of the spectrum with LD50 of somewhere around 5.

Dr. George Lazarovits at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in London, Ontario, Canada discovered that the reason for the nematode suppression was that while soil microbes consume the energy in Nature Safe, they give off gasses that are toxic to some of the pathogens, particularly the parasitic nematodes. Furthermore, Dr. Lazarovits discovered that these gasses were more toxic to pathogens that were in a dormant stage than it was to active pathogens. He explained that pathogens are not very good competitors, but that they are good survivors. The way they survive without competing is to stay in a dormant stage most of the time. They only become active when they sense the host plants are under stress.

The reports of Snow Mold suppression began to make sense. Snow Mold is an organism that lies dormant all summer long waiting for the right winter weather conditions to allow it to get started. If Nature Safe is being applied to the turf on a regular basis during the summer, much of the dormant innoculum would be killed by the toxic gasses being given off by the beneficial microbes. With less innoculum available when winter weather arrives, there would be a lower chance of developing Snow Mold.

Please note that late fall or dormant feed applications of Nature Safe are not sufficient to achieve reduction in Snow Mold. Nature Safe must be used on a regular basis throughout the growing season. I would never recommend that any turf manager even consider skipping his fall application of Snow Mold control chemicals. However, it is not unusual for turf that has been protected by the best of chemicals to still sustain damage from Snow Mold in a severe winter. Nature Safe merely provides an added layer of protection for the turf.

This extra protection comes from the action of the soil microbes consuming the energy that is in Nature Safe. Since Nature Safe provides more food energy for the soil microbes than can be found in any other organic fertilizer, it will also provide the highest level of protection from many different diseases, including Snow Mold.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

The Dangers of Your Turf’s Chemical Dependency

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Modern day turf managers rely more and more on chemicals to solve their problems. When effective fungicides were first introduced they were used on an as needed basis. When a disease showed up, the chemical was applied. Later, preventative maintenance was the norm, with applications being made every two to four weeks on greens and tees. Most fairway applications were still made on an as needed basis. Today, the trend seems to be weekly applications on greens, tees and fairways. In some circles the bragging rights seem to revolve around which superintendent has the most sprayers in his maintenance building and how often he uses them.

The first problem with this approach is the damage that is being done to the microbial population in the soil. Whenever a chemical is applied, it will have the desired effect on the pathogen that is being targeted. There is no chemical made however, that can single out the targeted pathogen for destruction and not do any damage to other soil organisms. Most chemicals wipe out a wide range of soil microbes. Some of them are pathogenic and some are beneficial. Continual applications of chemicals will not sterilize the soil. Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. She will find something else to fill the void left by the organisms that were depleted by the chemical applications. Following a chemical application, the total microbial population will rapidly bounce back, but the types of organisms that are present may be somewhat different than before. They may or may not be to our liking.

The second problem with weekly chemical applications is what it does to the normal fertility program. Because the turf is being sprayed on a weekly basis the normal line of reasoning is to make liquid fertilizer applications along with the chemical applications. The thought being that this will eliminate the need to apply granular fertilizers, thereby reducing the number of times it is necessary to be on the turf. The big problem with this approach is that the liquid fertilizers being applied along with the chemicals are doing nothing to feed the soil microbes. These fertilizers are in forms that are directly available to the plants and totally bypass the soil microbes. Beneficial soil microbes have the ability to reproduce much more rapidly than pathogens if they have a food source. However, if they are being wiped out by the chemical applications and they do not have an adequate food source, the pathogens are able to reproduce more rapidly. That is why we have times when the disease pressure is so great that some chemicals that are supposed to give two to three week control are only able to suppress the diseases for two or three days. At that point, the pathogens are reproducing more rapidly than the beneficial organisms and it becomes necessary to make more frequent chemical applications to save the turf.

The food source for soil microbes is carbon and the richest source of carbon is amino acids. If enough amino acids are available on a regular basis to the beneficial soil microbes they will be able to reproduce much more rapidly than the pathogens. The beneficial microbes will then be able to hold the pathogens in check for longer periods of time.

Most spray programs include some liquid amino acid supplements, but these products do not come anywhere close to supplying the amount of amino acids the soil microbes require. Normally, the soil microbes require between 50 to 200 times more amino acids than can be applied from liquid spray programs. The only real way to meet the needs of the soil microbes is to make regular applications of a granular organic product like Nature Safe that has high levels of amino acids. Most pure organic Nature Safe products contain in excess of 50% amino acids that will supply the soil with over six pounds of amino acids per thousand square feet for every pound of nitrogen that is applied. The best liquid amino acid supplements will only be able to supply less than two ounces of actual amino acids per thousand square feet per month even if they are applied weekly.

Certainly, the use of chemicals and liquid fertilizers, including amino acid supplements, is very beneficial to the turf and they should not be eliminated. However, relying on them totally and failing to feed the soil microbes is like removing one of the legs of a three legged stool and trying to sit on it. If you’re good you may be able to balance yourself quite well, but your position will always be somewhat precarious. The third leg must be in place for stability. In the case of a solid turf maintenance program, the third leg of the stool is the soil microbes. They must be fed adequately to produce a healthy soil and a solid program and no other product can match the food value for the microbes that is found in a bag of Nature Safe.

Posted in About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

Fertilizing Seashore Paspalum

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra

Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) is native to tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America. In the United States, seashore Paspalum is found along coastal regions from Texas to Florida and North Carolina southward.

Seashore Paspalum is the newest golf and sports turfgrass to hit the Southeast in many years. Though it is not difficult for a trained turf manager to cultivate Paspalum, the maintenance guidelines are different from other turfgrass species – especially Bermudagrass.

Paspalum is still in its infancy as a grass for use on golf courses, but it shows great promise as a grass that can be used in environments where water quality issues may otherwise preclude the development of a golf course.

While much is to be learned about Paspalum, we do know a bit about fertilizing this relatively new grass.

Paspalum does not need a lot of N, and it prefers slow release N versus heavy applications of conventional sources of N. There are several superintendents using 1/4 to 1/2 lb. of N/1,000 sq. ft. monthly in a program with solubles. Blends that include 13-0-0 along with slow release sources of K provide the best response and help maintain a great putting surface. Use of Nature Safe on Paspalum fairways is an excellent way to ensure good color and to maintain consistent growth.

For more information about Seashore Paspalum, go to Texas A&M University’s web site at: http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/turf/publications/seashore.html.

Posted in All, General |

Using Nature Safe During Renovation & Construction

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra

If you are looking for fertilizer recommendations for growing in new greens and tees or renovating areas on the golf course, consider incorporating Nature Safe into your fertilizer program.

Marietta Country Club in Atlanta, Georgia renovated A1 and A4 greens. Less than 60 days after seeding, the greens are in playable condition. Jimmy Jeter, CGCS, applied Nature Safe 5-6-6 at 40 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., which is just over 2 lbs. N/1,000 sq. ft. This was incorporated into the soil mix prior to seeding.

There was not a need to apply more Nature Safe before seeding with the 5-6-6 releasing fertility within five days after application.

Jimmy also used a similar rate on tees, but did not incorporate this product in the soil. The tees were less than 60-days old, but looked well on their way to being playable in a short period.

Nature Safe 5-6-6 provides a great balance of N P K and is great for the establishment of roots. This analysis also contains chelated calcium and phosphorus which aids the establishment of young grasses and is important in helping the plant withstand stress.

13-0-0 can be incorporated into a blend if you need a blend that is not balanced in N P and K or if some synthetic fertilizer will be used.

Nature Safe will provide a slow release of N that will not result in flushes of growth.

Nature Safe contains a low salt index and will not damage establishing turf whether it is seeded, sodded or sprigged.

Posted in All, General |

The Correlation of Organic & Synthetic Nitrogen

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

The typical Nature Safe recommendation for golf greens and tees is to apply one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet at spring aeration, followed by a half pound per month during the season and then another pound of nitrogen at fall aeration. That amounts to four and a half pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet per season. When that type of program is presented to a golf course superintendent his response is, “That’s too much N. I don’t apply more than two pounds of N to my greens for the entire year.”

The problem is trying to correlate organic nitrogen to synthetic nitrogen. There just is no accurate and consistent way to cross reference the two types of nitrogen. The synthetic forms of nitrogen are directly usable by the plant even if they are in a slow release form. High amounts of synthetic nitrogen would undoubtedly over stimulate the turf and cause problems if it were applied at the same rate as organic nitrogen. There would be problems with thatch, surge growth, diseases, slow putting speeds, etc.

On the other hand, when a pure organic fertilizer like Nature Safe is applied, the nitrogen is not directly available to the plants. Instead, it is food for the broad spectrum of soil microbes. These microbes consume the energy that is contained in the organic fertilizer and use it to increase their populations. Each microbe’s life span is about twenty minutes. As they die off the decomposition of their bodies releases nutrients in forms that are usable by the plant. They also release extra amounts of carbon dioxide that seeps to the surface and is used by the plants to make extra food in their photosynthetic process.

While it is wonderful that these microbes die for us to feed our plants, the things they do while they are alive are much more important. Soil microbes reduce thatch, build soil structure, reduce localized dry spots and suppress pathogens, including nematodes. The result for the plant is a fibrous root system that produces a thicker, denser turf with limited shoot growth. The healthier root system helps the plant to make better use of the nutrients and water. The low salt index from Nature Safe reduces the plants need for water and makes it more drought tolerant.

All of the microbial activities require energy and that energy is derived from the amino acids in Nature Safe. The amount of nitrogen being applied from Nature Safe is being used to feed the soil microorganisms that provide a healthy environment for the plants to flourish.

If four and a half pounds of synthetic nitrogen were applied to the same turf, all of it would either go to the plant or leach and do nothing to feed the soil microbes. That would result in unbalanced soil microbe populations that could lead to problems for the turf and produce excessive and perhaps disastrous growth.

The most important thing here is that Nature Safe must be applied regularly to keep the soil microbes well supplied with a rich supply of amino acids. What Nature Safe does is build a little fertilizer factory in the soil. Once this factory is stoked up and running efficiently it is possible to slowly reduce the inputs of energy while maintaining quality turf. This process usually takes a year or two to accomplish, but after that it is not unusual for a Nature Safe user to be able to start reducing the amount of fertilizer they are using, but not the frequency of application.

Forget about trying to compare the amounts of organic nitrogen that is being applied to the amount of synthetic nitrogen that might be used. The two are very different and cannot be accurately compared. The important thing is the results that can be achieved with Nature Safe. The best way to demonstrate these results is to commit one green or one tee to using Nature Safe at the recommended rate for the entire year. You will see the improved turf, the reduction in disease pressure and the limited shoot growth from using Nature Safe. Look at what a complete Nature Safe program can do for all your turf!

Posted in About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

Stabilized Nitrogen Technology

by Al Nees, Agrotain International

In 2004, Nature Safe proudly introduced an enhanced product (21-3-7) that combined Nature Safe with UFLEXXô from Agrotain International. This combination proved to be an excellent performer allowing for a quick green-up and extended performance at a cost effective price. But some competitors of UFLEXXô have spread some misinformation. Specifically, they have boldly proclaimed that the Stabilized Nitrogenô technology is harmful to soil microbial populations and to avoid use of these products. Whether this be an intentional attempt to derail the fastest growing nitrogen technology, or simply ignorance, it needs to be cleared up. We want turf managers to use these products with confidence, and we want distributors to support them as well.

UFLEXX and UMAXX are urea that have been manufactured to include two enzyme inhibitors that result in significantly improved nitrogen efficiency. The first is a urease inhibitor that stops nitrogen loss from ammonia volatility for up to two weeks. The second, and the source of confusion, is a nitrification inhibitor that blocks the enzyme responsible for the conversion of ammonium nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen. Thus, nitrogen can not be further transformed to nitrate nitrogen. The key here is that plants efficiently use ammonium nitrogen, but because it is a cation, or has a positive electrostatic charge, the soil can hold the rest in reserve. The result is reduced leaching for a better environmental profile.

Could it be that the misinformation could simply be the result of confusion between two different compounds that are very different in mode of action, but with similar result? Probably, we think. Agrotain uses a carbon-nitrogen compound called Dicyandiamide as the nitrification inhibitor. This compound is also used in PVC pipe, color-fast dyes, computer chips, and other innocuous uses. The only other nitrification inhibitor used in the country is Nitrapyrin, marketed by Dow Chemical as N-Serve. It is used in conjunction with anhydrous ammonia applications. Nitrapyrin is registered as a pesticide by the EPA because the mode of action is to kill nitrifying bacteria. Dicyandiamide is not registered as a pesticide by EPA, or any other regulatory agency anywhere in the world. That is because it has been determined that the mode of action is not the same as nitrapyrin. Dicyandiamide does not work by killing soil microbes. Rather, it is an enzyme inhibitor. Specifically, it inhibits the enzyme Ammonium Mono Oxygenase, or AMO. This is the enzyme responsible for the oxidation of ammonium (NH4+) to nitrate (NO2-), or the first step in nitrification. Further oxidation of nitrite nitrogen to nitrate (NO3-) occurs from there. You might be interested to know that products like Primo, Dimension, ProStar, and many others, are classified as enzyme inhibitors as well.

We think it’s a shame that competitors to UFLEXX and UMAXX have to resort to spreading misinformation in order to try to slow the continued growth of the Stabilized Nitrogen technology. Of course they, like you, are entitled to their opinion. For what it’s worth, we have yet to hear feedback from the field that customers are seeing more disease or thatch after years of using this technology. But, do yourself a favor next time your hear, “Don’t use that stuff, it will kill all of your microbes,” ask for proof. We stepped up and provided documented proof. They haven’t.

Research Available on Internet

While all of this information is available on the web at at www.stabilizednitrogen.com, it is reasonable for someone to ask for additional proof. We agreed and proceeded to ask a certified biochemical laboratory to test UMAXX, untreated urea, and a methylene urea product to see if any exhibited any either bactericidal or bacteria inhibitory properties against three specific soil microbes known to be beneficial to turfgrass. The study concluded that none of the products inhibited any of the soil microbes, and the populations of microbes were not killed. The research summary and the entire study are posted on our web site for all to see and download. Further, the study protocol and results were reviewed by industry experts. They agreed that the study was properly conducted and agreed with the results. “There appears to be no inhibitory affect of either tested compound on the growth of three typical soil organisms,” said Dr. Mark Coyne, Associate Professor, Soil Microbiology, University of Kentucky. This comment was after Dr. Coyne’s review of the entire study data and protocol.

 

Posted in All, General |

Suppression of Spring Dead Spot in Bermudagrass

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Spring Dead Spot in Bermudagrass is a serious problem throughout most areas where Bermudagrass is grown as a fine turf for golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. While there are three different organisms that cause Spring Dead Spot, the most virulent one is Ophiosphaerella herpotricha. This organism is responsible for Spring Dead Spot in the more arid areas of the country like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. It has proven to be very difficult and very expensive to control with fungicide applications.

Traditionally, turf managers use low cost water-soluble synthetic fertilizers in their fertility programs on Bermudagrass and then put some serious money into fungicides to try to control the disease. In recent years, some turf managers have been reporting success with using Nature Safe rather than fungicides to suppress Spring Dead Spot. The ones that had the best results used Nature Safe as their regular fertilizer throughout the season and they continued making Nature Safe applications into the fall of the year. Some turf managers in more humid coastal areas such as Alabama and Mississippi reported making Nature Safe applications as late as December. The late season applications are important to keep the soil microbe activity at high enough levels to be able to compete with the pathogen. If the more traditional method of fertilizing Bermudagrass is followed, normally all applications of fertilizer are stopped late in the summer. With Nature Safe, it is important to make applications late in the year to keep soil microbe activity at a maximum when the disease becomes active late in the fall. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, Nature Safe will not overly stimulate the Bermudagrass with late season applications. In fact, these late season applications of Nature Safe accelerate the spring green up rate of the Bermudagrass.

The study conducted at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma looked at using season long applications of Nature Safe 10-2-8 on fairway type Tifway 419 Bermudagrass versus similar turf that was fertilized with synthetic fertilizers and others that received applications of fungicides. The final application of Nature Safe was made on October 3, 2005 and the turf was monitored and rated throughout the spring of 2006. The final rating was done on May 22, 2006. The data shows that less disease occurred on the Nature Safe plots and that the diseased areas that did occur on the Nature Safe plots recovered much faster during the spring months. Compared to the plots where synthetic fertilizer was used, the Nature Safe plots showed a lessened severity of disease and higher turf quality. The Nature Safe plots were rated as nearly equal to plots that had received several fungicide applications. Comparing photographs of the plots in the spring of 2005 with similar photos taken in the spring in 2006, the Nature Safe plots showed marked improvements over the plots that received synthetic fertilizer and were rated as nearly as good as the plots that were treated with fungicides.

The disease severity ratings were done on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 equaled no living plants in the diseased areas, 3 equaled 50% living plants in the patches and 6 equaled no evidence of disease. On May 22, 2006 the Nature Safe plots were rated at 5.50 versus 3.75 for the synthetically fertilized plots and 5.25 for the plots that received fungicides.

Turfgrass quality ratings were done on a scale of 1 to 6 where 1 equaled large, well defined patches and unsightly turfgrass, 3 equaled moderately acceptable turfgrass and 6 equaled thick healthy turf with no appearance of patches of disease. On May 22, 2006 the Nature Safe plots were rated at 5.00 versus 3.50 on the synthetically fertilized plots and 5.00 on the plots receiving fungicides.

The results of this one year trial suggest that making season long applications of Nature Safe to Bermudagrass turf will help to suppress Spring Dead Spot and promote more rapid recovery in the spring without the use of fungicides. In areas of the country where less virulent species of the pathogen exist, the results would be even better. As with most diseases, Nature Safe becomes more effective in suppressing them after it is used for more than one season. We expect to see improvements in disease suppression and overall turf quality in the second and third years of a Nature Safe program without the use of fungicides.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Amino Acid Confusion

By: Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Amino acids serve as a food source for soil microbes. Soil microbes use carbon for energy and amino acids are a rich source of carbon. Amino acids are composed of carbon rings that are held together by peptide bonds. The soil microbes are capable of breaking these peptide bonds and consuming the freed carbon. When more amino acids are available the levels of soil microbes produced will be higher.

There seems to be some confusion among professional turf managers as to the exact role these amino acids play. Some superintendents don’t think they need the amino acids in Nature Safe because they use a liquid amino acid supplement with their foliar feeding program.

Liquid amino acid supplements are beneficial to plant health, but they do very little for soil health and provide precious little actual nutrition to the plant. Most liquid products contain between 3% and 6% amino acid. A few products contain forms of predigested amino acids that are capable of being absorbed through the leaves of the plant in very small amounts.

However, liquid supplements cannot supply enough food for the soil microbes by themselves. Even if they were applied on a daily basis and they all got into the soil, they would not be able to supply even one-third of the minimum amount of food the soil microbes would need in a 30-day period.

Most of these products are applied at two to four ounces biweekly or monthly. If a product that contains 6% amino acid is applied at the four ounce rate, a total of 0.24 ounces of amino acids will be applied per 1,000 square feet. Most of this material stays on the leaf surface, but a little will wash off into the soil. That may be enough to do some good inside the plant, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the needs of the soil microbes.

In most soils, soil microbes require at least 1.5 pounds or 24 ounces of amino acids per thousand square feet per month to stay healthy. Run that through a calculator and you will find that is at least 100 times more amino acids than can be applied with any amino acid liquid supplement. If you apply 1/2 pound of nitrogen per thousand with Nature Safe 8-3-5, you will apply 3.125 pounds or 50 ounces per thousand of amino acids. Now you are talking about over 200 times more amino acids than you could derive from a liquid supplement.

A small portion of these amino acids get taken up through the roots of the plant, but the vast majority of them are consumed by the soil microbes before they have a chance to get to the root zone. These microbes help suppress pathogens, break down thatch, reduce localized dry spot, improve soil structure and perform numerous other functions while they are alive. When they die, they provide carbon dioxide for plant photosynthesis and unparalleled levels of plant nutrition.

That is not to say the liquid supplements are not effective. Some products contain predigested forms of amino acids and work well in conjunction with Nature Safe. The liquid supplements take care of the health of the plant above ground and the Nature Safe promotes plant and soil health underground. Nature Safe can supply copious amounts of amino acids that can be readily digested by the soil microbes with just one application per month. That is why Nature Safe should be the foundation for every good fertility program.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Summer Fertility on Ultra Dwarfs

By: Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

I recently worked with Steve Durand, sales represen-tative for Harrell’s, Inc., in Southwest Florida. We called on several courses that have Champion or Eagle greens. By their very nature, these ultra dwarfs pose some unique management challenges as we head into summer. Now is the time for south Florida superintendents to begin aeration and summer feeding programs. The snowbirds are gone and the 90-100 degree temperatures result in less play.

In the past, the strategy for feeding ultra dwarfs was to keep them “lean and mean” by feeding them with a foliar program and keep them barely holding on. If ultra dwarfs are fed excessively, you end up with slow green speeds and scalping. The pitfall of this strategy is that a superintendent can get into trouble quickly if he faces any kind of stress (recovery from aeration, verticutting, hydrophobic conditions, etc.). Drought, extreme summer heat and mole crickets can also be turf stressors. Given the slow growing nature of Champion or Eagle grasses, it could be a long, uphill battle to get the greens back in shape.

“An improved feeding strategy is necessary for these types of grasses,” says Steve. “Get superintendents started on a program of consistent feeding with low rates of organic N. Why organic?

  • These grasses want to be fed with a slow release type fertilizer. They will respond to a synthetic application but you end up with a see saw growth curve, flushes after fertilization followed by periods where growth is difficult to sustain.
  • These greens are raised on substrates that are largely sand, USGA specifications that require 90/10 or similar mixes.
  • While disease is generally not a problem with ultra dwarfs, Nature Safe can provide a degree of protection against disease by out competing the pathogenic disease organisms.

“My recommendation is based on experience in feeding ultra dwarfs with a consistent program of Nature Safe 8-3-5 SF at rates of no more than .25 lb./1,000 sf/month beginning late spring through early fall.”

Nature Safe’s the 8-3-5 formulation has been greatly improved over the past two years with the inclusion of wetting agents and a dispersant resulting in a quicker breakdown and dispersion through tight-nit turf.

There’s no better time than now to be talking to your superintendents about the value of starting a summer feeding program of Nature Safe. It’s better to test application rates during the summer months when a bit of erratic growth won’t result in complaints from golfers. The courses that began using Nature Safe for summer fertilization and are now on a year-round program.

Posted in All, General |

The Predictability of Nitrogen Sources

By: Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

One of the Keys to successfully maintaining quality turf during hot and stressful summers is being able to regulate the amount of nitrogen that the turf can get. Too little nitrogen will make the turf weak and unable to cope with the stresses to which it is subjected. A little too much nitrogen can cause fertilizer burn or excessive succulent growth that predisposes the plant to fungus diseases and added drought stress. Because of these problems, turf managers tend to suspend the application of granular fertilizers and substitute with light frequent applications of liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen sources do practically nothing to feed the soil microbes. This results in a reduction in the populations of microbes that would normally help protect the plant from various pathogens. An increase in pathogens increases the need for fungicides and other chemicals, which in turn causes a further reduction in the populations of beneficial soil microbes.

Some organic nitrogen sources and many synthetic nitrogen sources are not predictable in their release characteristics. Many organic products contain materials that are difficult for the soil microbes to digest in a timely fashion. Sewage sludge products, that are by law subjected to high heat processes to kill organisms that are potentially harmful to people, contain up to half of the nitrogen in hard to digest forms. Other organic products that have improperly processed meals and improperly composted manures contain materials that are hard to digest. Some synthetic products such as urea formaldehyde and methylene urea have long chain polymers that are broken down by soil microbes over varying lengths of time.

These difficult to digest portions can build up for several months or several seasons. The nitrogen can become available at times when it is not wanted – usually during the hottest and most humid weather when soil microbe activity is at its highest level. This unwanted release can result in periods of excessive growth. Since the turf manager cannot predict how much nitrogen is going to be released from the residual nitrogen, his natural tendency is to totally stop feeding his turf during periods of high temperatures. During extended heat spells, this can result in the loss of turf because the plants become weakened from lack of adequate nutrition.

Organic fertilizers like Nature Safe are the answer. All the ingredients in Nature Safe are extremely digestible and consumed by the soil microbes in about thirty days. The nutrients are tied up in the bodies of the soil microbes and slowly released in usable form by the plants. Regular applications of fertilizer can be made during the hottest weather. The beneficial soil microbes are being maintained at their highest levels and when they are needed the most. The plant receives optimum nutrition without build up of residual nitrogen from repeated applications.

This predictability is unique to Nature Safe fertilizers because Nature Safe is the only company that manufactures the proteins that go into our products. That allows us to take special care during the manufacturing process to ensure the soil microbes can easily digest the amino acids. These amino acids are the same ones we manufacture for the best selling pet food companies because the amino acids are easily digested in an animals system. The digestibility in an animal’s system is similar to the digestibility in soil microbes. All other companies that make a meal based product similar to Nature Safe purchase their ingredients from outside suppliers who are more concerned with the number of tons they can produce than they are with the digestibility of the product.

Nature Safe provides the highest level of food value for the soil microbes and the highest level of predictability to the professional turf manager. That makes any turf manager’s job just a little bit easier during the summer stress period.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Using Nature Safe in the Mountains of North Carolina

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

I recently talked with Tom Nelson, superintendent of Cullasaja Golf Club in Highlands, North Carolina. Cullasaja is located on the edge of U.S. Forest Service land. You can hear the headwaters for several streams flow eastward down the mountains into North and South Carolina. This is an area where environmental awareness is an important consideration in making management decisions on a golf course.

In a normal year we receive over 90 inches of rain but this year was far from normal,” said Tom. “The course received 180 inches of rain in the past year with 60 inches of that in June and July of 2005.” An inch of water a day during peak season is a challenge for any superintendent. Tom rose to the challenge because of a strategic management approach that included the use of Nature Safe in a custom blended fertilizer 10-20-20. Dick Crump, Harrell’s Turf Specialist, who worked with Tom to custom blend an analysis to meet Tom’s needs, developed this formulation. Dick incorporated Nature Safe 12-2-0 (now 13-0-0), ammonium sulfate, MAP and SOP.

My disease challenges are typically dollar spot and brown patch, said Tom.” “Early this spring I noticed some signs of early brown patch. I applied the 10-20-20 at .5 lb N/1,000 sq. ft. Within three days the disease pressure had subsided and within 7 to 10 days the turf had grown back in damaged areas.”

Tom applied the 10-20-20 Nature Safe blend at a rate of .5 lb./1,000 sq. ft. on all the Penncross bentgrass on his course. He fertilized in May, mid-summer and in September going 45 days between the mid summer and September applications. While living with some dollar spot on tees, Tom did not feel that there was an excess of dollar spot in spite of the wet weather.

On fairways, Tom used two applications of the 10-20-20 once in early May and another in mid-September. Application during June and July was impossible. “I’m impressed with the color that I’m receiving from this blend, said Tom.” The ammonium sulfate is providing a very quick green up with the Nature Safe sustaining the color.

Tom also applied the 10-20-20 at the same rate on his greens about 10 days after aeration on September 12th.

Using Nature Safe does not have to be complex. Tom was able to use the 10-20-20 on his Penncross greens, tees and fairways. By feeding the microbes in the soil, he was able to maintain a healthy course in spite of adverse conditions.

Posted in All, General |

The Results of a Nature Safe Program

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

According to the old adage, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 2005, the proof of the value of Nature Safe was in the quality of turf Nature Safe users were able to produce and maintain despite some of the worst growing conditions throughout the Midwest and the Northeast in the memory of most professional turf managers. Most areas experienced extremely high temperatures and dry conditions from May until the middle of October. During that time, both the turf and the superintendents were under extreme stress. A lot of turf, along with a superintendent or two, threw in the towel.

Essentially, it was the summer from Hell. In talking with turf professionals throughout the affected area, it is remarkable how many of them attribute the survival of their turf to the Nature Safe program they were on all summer. During mild summers, the real benefits of a Nature Safe program are not always clear. However, after a summer like the one we just had, there can be little doubt. The benefits were particularly evident to turf professionals who were conducting field trials using Nature Safe alongside other fertilizers, both organic and synthetic. Where Nature Safe was used next to other products, the differences were like night and day. We were fortunate to have some superintendents who used Nature Safe on nine fairways and synthetic products on the other nine. Almost without exception, these superintendents are switching their entire programs to Nature Safe for 2006 because they saw such amazing differences.

In some instances, superintendents used Nature Safe on their bentgrass tees while they kept their bentgrass fairways on a synthetic program. Most of them reported a large reduction in diseases and an increase in turf quality on their tees while their fairways did not fare as well. This experience has convinced many of them that the increased quality of turf, coupled with the reduction in the amount of fungicides and other chemicals they normally require, makes Nature Safe the least costly and best way to maintain their turf.

Unfortunately, one cannot wait until the stress period to initiate a Nature Safe program. It is necessary to build the soil microbe populations before stress occurs. That can only be accomplished by applying Nature Safe regularly early in the season. By the time the stress periods arrive, the soil microbe population is large enough to help protect the plants. It is very similar to getting a flu shot – The shot is only beneficial if you get it before you come down with the flu. Once you have the flu it’s too late and you then suffer the consequences of your failure to take appropriate action. As one superintendent put it, “I have 40 weeks to prepare for 12 weeks of Hell. How I use those 40 weeks will determine if I succeed or fail. I don’t wait until the end of the 40 weeks to get started. I begin my preparations immediately after the 12 weeks of Hell are over by making regular applications of Nature Safe.”

The regular use of Nature Safe prepares turf for the rigors of summer in a number of important ways:

  • It suppresses pathogenic fungi by greatly increasing the populations of beneficial organisms that compete with them.
  • These same beneficial organisms also compete with organisms that cause localized dry spots, resulting in a decrease in LDS.
  • It helps to reduce the activity of parasitic nematodes, which adds to the overall vigor of the plants.
  • It lowers the soluble salt levels in the soil, which results in a reduction in the plant’s need for water.
  • It helps to produce a deeper and more fibrous root system, which enables the plant to make better use of available nutrients and water.
  • It helps to increase soil structure that further aids aeration and rooting.
  • It increases the rate of photosynthesis due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide that is produced by the activity of the soil microbes.

The one feature of a Nature Safe program that was most appreciated by superintendents during this long, hot summer was the fact that they could maintain their regular fertility program despite the heat. They were able to keep their turf healthy without any fears of burning the turf or over stimulating it. Many superintendents on synthetic programs quit fertilizing their turf during the heat rather than taking a chance on damaging their turf. This resulted in weakened plants that were even more susceptible to summer stress.

Success stories from Nature Safe users this year seem to be the norm. I’m looking forward with great anticipation to hearing more success stories when I visit with superintendents from across the country at upcoming winter trade shows. We at Nature Safe would love to hear all of them.

Posted in All, General |

Resistant Dollar Spot

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

There is little doubt that golf courses spend more money each year trying to control dollar spot than they do on any other single disease. It is a problem that never seems to end despite the fact that a number of fungicides have been introduced to supposedly end the problem. One of the first of these fungicides was Benlate, marketed originally under the trade name of Tersan 1991 back in the early 70s. At first, turf managers were reporting tremendous success with this chemical in their battles with dollar spot. After a few years, it just quit working regardless of how often or in what concentration it was used. The dollar spot organism had built up a resistance to Tersan 1991. In the 30+ years since the advent of Tersan 1991 there have been other chemicals introduced that showed great promise in the battle against dollar spot. Many of these new chemicals also became ineffective after they were continually used.

The problem is that the dollar spot organism has a remarkable ability to mutate after it is exposed to a particular chemical a number of times. Whenever a fungicide is applied, it does not kill one hundred percent of the target species every time it is applied. It may kill ninety-five percent of the target species, but a few of them are only marginally affected. These few organisms that survive start to build up immunity to the chemical in question. This process is somewhat similar to vaccinating a person against a certain disease by giving him a small dose of the disease. This causes his body to become resistant to that particular disease.

Each time a fungicide is applied, a few more pathogens survive and go on to build up strains that are more and more resistant to the chemical being used. Finally, a strain is developed that is almost totally immune. The superintendent usually responds by increasing the frequency of applications and upping the rate of chemical used. That just develops an even more resistant pathogen. When all else fails, it is usually time to switch to a newer form of chemistry and the process begins all over again.

Nature Safe is quite effective in reducing the incidence of dollar spot and many other diseases (see Dollar Spot Research on Page 4). This effectiveness is not based on killing the pathogen, but on building the population of beneficial microorganisms that compete with it. Most pathogens are very good survivors and are very poor competitors. Pathogens are at an extreme disadvantage when forced to compete with overwhelming populations of beneficial organisms. The pathogens subjected to severe competition react by going into a dormant state. They are not much of a problem to the turf in this dormant state.

This suppression of the pathogens does not mean that no fungicides will be required. It does mean that fewer applications of fungicide will be needed to maintain healthy turf. By making fewer applications of a particular fungicide, we lessen the chance that resistant strains will get a chance to build up and cause future problems.

The best thing about using the competitive exclusion approach to reducing the incidence of disease is that pathogens cannot build up a resistance or immunity to competition. There are so many different types of beneficial organisms that are produced through a regular use of Nature Safe, that the pathogens cannot withstand all of them. They are literally being attacked from all sides. Most fungicides have only one mode of action. When such a fungicide is used regularly, the pathogens can find a way to overcome the particular mode of action of that chemical.

Nature Safe is not the only product that will increase the populations of beneficial soil microbes. It is the only organic fertilizer that contains the highest amount of available amino acids that increase soil microbe activity – between 20% and 300% more than our competition.

The tremendous increase in beneficial soil microbes will reduce the need to apply a fungicide as frequently. This will reduce the annual cost of turf maintenance and it will make it less likely that resistant strains of the pathogen will be produced. The end result is that Nature Safe not only provides the highest level of nutrition to the plant, but it also helps to reduce the cost of turf maintenance by making necessary chemicals much more effective.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

How Does Nature Safe Compare to Other Organic Fertilizers?

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Sales people who compete against Nature Safe frequently tell Nature Safe users that they have an organic product that is just like Nature Safe, only cheaper. From time to time I meet end users who believed what they were told and switched from Nature Safe to Brand X in an attempt to save money. None of these people felt the move they made saved them any money over time or that the performance of Brand X was anything close to Nature Safe.

Some end users thought the performance of Brand X was equal to Nature Safe for the first few months after they made the switch. Eventually they realized that they made a mistake by switching. I recently talked to a golf course superintendent who had used Nature Safe on his bentgrass tees for several years. During that time he witnessed a marked decline in the incidence of dollar spot on his tees, even though it remained a problem on his fairways, where he was using synthetic fertilizer. Two years ago, one of his local salesmen convinced him that a new product he was selling was just like Nature Safe, only cheaper. Naturally, everyone wants to save money if they can and the superintendent trusted this particular salesman so he abandoned Nature Safe and purchased Brand X. For the first year, that he was using the new product the superintendent thought it was as good as Nature Safe. The performance seemed to be good and the problems with dollar spot were minimal. However, when he got into the second year, he began to have as many problems with dollar spot on his tees as he was having on his fairways. He discovered that the extra fungicide he was forced to purchase to combat the increased dollar spot more than ate up any savings he might have had from the lower price of Brand X. This superintendent decided to switch back to Nature Safe early this spring. Since then, his dollar spot problems have subsided and his tees have improved. He is still having dollar spot problems on his fairways, but not on his tees.

In another instance a superintendent who was having excellent success with Nature Safe on his bentgrass fairways was forced by the club owner to quit using Nature Safe because of the cost. This particular golf course had not had to spray their fairways for dollar spot more than once or twice a year when they were using Nature Safe. For one year after leaving Nature Safe the dollar spot problems on their fairways was mild. The second year, the dollar spot ran wild and the owner ended up paying a lot more for fungicides to treat the fairways than he ever did for Nature Safe. There was also a corresponding increase in thatch levels that forced the club to increase the frequency of aeration and dethatching. Of course, that also added to their maintenance costs.

The problem in both of the above cases is that the decline did not come until the second year, so both of these clubs were lulled into a false sense of security. They thought their decision to use Brand X was paying off, but when they got into the second year, they realized too late that they had made a mistake. Using Nature Safe on a regular basis gradually increases the level of beneficial soil microbes that are providing nutrients to the plant and competing with the pathogens. Once these soil microbes have been built up to high levels, they do not dissipate rapidly. When the use of Nature Safe is discontinued, the microbe populations slowly decline. During this period, the fertility and disease suppression seems to be somewhat normal. Finally, after enough time has elapsed, problems start to occur.

The fact of the matter is there is no organic fertilizer that can provide the same level of nutrients for the soil microbes as Nature Safe. That is true is because Nature Safe has the highest level of amino acids in the industry and those amino acids are the most digestible by the soil microbes. These amino acids are manufactured by Nature Safe’s parent company, Griffin Industries, to exacting pet food grade standards. We can insure that the amino acids are very digestible. No other organic fertilizer company can do that because none of them make their own ingredients. They cannot control the quality of amino acids used in their products.

Some competing products may look like Nature Safe and some may even list the same ingredients on the bag, but none can match the amount or the digestibility of the amino acids in Nature Safe. That is why there is no other product that is just like Nature Safe – at any price.

Posted in All, General |

Consistency is Key to Maintaining Healthy Turf

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

I recently met John Gay, superintendent at Forest Lake Club in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to my visit, I was told that John was extremely well respected by his peers in the Southeastern U.S. One of the reasons John is held in such high regard is that he employs consistent turf management practices.

Since 1997, John consistently uses Nature Safe as part of his regular turf program. It is the consistency that helps John avoid the many challenges his peers face. This year, John’s turf challenge was a cool spring. There was only day in June above 90 degrees. You can imagine what that means for anyone with TifEagle greens; the greens have struggled to grow.

Cool temperatures slow photosynthesis and the growth rate of Bermuda. The plant then depletes carbohydrate reserves more quickly than it can be replenished. Nature Safe helps build the population of beneficial microbes in the soil. When these microbes die off, they release C02. The C02 drifts to the soil surface. Elevated levels of C02 at the soil surface makes it easier for the photosynthetic process to occur and easier to build carbohydrate reserves. The plant is then better able to weather any stresses that might develop as the summer unfolds and temperatures soar above the 90s.

John’s consistent use of Nature Safe made his turf less susceptible to the challenges that can be brought on by a cool spring. He avoided the challenge of a weak stand of Bermuda, unlike many of his colleagues.

John Gay’s Nature Safe Program

Maintenance
John applies 8-3-5 at .5 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. on a monthly basis for maintenance of his TifEagle greens.

Aeration
Two annual applications of 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. each application.

John does one conventional core aeration where Nature Safe is drug into the holes.

Dry Ject aeration is used for his second application where the sand and the Nature Safe are injected into the hole with forced air.

Posted in All, General |

Nature’s Phosphorus

by Rick Geise, Brand Manager

In some areas of the country, P is a 4-letter word. It seems like municipalities around the country are putting the heat on phosphorus with restrictions and other legislative efforts to reduce the nutrients’ potential negative effects. These negative effects are primarily a result of runoff in lakes and streams from inorganic phosphorus that has leached. However, our entire product line uses only organic phosphorus.

The phosphorus source in our Nature Safe Natural & Organic Fertilizer formulations is meat and bone meal. The phosphorus is naturally occurring and partially chelated, meaning the nutrient is tied to an amino acid that translates into a unique interaction with calcium to create a higher level of bioavailability. Through our processing technology of these materials, the ingredients feature a high level of digestibility for soil microbes. The soil microbes then digest the ingredients and release the nutrients to the plant through the root system in a process called mineralization.

Phosphorus has many catalytic and structural functions appearing in connection with carbohydrate production in the plant. As noted above, the opposite charges of calcium and phosphorus creates an interaction that results in a delivery system for both to the plant. That is why phosphorus from bone meal is so valuable. It is in the presence of calcium, which makes it biochemically available.

As a trivalent anion, phosphate is fairly insoluble and immobile. It is not highly ionized, or available. Hence, in the soil it is moved from its insoluble state to a condition of more activity by decaying organic matter giving off its resulting carbonic acid. In addition, the soil microorganisms would transform the nitrogen in the organic form more effectively when made available in conjunction with calcium.

In comparison, inorganic forms of phosphorus are often treated with some form of acid to make the phosphorus soluble. As a result, the plant typically immediately takes up inorganic phosphorus sources. However, since the plant immediately receives the phosphorus it needs short-term, the remaining phosphorus has a tendency to leach. In addition, the longer-term phosphorus needs of the plant are not met.

As you know, the organic ingredients in Nature Safe to include all phosphorus sources are listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). In addition, as a leading rendering company in the U.S., if we were to never sell another bag of Nature Safe, all of these ingredients would be sold as animal feeds and petfood ingredients. They are, in actuality, part of the food chain.

I hope the above sheds some light on what more areas of country are seeing as a dark subject.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, Phosphorous |

Superintendents Manage Landscape Fertility and Costs

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

Taking care of flower beds and landscaping is an added responsibility for many superintendents that has few benefits other than an occasional “atta boy” from the membership when it looks nice.

Superintendents that are asked to spruce up the clubhouse area or plant more flowers around the course are usually not given additional funds for these beautification improvements. One way to help superintendents with this dilemma is to suggest using Nature Safe 8-3-5 or 5-6-6 left over from aerification or greens applications. These formulations are an excellent fertilizer for trees and shrubs and there isn’t an additional cost for fertilizer. This allows the superintendent to use an asset that might be sitting in storage until the next aerifcation or greens application.

“I like the fact that it’s environmentally benign. I use Nature Safe on trees, shrubs and antique roses.

Jerry Palmer, Colonial Country Club, Jackson, MS.

Fertilizer use is also under scrutiny for golf courses in environmentally sensitive areas. Recommending the use of Nature Safe on trees and shrubs ensures a response without putting the environment at risk.

What makes Nature Safe so good for trees, shrubs and flowers? The same reasons that it is excellent on turf:

  • A low salt index so it won’t burn tender young plants.
  • A slow consistent feed eliminates big flush of growth.
  • Increased resistance to disease pressures.
  • Improved aeration and porosity of the soil.
  • Improved stress tolerance.

Help your customers earn that “atta boy” by suggesting the following landscape applications of Nature Safe:

Annuals/Perennials: At planting till 2 lbs./50 sq. ft. into the soil bed so that the Nature Safe is dispersed through the root zone. For individual plants, use one tsp. in the planting hole and add another tsp. when backfilling. Top dress every 30-60 days depending on maintenance schedule. Following topical application water thoroughly into the soil (1/4″ inch of water within 1-2 days after application).

“I use Nature Safe when planting flower beds because it’s in inventory from use at aerification. There’s no sense buying additional fertilizer.”

Scott Soule, Seascape and Emerald Bay, Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Trees: At planting apply 1/4 lb. of Nature Safe per every foot of height. One half of this material should be applied into the planting hole and the other half mixed with the backfill. If the tree is already established, make a series of holes 2” in diameter, 18-24” apart and12-18” deep in a circular pattern around the base of the tree. Fill the holes with Nature Safe and cover. Water thoroughly into the soil (1/4″ of water within 1-2 weeks after application). Reapply every 30-60 days depending on maintenance schedule.

Contact your Nature Safe representative for additional information on how to efficiently and effectively use Nature Safe to grow a great landscape. They can assist you with region specific recommendations.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Does Your Fertilizer Improve on Mother Nature?

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Green plants are the most important and vital forms of life on the face of the Earth. They alone, utilizing the process of photosynthesis, can produce the food that all other forms of life rely on for survival. They produce the oxygen that we breathe, cleanse the atmosphere of pollutants, and by absorbing the energy from the sun, they help to moderate the surface temperature of the Earth enough that other forms of life can flourish. Without green plants, no other form of life could exist.

Perhaps in recognition of the importance of green plants, Mother Nature has, over the past several million years, developed and perfected a marvelous system for nurturing and protecting them. This is an extremely complex system of soil microbiology of which we have very little understanding. These soil microbes feed and protect the plant, but we think in terms of feeding the plant and forget about doing anything for the soil microbes.

Because we have been to high school and college and some of us even have a Ph.D. behind our names, we think we can improve on the workings of Mother Nature. Since we have super computers, atomic power, and the ability to travel to the Moon and back, we delude ourselves into thinking we are intelligent enough to develop systems for feeding and caring for plants that are superior to Mother Nature’s system. However, since we have only a rudimentary understanding of soil microbiology, we find it difficult to improve on what Mother Nature does. Instead, we come up with quick fixes like:

  • Foliar feeding of the plant. The uses of artificial growing mediums creates hostile environments for the soil microbes and prove detrimental to their survival.
  • The use of synthetic forms of nutrients that feed the plant directly, but do nothing to care for the beneficial soil microbes. The synthetic forms of nutrients might give some nutrients to the plant, but they do nothing to feed the vital beneficial soil microbes.
  • Unbalanced feeding practices that try to provide the plant with huge amounts of one element such as potassium in relationship to the other elements.
  • Unbalanced feeding is increasingly shown to be ineffective because the plants take up nutrients in direct proportion to one another. It is impossible to force the plant to absorb huge amounts of one nutrient without a similar increase in other nutrients.
  • The use of slow release forms of synthetic nutrients that we try to gear to the needs of the plant. These forms include IBDU, methylene urea, urea formaldehyde, sulfur coated urea, and numerous others. The synthetic forms of nutrients all have some strengths but also some major weaknesses when it comes to supplying nutrients to plant at all times and under all conditions. And, once again, they do not feed the soil microbes.

Unfortunately, none of these measures deliver entirely what the plant really needs.

Only Mother Nature’s own system truly meets the needs of the plants and their allies: the beneficial soil microbes. This system supplies a balanced level of nutrients at a rate matching the needs of the plants and the soil microbes at all times. The release rate is governed by the activity of the beneficial soil microbes and the activity of these microbes is governed by the same factors such as temperature and humidity that govern the needs of the plants. The result is a system that is in perfect harmony at all times.

Obviously, Mother Nature’s system of feeding the plant feeds it the best and Nature Safe contains the highest level of food energy that is required to fuel this marvelous system. It contains not only the highest level of nutrients, but also the most easily digestible form of nutrients. That means that the widest range of soil microbes will be effectively fed, which means that the plant will receive the most balanced level of nutrients possible at the optimum rate. It is easy to see that Mother Nature knows best and that Nature Safe is one of her best friends.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |

Ash Content of Natural Organic Fertilizers

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

The May-June edition of the USGA Green Section Record magazine contains an article entitled “Natural Organic Fertilizer Considerations”. This is an excellent article that focuses heavily on the ash content of natural organic fertilizers and the problems associated with the introduction of large amounts of ash into sand root zones.

At Nature Safe we have been trying to point out the problems with applying large amounts of ash to sand based turfgrass areas for the past three or four years. We are pleased that others are beginning to recognize that ash can present a problem. The article that begins with the next paragraph appeared in The Natural Choice newsletter in July 2002.

One of the rumors about using organic fertilizers is that the regular use of organic products would eventually plug up the pore spaces in porous root zones, such as those found in USGA type greens and sand based athletic fields. This would then severely limit the infiltration rate of a particular soil or seal it off completely over time. Naturally, anyone who has invested in building a green or athletic field with a porous root zone would not want to take such a risk using organics.

Sadly, depending upon what type of organic fertilizer is used, there is some truth to these rumors. The culprit is usually ash. Ash is defined as what remains after an organic fertilizer is subjected to very high heat to remove the actual organic portion of the material. This ash is comprised of inorganic minerals that are extremely fine textured. In turf, of course, such a burning off process never takes place. Instead, the soil microbes break down the organic material as well as they can and leave behind the ash plus anything they cannot digest, such as lignin. Now we have not only the ash content to worry about, but also the organic portion that cannot be digested.

Many manure type organic fertilizers contain up to 50% ash by weight. This ash comes from the wood shavings and straw that is used as bedding for the animals that produced the manure. Since it’s impossible to separate the bedding from the manure, the entire material is composted and made into fertilizer. In most instances, the manufacturer would not want to separate the bedding from the manure because a major portion of the nutrients claimed on the bag, especially potassium, are derived from the bedding material.

Sewage sludge type fertilizers present a slightly different problem. While these products do not contain any ash from wood shavings and straw, they do contain ash from other sources. This ash is comparable to extremely fine sand. Some universities have reported finding sewage sludge fertilizers that contain between 30% and 50% of this extremely fine sand and ash by weight. It is anyone’s guess as to what this sand and ash can do to the infiltration rate of a porous root zone over time if such fertilizers are applied regularly.

Nature Safe has a very low ash content and the soil microbes easily digest it without leaving many indigestible portions behind. Most of the ash that is found in Nature Safe comes from the sulfate of potash that is used as a potassium source. We know from long years of experience and from extensive field trials that sulfate of potash does not plug up pore spaces. Our 10-2-8 has an ash content of a little over 23%. Our 12-2-0, which is essentially 10-2-8 with the potash removed, has an ash content of just under 9%. Once the sulfate of potash is accounted for, none of the Nature Safe products would contain more than 9% or 10% ash. The fact that most sewage sludge and manure type fertilizers have very low Nitrogen contents compounds the problem. Typically, these types of fertilizer contain 5% or less Nitrogen. That means that you would have to use twice as much of a 5% N product to apply the same amount of N per unit area as you would if you were using Nature Safe 10-2-8. If a manure product with 5% N and 45% ash were used to apply one pound of N per 1,000 sq. ft., you would have to use twice as many pounds of fertilizer to get the same amount of N available in 10-2-8. Therefore, you would be applying nearly 10 times as much ash with the manure product as you would with the Nature Safe 10-2-8.

20 lbs. 5-2-4 Sustane with 45% ash =

1 lb. N and 9 lbs. ash.

16.67 lbs. 6-2-0 Milorganite with 27% ash =

1 lb. N and 4.5 lbs. ash.

10 lbs. Nature Safe 10-2-8 with 9% ash =

1 lb. N and 0.9 lbs. ash

It is easy to see why Nature Safe would be the organic product of choice, even if you did not take into account all of the other tremendous advantages that it offers over sludge and manure type products.

Posted in All, General |

Nature Safe and Ultradwarfs

by Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

If there was ever a match made in heaven for today’s southern golf course superintendent it is between Nature Safe organic fertilizers and ultradwarfs. Many superintendents have adopted primarily liquid management programs in attempting to manage their ultradwarfs and have found that their job has become less than heavenly.

What are the management challenges that superintendents face on ultra- dwarfs?

  • Very shallow root system.
  • Extremely low mowing heights make the turf susceptible to environmental challenges.
  • Heavy thatch producer.
  • Growing on sand based USGA greens with low organic matter content.
  • Very susceptible to phytotoxicity from mis-application of fertilizer.

Why is an organic like Nature Safe the perfect tool to helping superintendents in the south cope with ultradwarf challenges?

Nature Safe feeds the microbes in the soil more effectively and efficiently than any other product on the market. The microbes die releasing nutrients in a much slower more deliberate fashion than nutrients from synthetic fertilizers. This reduces the chance of flushes of growth and scalping. However, the microbes do much more than just prevent flushes of growth:

  • Microbes compete with the pathogenic organisms in the soil helping to keep these pathogenic organisms in a dormant state. When microbes are no longer being fed the pathogenic organisms awaken from their dormant state and start to wreck havoc on your greens
  • Nature Safe products contain the highest concentration of amino acids available in a commercial fertilizer. The result is an excellent food source to stimulate beneficial soil microbe populations that further improve fertility efficiency and work to decompose thatch.
  • The ingredients in Nature Safe are extremely available to the plant and result in a complete and predictable release of nutrients that increases your ability to manage your nutrition program.
  • By stimulating microbial activity in the soil you are improving porosity, which further improves nutrient and water management.

Using Nature Safe allows superintendent to leverage Mother Nature and get the natural ecosystem that exists in the green to work for them. Nature Safe has similar benefits for tees and fairways when used in a regular program.

The suggested program for Nature Safe on ultradwarfs is to use the equivalent of 1 lb. N/1,000 at aerification. Apply the product after pulling cores, but before applying the sand to ensure that the Nature Safe gets into the root zone where it will go to work hastening recovery and improving root development.

Monthly, Nature Safe should be used at a rate of .25-.5 lb. N/1,000 to provide the benefits outlined above. Use the 8-3-5 Super Fine formulation and follow the wet dry wet application procedure.

Integrating Nature Safe into an ultradwarf greens management program can pay great dividends for you. The nutrition foundation delivered by a Nature Safe program improves the efficacy and efficiency of all the quality turf management products you use and improves your results. Now that’s what I call a real match made in heaven.

Posted in All, General |

Get the Jump on Summer Stress

by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager

Every plant has a stress budget. It can stand just so much stress before it gives up and dies. The stress can come from many factors. You can’t control factors such as heat, but if you can eliminate or lower other stressors, the plant will be able to tolerate stress from factors beyond your control.

Summer stress on cool season turfgrass is caused by a myriad of factors, not the least of which is sustained periods of high temperature. Periods of sustained heat can slow the photosynthetic rate of turfgrass. This lower rate of photosynthesis means the plant is producing less and less food to sustain itself.

The use of Nature Safe will help increase the photosynthetic rate of the plants under high heat situations because the beneficial soil microbes give off large amounts of carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is used by the plant to carry on more photosynthesis. The plant will be able to make more food to sustain itself even though it may be functioning at reduced levels.

The thicker, denser turf that is produced from Nature Safe keep the sun’s rays from reaching the soil and seriously raising soil temperatures. This allows the roots to grow and flourish even more because cooler soil produces superior root systems and superior root systems produce superior plants.

Heat alone can be fatal if the high temperatures last long enough. However, many other factors exacerbate the situation.

Soil compaction and poor soil structure, low height of cut and excessive traffic reduce turfgrass vigor even when it is not suffering from prolonged heat stress.

Over time, the regular use of Nature Safe will also help improve soil structure by feeding the organisms that flocculate the soil, or glue it together to form a granulated soil rather than an adobe brick soil. The flocculated soil has cracks and fissures in it that allow air, water and fertilizer to reach the roots. This process doesn’t happen over night. It requires several seasons to accomplish, but some results can be evident in one season.

The build up of soluble salts from synthetic fertilizer and poor quality irrigation water also add to the problem. Just as eating salty peanuts and pretzels makes a bar patron want to consume more beer, the soluble salts in the soil cause the plant to require more water to survive. The plant wilts at much higher levels of available moisture.

Nature Safe has a much lower soluble salt level than most synthetic fertilizers. This helps reduce the build up of soluble salts in the soil. When this is coupled with improved root structure, the plant is able to make better use of available water and nutrients.

Nematodes and soil borne diseases that attack the roots are another factor that puts stress on a plant. These organisms don’t do enough damage to cause obvious distress symptoms, just enough to weaken the plant and predispose it to other stress factors. This type of damage is often referred to as sub-clinical damage.

The regular use of Nature Safe throughout the season will help greatly lower many of the types of stress that affects plants. Nature Safe feeds the beneficial soil microbes that compete with the pathogens. These microbes help keep at bay unseen soil borne pathogens such as fungi and parasitic nematodes. Lowering the stress caused by fungi and nematodes increases the plant’s ability to withstand other stressors.

To seriously reduce summer stress from the factors listed above, it is necessary to get a jump on the problem by applying Nature Safe early in the season. It must be applied at least 30 days prior to the advent of summer stress factors. The earlier it is applied the better. It is also necessary to apply some Nature Safe regularly during the season to maintain the highest possible populations of beneficial soil microbes. On golf greens, we recommend making small monthly applications. On lawn areas, at least four applications per year should be made for maximum results. If such programs are followed, the turf in question will be much healthier and much better equipped to withstand the rigors of summer.

Posted in All, Summer Stress |

It’s the Amino Acids, Dummy

by Ken Quandt, Central Regional Manager

When Ronald Reagan was running for his first term in office, he was trying to identify the issue that was most important to that particular election, but that his opponents did not want to discuss. It was at that time he uttered the now famous words, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That shifted the focus from the less important things that his opponents were trying to stress to the one thing that was most important to the voters in that campaign.

In the business of manufacturing organic fertilizers we see some similarities. Many of our competitors stress all kinds of features and benefits that are merely side dressing. They completely ignore the real issue: the amino acid content of an organic fertilizer. Why? Because they know their products are lacking in that category. The focus needs to be shifted back to where it should be by telling them, “It’s the amino acids, dummy”.

When an organic fertilizer is applied to the soil it is a food source for the microbes. Initially there is very little in a pure organic fertilizer that can be directly used by the plants. The energy source for these microbes is carbon and carbon is contained in amino acids. The microbes consume this energy and use it to build their populations to higher levels. They have life cycles of about twenty minutes, so they are constantly dying off and releasing nutrients in the forms that can be used by plants. It is obvious then that the fertilizer that contains the highest level of amino acids is the one that will ultimately provide the most nutrition for the plant.

What you are really purchasing when buying an organic fertilizer is a pile of amino acids, not an NPK source. When you purchases a product that has a high percentage of amino acids, you are getting a bigger pile of amino acids for your money. If you purchases a ton of a typical manure based product that contains between 5% and 10% amino acids, you will getting between 100 and 200 pounds of amino acids for your money. If, on the other hand, you purchase a ton of Nature Safe 10-2-8, which contains 60.28% amino acids, you will be getting over 1,200 pounds of amino acids for your money.

When viewed in those terms, it is relatively easy to see where you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

The traditional way of comparing fertilizers is to look at the cost per pound of nitrogen that is being applied. A better comparison would be the number of pounds of amino acids that are being applied for every pound of nitrogen. That is usually calculated on the basis of pounds per thousand square feet. The following chart shows the number of pounds of amino acids that are being applied per 1,000 square feet when each fertilizer is applied at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

The amount of amino acids that are being provided is only part of the story. The other important consideration is the availability or the digestibility of the amino acids provided. The amino acids in Nature Safe are pet food grade amino acids that are all produced in our own plants. This allows Nature Safe to carefully control the way its proteins are produced to insure consistency and that they are very digestible by soil microbes. Other companies do not produce their own ingredients, so they do not have the kind of control that guarantees both digestibility and consistency.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Organic Matter Accumulation In The Root Zone

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

In recent months there have been several reports of problems that arise in sand based greens when organic matter accumulates in the root zone. The accumulation of organic matter reduces the infiltration rate of the sand mix. Because of this, some turf managers question the use of organic fertilizers.

Some organic fertilizers contain substantial amounts of ash and other materials that are difficult for soil microbes to digest. For example, the ash content of manure based products can be impacted by the amount and type of bedding materials mixed in with the manure. Since soil microbes cannot digest ash, it builds up in the soil profile and clogs up pore spaces between the sand particles. Once these pore spaces become plugged, I know of no way to open them up again.

Organic fertilizers like sewage sludge contain nutrients in the form of denatured proteins that have been exposed to extreme heat. The result is the soil microbes have difficulty digesting these proteins and releasing the nutrients. These materials also contribute to the plugging up of pore spaces. In very warm conditions, excessive growth may result by an increased release of the accumulated nutrients in the soil.

The major culprits in the accumulation of organic matter in the root zones of sand greens are old roots, stolons, crowns, and other plant parts. Turf plants constantly die off and are replaced by new plants. With most species of turf grasses, no plant lives for more than three years. That means at least one-third of the plants die every year. The dead plants that remain in the root zone contain high percentages of materials like lignin and cellulose. These hard to digest organic materials collect in the root zone regardless of the type of fertilizer that is used.

There is evidence to suggest that this accumulation is more rapid with synthetic fertilizers than with organics because synthetic products do not produce carbon to feed the soil microbes that break down accumulated organic matter. Synthetic fertilizers can produce significant amounts of organic matter in the root zone through flush growth.

Nature Safe fertilizers contain animal proteins that are processed using low temperatures and steam pressure making the nutrients very available to the soil microbes. The low ash and high protein/amino acid concentration in Nature Safe increases soil microbe activity and accelerates the decomposition of accumulated organic material in the root zone. This insures better infiltration rates and leaves little to plug pore spaces. The slow even feed of Nature Safe also prevents growth surge in hot weather.

When you use Nature Safe year after year, expect superior results from a value-added nutrient package for optimizing IPM program effectiveness.

Posted in All, General |

Algae & Moss Management with Nature Safe

By Natural Choice Editor

Algae and moss can be a devastating problem that severely damages turf. A weak and stressed turf provides an opportunity for algae and moss to flourish. Excessive water and poor drainage limits oxygen access to the roots. High levels of salt weaken the plant, causes osmotic root shock and reduces the plant’s ability to take in fertility.

High fertility and flush growth also weakens turf. The turf’s cell walls are thinner in rapidly growing turf making it more susceptible to damage from traffic, play, or disease.

Another problem is thatch which reduces the soil’s ability to drain and provides a vector for disease. Low mowing heights allow more sunlight to get to the ground. This reduces the plant’s carbohydrate intake to maintain health and affects the plant’s surface area for photosynthesis.

Moss is another devastating problem that turf managers must face. Moss usually disrupts the surface quality of closely mowed turf. Typical moss conditions are wet, humid, shady, acidic, infertile, poorly drained soils, and excessive thatch with thin, weak turf.

A healthy turf makes the establishment of algae and moss more difficult. Nature Safe provides a slow, even feed that improves soil structure and rooting and promotes disease and thatch reduction. It is also low in salt and does not promote rapid growth. Take the opportunity to recommend Nature Safe along with excellent control products to help you overcome algae and moss challenges.

Posted in All, General |

The Value of Nature Safe Versus Hype

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

As the art of greenskeeping has evolved into a science, professional turf managers are increasingly aware of what plants require for optimum health. This has led to attempts to tweak the system in order to get the maximum performance from the turf. Initially, we added certain amounts of the chemical elements that a plant requires. In recent years, this tweaking has moved into the realm of applying biological supplements to the turf for a myriad of reasons. Our industry has been all too happy to produce a bewildering array of these biological supplements that promise great things for the user’s turf. Some of the supplements include the following.

Amino acid supplements that apply a few ounces of a material containing 10% amino acids or less. One particular product claims to have only L-form amino acids instead of D-form amino acids. Once you get past the hype, you find out that almost all amino acids that are derived from plants or animals are the L- form and are very available to the plant. It then becomes apparent that their amino acids are not unusual, only expensive when you figure out how little amino acids is being applied. These supplements are supposed to be applied every two to three weeks.

Carbohydrate supplements such as molasses that are supposed to feed the microbial substrate. I have seen molasses applied through sprayers, injected into irrigation systems, and spread through a rotary spreader as dry sugar-like material. (A real mess!)

Humic acid supplements to increase nutrient and water holding capacity.

Biostimulant supplements containing vitamins and enzymes to stimulate growth and development in the plant.

Calcium and magnesium supplements that are supposed to be applied at the rate of two or three ounces per thousand square feet and contain less than 10% calcium. At that rate, they provide very little actual calcium to the plant.

There are many other products too numerous to mention. Most of these supplements do have some value. The problem is that the soil biological system is incredibly complex and when you alter one phase of it by adding a supplement, you may cause an imbalance that can throw the entire system out of whack.

Another factor to consider is the inconvenience and expense involved with adding all of these supplements. Most have to be sprayed every two to four weeks and they can be very costly. One company estimates that using its products on three acres of greens for five months will cost nearly $5,500. For that amount, the user will receive less than two pounds of actual Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf area. That means that some supplemental fertilizer will have to be purchased in order to meet the needs of the turf. This will increase the overall cost of the greens program beyond the original estimate of $5,500.

Now that we have examined the hype of some of the supplements on the market, lets look at the value of Nature Safe. Not only does Nature Safe provide a superior fertilizer; it also provides all of the same things found in the supplements, but in far greater amounts. If a turf manager were to apply 1/2 pound of Nitrogen per month from Nature Safe 8-3-5, he would be applying over 3 1/2 pounds of amino acids per 1,000 square feet per month (all in L-form). The amino acid supplement previously discussed is applied at roughly four ounces per month and contains 12% amino acids, for a grand total of less than 1/2 ounce of amino acids. Big difference, huh?

When using the 1/2 pound of Nitrogen per month in a Nature Safe 8-3-5 program, there is no need to add molasses and other carbohydrate supplements. We include simple sugars and starches to provide energy for the microorganisms during the initial stages of the degradation of the organic matter. Nature Safe also contains 3% calcium and 3% magnesium. That translates to three ounces of each element per 1,000 square feet as opposed to 1/3 ounce or less with the expensive supplement. Humic acid supplements are unnecessary when using Nature Safe because it contains humus to increase the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil and to enhance the uptake of phosphates and nutrients.

Biostimulants and microorganisms are in every bag of Nature Safe. It contains a microbial mixture of Bacillus, Flavobacterium, Saccharomyces, Penicillium, and a host of other beneficial microorganisms that are very beneficial in managing turfgrass diseases. Their main purpose is to stimulate the growth and development of the microbes that already exist in the soil. Biostimulants in the form of vitamins and enzymes round out the goodies that are found in Nature Safe. Again, they are part of the total package and do not need to be added as expensive supplements.

All of the individual components of Nature Safe are applied together at one time. That means that the chemical and biological systems in the soil are all kept in balance and healthy. It also means that the turf manager makes only one application per month rather than numerous applications of liquid supplements.

The most important thing to remember is the value of Nature Safe versus the supplements. If we go back to the example of three acres of greens used above, and substitute Nature Safe 8-3-5 Fine for all of the supplements, we find that our total cost for the year is about $3,000 as opposed to nearly $5,500 for the supplements (remember that the supplement program cost did not include all the fertilizer that would be required). It seems obvious that Nature Safe is the best value on the market when one compares apples to apples.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, Lawn Care |

Fall Aeration

By Natural Choice Editor

Nature Safe Fertilizer, if used in conjunction with core aeration in the fall, is an important tool in helping your turf recover from summer stress. The proper application involves harvesting the cores, applying sand, and applying Nature Safe 8-3-5 at a 1-1.5 lb. rate of Nitrogen on top of the sand. Drag this mix into the holes. By applying Nature Safe on top of the sand, more will actually get into the holes than if you applied sand on top of the Nature Safe.

As turf roots find the tubes of sand, they experience no compaction, high oxygen levels, and an extremely active microbial population. These aerobic bacteria are releasing N, P, K, Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, S, etc. The roots will respond with increased length, mass and numbers of root hairs. Turf should recover from aeration faster and the checkerboard effect typically seen following this process is eliminated. There is no better method available to superintendents today to aid their turf in stress recovery than this practice. Nature Safe has more available food value and a broader spectrum of food sources than any fertilizer in the market today. Nature Safe will maximize the benefit your turf receives from this fall aeration practice.

Posted in Aeration, All |

Effective Water Management

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Water restrictions are increasingly put into place throughout the country. Some restrictions are temporary and localized, but many are of longer duration and spread over a wide geographic area. These water restrictions can be a big problem for golf courses that require copious amounts of water to keep their fairways, greens and tees in the lush condition that the playing public expects. Low cutting heights, heavy traffic and high salt content fertilizers all combine to make the situation even worse. In addition, many new golf courses are built on areas that are deemed unsuitable for either farming or the construction of buildings. The soils in these areas are usually hard clays or extremely porous sand and gravel. In either case, extensive irrigation or fertilization is usually required to produce a decent turf.

The use of Nature Safe Fertilizers on a regular basis can help with these problems in several ways:

  • The most obvious way is to reduce the salt content of the soil. Most synthetic Fertilizers contain a high level of soluble salts. These salts increase the plant’s need for water just like eating salty pretzels or peanuts increases your desire for your favorite liquid refreshment. Nature Safe contains very low levels of salts, so the plant can subsist on less water.
  • Nature Safe promotes a much deeper and more fibrous root system on the plant because it contains chelated calcium and phosphorus that is derived from cooked bone meal. These two elements promote root depth and root mass that allows the plant to make better use of available moisture.
  • Nature Safe promotes beneficial soil microbes that compete with many pathogens that normally weaken and restrict turf roots. This helps add to the root mass and allows the plant to make the best use of available water.
  • Nature Safe feeds the soil microbes that flocculate the soil and give it a granular structure rather than an adobe brick structure. The better soil structure promotes better and deeper rooting.
  • Healthier roots tend to produce a thicker, denser turf that shade and insulate the soil better, keeping the soil cooler. Roots growing in cooler soils use less water.
  • Localized dry spot is typically not a problem when Nature Safe is used regularly because it promotes the soil microbes that compete with the organisms that cause localized dry spot. Therefore, less water is used to get these spots as wet as they should be.

There is not one specific thing that Nature Safe does to help you effectively manage an irrigation program. All of the factors above are intertwined. When one factor improves, it helps the whole ecosystem improve; but if one factor takes a turn for the worse, it has a negative impact on the whole ecosystem. That is why turf keeps getting better the longer it is fertilized regularly with Nature Safe. As acceptable quality irrigation water becomes more scarce and expensive, Nature Safe will continue to be the product of choice.

Posted in All, General |

Fertilizer Digestibility Is The Key to Healthy Turf

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Organic fertilizers provide food for soil microbes and the soil microbes provide nutrients for the plants. The food for the soil microbes is contained in proteins that are made up of amino acids. The fertilizer that contains the highest level of amino acids will provide the most nutrition for the plants. It is well documented that Nature Safe provides higher levels of amino acids than any other organic product available today. Most Nature Safe products contain between five and ten times more energy from amino acids than any of our competitors.

More important than the amino acids is how easily and completely the soil microbes can digest the proteins. If you could look at proteins under a high-resolution microscope, you would see striated fibers that are wound around each other very tightly. When these fibers are heated, they begin to slowly pull apart. The more they pull apart, the more tender and digestible the proteins become. However, if too much heat is used, the striated fibers begin to mesh back together again and the digestibility is reduced. It is similar to cooking a good steak on a charcoal grill. When it is raw, the steak will be tough and it would be difficult to take a bite out of it. As the steak cooks on the grill, it becomes more tender. When it reaches just the right point, it will be a nice tender piece of meat. However, if you leave it on the grill too long it will overcook and get tough. That’s because the steak got too hot and the proteins that had pulled apart at the lower temperatures meshed tightly back together again. The more tightly the fibers in the proteins mesh together, the more indigestible the protein becomes for both animals and soil microbes. Sewage sludge fertilizers have only about half their nutrients actually available because they are subjected to extreme heat, up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit for sterilization.

Proteins must be carefully processed and monitored throughout their processing period to make sure they are digestible. The proteins used in Nature Safe Fertilizers are the most digestible because they are the same proteins that are used in the best selling premium pet foods on the market. Almost all of the premium pet food companies rely on Griffin Industries, Nature Safe’s parent company, to supply the most digestible proteins so that the animals eating their products derive the maximum amount of energy from them. These companies choose proteins processed by Griffin Industries because we consistently guarantee the quality of our proteins. When these highly digestible proteins are used in Nature Safe Fertilizers, they provide superior levels of nutrition for the soil microbes.

Nature Safe is the only company that manufactures all of the components that go into an organic fertilizer. Other companies that manufacture meal-based organic fertilizers purchase their proteins on the open market and have no control over processing or digestibility. If a customer purchases $10.00 worth of fertilizer from XYZ Company, he may only get $5.00 worth of nutrients for his plants because many of the nutrients are tied up in hard to digest forms. With Nature Safe, he can count on getting his full $10.00 worth of nutrients because our proteins completely digest in 30 to 45 days.

The proteins that are difficult to digest in competitive products can create problems for turf managers. Many of the proteins will eventually break down but at inopportune times. These hard to digest proteins accumulate in the soil and create a residual supply of nutrients that will sometimes start to release during extremely hot weather. That is why some organic fertilizers have a reputation for “exploding” during heat spells. Since all the nutrients in Nature Safe are completely digested in a predictable length of time, there are never any long-term residual nutrients left to cause growth surges during hot spells.

Other products may cost a little less per bag, but they cannot come close to providing the same level of consistent nutrition that Nature Safe delivers month after month, year after year.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

Understanding Soil Pathogens

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

To better understand how Nature Safe is able to suppress pathogens, you first have to understand a little more about how pathogens work. First, you have to understand that pathogens are good survivors but poor competitors. Pathogens don’t compete well with the beneficial soil organisms, but they survive by staying in a dormant state most of the time, so they don’t have to compete.

Secondly, pathogens are opportunistic in nature. Stressed plants are known to send out distress signals called pheromones. These signals cause the pathogens to emerge from their state of dormancy and begin to rapidly build their numbers. Interestingly enough, insects also respond to these signals. It is roughly analogous to sharks going into a feeding frenzy after they smell blood in the water. As the pathogens build their numbers they begin to attack the weakened or stressed plants first. Anything we can do to reduce stress on a plant will increase its resistance to pathogens. Nature Safe helps to reduce stress on plants in many ways that are above and beyond the suppression of pathogens.

Thirdly, when pathogens are suppressed the beneficial organisms break down organic matter in the soil and they produce gases that are lethal to pathogens. Recent work by Dr. George Lazarovits at the Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in London, Ontario, Canada has shown that these gases are not toxic to biologically active organisms but they are lethal to organisms in their dormant stage. That is why these gases do not harm the beneficial organisms that are actively working. They are only lethal to the pathogenic organisms that are in their dormant stage. Beneficial organisms do produce chemical substances that inhibit the growth of active pathogens. However, these chemical substances do not exhibit the same degree of lethality on the active pathogens as the toxic gases from organic decomposition do to the dormant pathogens.

Given that scenario, you do not want to wait until the pathogens are actively working to begin to apply Nature Safe. Instead, applications should be made early in the season when most of the pathogens are still dormant. This strategy will help to reduce the populations of pathogenic organisms before they can get out of their dormant state. Likewise, continue applying Nature Safe late in the season to reduce the pathogens that might be present next season.

The fact that the gases being produced in the breakdown of organic matter tend to be lethal to dormant pathogens helps to explain why turf fertilized regularly with Nature Safe during the growing season is much more resistant to winter diseases such as snow mold. The operative word here is regularly. One or two applications of Nature Safe per season is not going to produce the same results as monthly applications throughout the season. The pathogens that cause cool season diseases are dormant all summer, so the toxic gases from organic decomposition can kill them. By the time the cool weather arrives there are very few pathogens left that can attack the plants.

Nature Safe is not a biofungicide. Nature Safe will not stop pathogens that are running wild, but if applied regularly, can be remarkably effective in keeping the pathogens from building up their numbers.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Nematodes Could Be The Problem

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Most turf managers in the North think that nematodes are only a problem in the warmer climates of the southern tier of states. While it is true that most severe nematode damage occurs on southern turf, there are a certain amount of nematodes always present in all soils. The parasitic nematodes continually feed on the roots of the turf but they only do measurable damage when their numbers reach a certain level. That rarely occurs in northern soils, but there are sufficient numbers of the nematodes present in most instances to cause a certain amount of weakening of the plant. They add to the plant’s other stress factors such as heat, low height of cut, compaction, soil borne fungi, drought, etc. This weakening of the plant without causing apparent damage symptoms is frequently referred to as subclinical damage.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on the roots by inserting a tiny needle-like tube called a stylet through the epidermis of the root and into a cell. There, the nematode proceeds to suck out the sap from the cell. If enough of the nematodes are present, they can cause severe damage like they do in the warmer climates and the damage can be identified as being caused by nematodes. Even if there is no apparent damage to the plant on the surface, the holes that are opened up in the epidermis of the roots tend to serve as entryways into the plant for many soil borne pathogens. It is these soil borne pathogens that are responsible for the real damage to the plant and we never even stop to consider how they gained access into the roots.

In recent years, researchers have been able to identify nematode damage further and further north, particularly on cool season turf grown on sand. Dr. Bruce Branham at the University of Illinois identified three different cases of nematode damage in the past year. Two were on sand-based greens and one was on a sand-based bluegrass athletic field. However for every case of nematode damage that can be identified there are undoubtedly many more cases of subclinical damage that are never identified. We tend to attribute this type of damage to other stress factors such as heat, drought, compaction, low fertility, poor quality of water, etc.

Of course nematodes can be suppressed by the use of highly toxic chemicals such as Nemacur. These chemicals are dangerous to both plants and people and they are costly. Chemicals are usually applied after the nematodes have been identified and the damage can begin. A better solution is the regular use of Nature Safe to help prevent the problem from occurring before the damage is done. Our tests in Florida showed that Nature Safe suppressed nematodes even better than the toxic control chemicals. The reason for this suppression seems to be that the soil microbes that consume the energy in Nature Safe actually give off gases that are toxic to nematodes and some of the other pathogens in the soil. The net result is that the nematode populations are reduced and the turf is much stronger and healthier.

In Florida, on the warm season turf, we used heavier rates of Nature Safe than you would be likely to use on cool season turf, but the nematode problems were also much worse than you would be likely to find on the cool season turf. It stands to reason that the lighter rates normally used on cool season turf would likely suppress the lower populations of nematodes normally found there. Perhaps this suppression of the nematodes, the subclinical damage they cause and the resulting soil borne diseases, is one of the big reasons why Nature Safe fertilized turf is able to withstand the summer stress factors so much better than synthetically fertilized turf. It may also help to explain why Nature Safe fertilized turf typically has a much better root system than synthetically fertilized turf. Remember that every stress factor that can be removed from the turf in the summer time helps it withstand the other stress factors that we cannot control such as heat, traffic, etc. University research that illustrates Nature Safe’s suppression of parasitic nematodes is available on our web site.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Microorganisms In Nature Safe

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

A complement of soil microorganisms is an important part of a high quality organic fertilizer. Contrary to popular belief, these microorganisms rarely, if ever, actually colonize in the soil unless the soil is totally sterile, which only occurs if the soil has been artificially sterilized. These invading organisms never significantly contribute to the activities of the soil ecosystem. What they actually do is serve as a stimulus for the native resident microorganisms to build their numbers and fight off the outside invaders.

When a foreign army invades a sovereign nation, the nation that has been invaded quickly builds their armed forces to fight off the invaders. The native microorganisms do the same thing. As they build their numbers the native microorganisms consume the invaders and eventually wipe them out. It is the food value from the amino acids contained in Nature Safe that really allows the native microbes to build their populations to massive proportions. Nature Safe contains up to ten times more readily available organic nutrients than its closest competitors, so there is abundant food available for the native microbes to use as they are building their populations. That is the BIG advantage of Nature Safe. The microbes that were artificially introduced only acted as a stimulant.

While some organic fertilizers do not add any microorganisms, it is very important for them to be present in a high quality organic fertilizer. The actual species of microbes that are present is not very important since they do not colonize anyway. The important thing is that there be a wide variety of organisms to stimulate the growth of as many different native species as possible. For the record, however, some of the microorganisms that are contained in Nature Safe include bacillus subtilis, bacillus cerus, bacillus polymyxa, bacillus megaterium, flavobacterium, penicillium, rhizopus, aspergillus, sassharomyces, torula, and rhodotorula.

Some companies try to stipulate how many microbes of each species are present in their product. This is a number that is usually expressed in terms of the microbe numbers per gram of product. While that may look impressive on paper, it is impossible to guarantee. These microbes are living, breathing organisms and their populations tend to be quite dynamic. In a short period of time, their numbers can rise and fall dramatically. It would be roughly analogous to putting fifty rabbits in a huge cage that was stocked with abundant food and water, leaving it alone for six months and then trying to guarantee how many rabbits were contained in that cage. If the conditions remained ideal, there might be a thousand rabbits, but if the conditions were very unfavorable, there may be only ten.

The methods that are used to introduce these microorganisms into the soil so that they can act as a stimulus are also important. Some people try to introduce them as a liquid spray along with their fungicide applications. The products used in this method are commonly referred to as “bugs in a jug”. While they usually do contain quite a few different species of microbes, they are usually even less effective. When they are applied as a liquid to the leaf surface during the day, the ultra violet rays from the sun kill most of the microbes before they can ever be watered into the turf. The only alternative is to spray the turf after the sun goes down, and that is not usually a very popular time for turf managers to do their spraying. When these microorganisms are introduced in a granular fertilizer, they are somewhat protected from the UV rays because they are inside the particle. The particle does not stick to the leaf, but tends to roll off of it and down into the turf canopy where it is further protected from the UV rays.

As usual, Nature Safe stands alone at the head of the pack. Some products can provide a few of the benefits derived from using Nature Safe, but none can match Nature Safe on a point by point basis and still provide anywhere near the readily available food for the soil microbes that can be found in Nature Safe. Some microbes feed only on the less readily available organic sources such as plant residue, manure, and sludges. These microbes rarely change in numbers, rarely run out of food, and they grow and reproduce slowly. Therefore feeding them sludges and manure is not going to change their numbers appreciably. If you really want to greatly increase the soil microbe populations, you have to feed the microbes that consume the readily available organic nutrients, and that is accomplished by applying Nature Safe.

Posted in All, Amino Acids |

How to Go From Synthetics to Organics

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

An article entitled “Going Natural” appeared in the September issue of Golf Course Management magazine. The author of the article interviewed several golf course superintendents who have been using natural organic fertilizers in their programs for several years and reported their comments. Of particular interest was one respondent who reported he was having less success as time passed. He said that after five years on the organic program, the control levels were down, the drainage on the greens was not as good as it had been, and he was having thatch issues. He felt that the pathogens adapt to the biological products and he was losing some of the control.

The reason I find this particular situation to be of interest is because this superintendent was a Nature Safe user in the past, and he was having very good results. However, somewhere around two and a half to three years ago he abandoned Nature Safe for other products. The products that he switched to contained substantially less amino acids and their digestibility by the soil microbes was questionable. At best these products contained about one-third less the amino acid levels of Nature Safe products.

It is highly unlikely that the pathogens were able to adapt to the biological products. Pathogens are held in check by beneficial soil microbes, and these microbes can mutate and adapt to the pathogens as fast as the pathogens can change. Pathogens can adapt to chemical controls because the chemicals cannot alter how they work, but the beneficial organisms can and do alter their mode of action to meet new challenges.

When the biological products that were previously applied are abandoned and new products that contain less than 33% as much protein and amino acid levels are substituted, the end result is a reduction in the population of beneficial soil microbes. When they have less food available, their populations dwindle. With lower populations of beneficial microbes, the pathogenic organisms can easily build their numbers to the point that they begin to cause damage and require chemical control. Even large populations of beneficial microbes will not totally replace the use of some control chemicals but if the soil microbe levels are maintained at a high level there should be no lessening of pathogenic suppression over time.

Similarly, thatch buildup should not be a problem with high soil microbe populations. A product that contains a high percentage of amino acid will also feed the organisms that decompose thatch. Once again, products that provide lower percentages of nutrition/amino acids will not be able to feed the thatch decomposing organisms, and thatch will have a chance to start building up over time.

The type of organic products that are applied to the green surface can cause the drainage issue on sand based greens. The infiltration rate of a sand green naturally declines over time because of the fine dust that settles out of the air over the years. However, many organic products contain certain amounts of organic material that the soil microbes have difficulty digesting. These hard to digest items include lignin, cellulose, ash and denatured proteins. Denatured proteins are proteins that have been heated to such a high temperature when they are prepared that their digestibility is compromised. The ash frequently comes from manure products that were composted along with wood chips that had been used as bedding for the animals. Many sewage sludge products contain large percentages of extremely fine sand that remains after everything else decomposes. Anything that can’t be digested ends up in the soil profile where eventually it will cause a reduction in the infiltration rate. The proteins that are in Nature Safe are extremely digestible because we produce them in our own plants. That allows us to manufacture highly digestible proteins. Other manufacturers of organic fertilizers purchase their proteins on the open market and they have no idea of their digestibility. When Nature Safe is applied to a turf area, everything physically disappears within a few weeks, leaving nothing behind that could cause a reduction in infiltration rate.

The bottom line is that anyone who is considering going on an organic program should give some careful consideration to the long-term effects of their actions. They should make certain that they are using a product that has a high food value for the beneficial microbes that suppress pathogens and decompose thatch. They should also be aware of the digestibility and the ash content of the product they select for use in their program. Once the pore spaces on expensive new sand greens are plugged up, it is pretty difficult to open them up again. Quite often the product that was the least expensive initially can prove to be the most costly in the long haul.

With Nature Safe, as a byproduct of our unparalleled protein values and their respective digestibility, the longer the product is used, the better it performs.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Professional Lawn Care With Nature Safe

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Professional lawn care operators (LCO) are increasingly looking for alternatives to the traditional liquid and synthetic fertilizer programs they offer their customers. They cannot offer the same kind of programs that are offered by the big national companies and still earn a profit and retain customers from one year to the next. As one LCO put it, “You can’t build a Chevrolet and compete with General Motors”.

One Nature Safe customer found a niche that allows him to accomplish his goals – Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, Illinois. Several years ago, Chalet began offering Nature Safe fertilizer as an organic alternative to their regular synthetic programs. They targeted upscale neighborhoods and charged a premium price for the organic alternative. Their business began to grow and the customers on the Nature Safe program were very loyal. They discovered that the Nature Safe lawns were thicker and denser, required less irrigation and produced fewer clippings. A second benefit from the use of Nature Safe was the suppression of many diseases, including Necrotic Ring Spot, Summer Patch, and Snow Mold. Another big benefit was greatly improved performance on partially shaded lawns. For Chalet, shaded lawns had always been a big problem, and they had many to contend with.

Chalet was so successful with their Nature Safe program they won the “Picture Perfect Award” two years in a row for the best cool season lawn in the United States at the Green Industry Expo. Winning two years in a row with any kind of lawn would be exceptional, but to do it with shaded lawns is nothing short of incredible. Even more astounding is the fact that one of their prize lawns had been ravaged with diseases and was on Nature Safe for only two seasons.

Other LCOs have found that once they get a customer started on Nature Safe, they tend to retain their business for years to come. One operator said that in the past five years he has never lost a customer that he started on Nature Safe. Given the fact that many lawn care companies routinely expect to lose up to 25% of their customers every year, that is an amazing record.

All across the country, there are more environmentally conscious homeowners than ever before. They still want a beautiful lawn, but they want fewer chemicals used on it. They also want to know that their lawn care professional is following an environmentally sound maintenance plan.

We supply Nature Safe’s Lawn & Garden flyers to LCOs. The flyer explains in simple terms why the environment and their lawn benefit from the use of Nature Safe. It also points out the relationship between Nature Safe and the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System. Nature Safe also supplies the LCO with small signs that can be used where it is necessary to post a lawn following the application of fertilizer. These signs point out that a natural organic product has been applied and that, “A safe and healthy turf is now in progress.”

Nature Safe congratulates Chalet on differentiating their company from the rest of the pack and pleasing their customers by offering a Nature Safe alternative program.

Posted in All, Lawn Care |

Additional Benefits Of Carbon Dioxide

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

When applying a Nature Safe product to turf, you are providing a rich food source for the soil microbes. When the soil microbes are fed, their numbers increase markedly. Soil microbes are short-lived organisms that release a constant supply of carbon dioxide into the soil when they die off. Most of this carbon dioxide seeps to the surface where it is absorbed by plants and, along with sunlight and water, is used in the photosynthetic process to manufacture food. Naturally, when the plant has additional food available, it tends to stay healthy.

Aiding in the manufacture of food for the plant is not the only benefit from the extra carbon dioxide that becomes available from the soil microbes. Some of the carbon dioxide is absorbed by the water in the soil and forms carbonic acid. This carbonic acid dissolves some of the otherwise insoluble minerals the plant needs. The roots along with the water easily absorb the minerals. The result is a stronger, healthier, plant that requires less irrigation and is better able to withstand summer stress factors to which it is subjected.

If the minerals are not available to the plant in adequate quantities, the plant will exert extra effort to absorb more water to satisfy its need for the minerals in question. This extra effort requires the plant to expend extra energy that stresses and weakens it over time. It also increases the plant’s need for water and decreases its drought tolerance.

In some areas of the U.S., professional turf managers are pressured to reduce the amount of water they use for irrigation. A regular Nature Safe fertilizer program substantially reduces irrigation needs and provides a healthier turf.

Many areas of the U.S. suffer unpredictable droughts that decrease the availability of quality irrigation water just when it is needed most. Applying Nature Safe when the drought starts will be helpful, but not nearly as beneficial if the program had been initiated earlier in the season.

Posted in All, General |

Winterkill Research Yields New Clues

Excerpts Reprinted from Golf Course News, June 2003
By Kevin J. Ross, CGCS and Andrew Overbeck

One of the most difficult times of year for Snow Belt superintendents is the monument of truth each spring when they find out how well their winterkill prevention activities worked. Prior to and during winter, superintendents face numerous choices concerning ice and snow removal, free water removal and the use of covers. However, winterkill remains an enigma, because what worked one year does not necessarily work in another year.

Research on winterkill has been going on for decades and a miracle cure is yet to be found. Researchers are focusing in on several aspects of winterkill causes to pinpoint the exact reasons why damage occurs.

In general, winter damage is defined as any injury that occurs during the wintertime period. Winter damage can be inflicted by: winter turfgrass fungi (snow molds and cool season pythiums), ice damage (suffocation), direct low temperature kill and desiccation. Of these, only true winter diseases and desiccation are understood, while ice cover damage is still not totally understood.

Does Ice Cover Kill?
For years, ice damage has been associated with a gas build-up that occurs just under the ice surface. Under prolonged ice cover, oxygen is depleted from the plant that is still under very low levels of respiration and microbe activity. This results in an accumulation of toxic gasses that may result in death of the plant. Superintendents generally follow the rule that Poa annua can survive under the ice cover for up to 60 days, while bentgrass can survive up to 90 days. This rule is being revisited.

“There is a popular theory that if the ice remains on turf for too long that you end up with dead turf,” said Dr. George Hamilton, assistant professor of turfgrass science at Penn State University. “Why it happens has not been shown or even if it happens because of suffocation. That is why you see devastating ice damage only once or twice a decade. If suffocation caused damage, people would get it every year because there are parts of the country that get extended ice coverage all the time.”

While not all of his Poa annua data was available at press time, Dr. Dave Minner at Iowa State University has found the same inconsistencies in the first year of his two-year winterkill study.

“We had four inches of snow and four inches of ice on both bentgrass and Poa annua for 60 days and it didn’t kill the bentgrass,” said Minner. “It has slowed the green up and killed some Poa but more died under the dry and open conditions.

Carbohydrates Could Be Key
Hamilton said his research shows that ice is far more likely to cause damage if the plant has low carbohydrate levels.

“We looked at carbohydrate levels and we found a connection between levels of carbohydrates and the ability of the plan to withstand icing,” he said. “Stressed turf is more susceptible to ice damage.”

According to Interlachen Country Club superintendent Matt Rostal in Edina, MN, going into winter with stressed turf may have been the cause of the winterkill he suffered on several greens, despite using covers.

“We had the Solheim Cup last September and that’s usually the time we are supposed to be getting everything healthy going into winter. Instead I cut them as short as I ever do and kept them lean on fertilizer, which was not preparing them for winter,” said Rostal.

Brendan Parkhurst at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, believes his greens were damaged more severely for the very same reason.

“I think it had a lot to do with drought carry-over from last summer,” he said. “We didn’t get a lot of rain in the fall so the plant didn’t get a chance to heal up.”

Solutions Are Few
As the research continues, new theories are being developed and the impact of individual weather events is becoming more and more clear. However, with so many variables involved, it will take many years of on-course experience to ever develop a fail-safe strategy to reduce winterkill damage.

A superintendent’s strategy should include Nature Safe fertilizers. Nature Safe contains carbohydrates that increase the turf’s ability to survive the stresses of summer for a healthier turf this winter. Now is the time to get on a year-round program to help safeguard turf against summer stress and future winterkill and snow mold challenges.

According to a Golf Course News Poll, 62.1% of superintendents experienced winterkill this year.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

A Flu Shot For Your Turf

By Rick Geise, Brand Manager

If your family is anything like mine, you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. In fact, around the country this winter many schools have been closed more for illness than weather. Why? If I knew I wouldn’t be selling fertilizer, but my guess is that there are a lot of similarities between the bugs that cause high fever and close schools and the bugs that kill grass.

In our industry, there are usually two distinct camps regarding disease management, each supported strongly by intelligent people with PhD after their names and well respected university affiliations. One side says rotate fungicides to minimize resistance, while the other claims a particular chemistry be used until it doesn’t work anymore. Both typically support preventative spraying at regular intervals.

At home, there are more medications and treatments for the common cold or flu than ever before. Most claim to be “new and improved” and they all taste like candy. So, why don’t they work? My theory is that we are continually building better mousetraps (medicines); unfortunately the mice (bugs) are getting smarter! Also, these medications treat the symptoms, not the cause. Of course, flu shots are offered yearly. It is a preventative measure to take to either avoid the disease altogether, or to lessen its impact on your health.

I believe similar challenges occur in turf. Maybe the bugs are evolving/mutating. Or, maybe it’s the same bugs that have just built up a resistance. Either way, the problem can cost your customer his/her job, not to mention a lot of money. What we do know is that sickness (human or turf) is best managed when the host is healthy. How many times do you get sick at the most inopportune time (usually a by-product of stress, not eating right, lack of rest, etc.)? The same is true with your turf. Disease occurs when the turfgrass is weak from stress. Therefore, an emphasis on turf health can have a dramatic impact on disease pressure. When sound nutrition is coupled with reducing the breeding ground for disease (thatch), the results are impressive.

To maximize turf health, a Nature Safe program is a must, it is a “flu” shot for turf. Nature Safe enjoys not only the validation of dozens of university studies around the country, but some of the strongest, most passionate testimonials in the industry. Why? I think the answer lies in the fact that Nature Safe delivers more than just NPK. The nutrition foundation creates an excellent tool to combat thatch, improve rooting, porosity, and turf density, all critical in warding off disease. Furthermore, the product performs better over time (the reverse of the fungicide debate noted above).

Managing turfgrass is a challenge. There are many excellent products that you represent that add tremendous value to your customers. To maximize your success and your customers, program sell products that work together to not only get the best result, but gain efficiency, thereby saving your customer money and headaches. Just like my Mom use to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Meal Based Organic Fertilizer Ingredients – Know Your Supply

By Steve Thomas, Nature Safe Specialty Products Manager

What is the difference in quality of meal based ingredients which are used in organic fertilizers – i.e. feather meal, blood meal, meat meal, etc.? It would be simple if we could say that “all animal proteins are the same.” However, this is not the case.

Animal feed proteins are regulated by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). They establish definitions and insure the consumer gets what the seller is guaranteeing on the label. The label is prepared by the seller or manufacturer and establishes what level of nutrients they will guarantee. For example: Supplier A may offer feather meal with a guarantee of 78% protein. Supplier B may also make feather meal, but can guarantee 85% protein. AAFCO will certify that both products meet their guarantees and can be sold for animal feed use. Does that mean the two are the same? Hardly! The only criteria which has to be met under the provisions of AAFCO, is that feather meal must not have less than 75% digestible protein. This is not a very stringent requirement. To illustrate this, we can consider Supplier A making 78% protein (12.48% nitrogen) which happens to be 75% digestible. This would give you 9.36 units of available nitrogen. Supplier B makes and 85% protein (13.66% nitrogen) that is 95% digestible. This would give you 12.92% units of nitrogen available. Both products are suitable for feed and can also be used for fertilizer. Supplier B’s feather meal has 27% more available nitrogen.

Our feather meal stands apart from other feather meals found in the feed industry. Griffin Industries has patented technology, patent #6,101,736 which is exclusive to our company. The hydrolyzing equipment and process we developed allow us to make the most nutritious animal feed products available in the industry today. In fertilizer, this equates to the most efficient and available ingredients in our products. This doesn’t just hold true for feather meal. All of our meals including blood, meat, bone, fish and poultry, are designed to deliver the most nutrition whether they are used in animal feed or in fertilizer.

Protein meals in the feed industry can vary not just in protein content and digestibility (availability in fertilizer) but in other nutrients and their availability, impurities, moisture and the sources of the raw material. Our meals all carry guarantees for phosphorus and calcium. Not only are these vital nutrients for animals, but they are significant to plant growth and health.

Also, all of our raw materials come from food processing operations that are USDA /FDA inspected. If our protein meals are not used in fertilizer, they are used in the pet food industry which has set very strict quality control specs that have to be met.

Griffin Industries takes pride in the fact that we can make high quality feed ingredients. Because we are making our own ingredients, we can make the specifications that we need to bring the most nutrient packed meal-based fertilizer on the market with no filler. For years we have been formulating for the feed industry. We have taken this knowledge and applied the same principles to fertilizer formulation.

This approach seems to be working. Recent research was published by Dr. Charles Peacock from North Carolina State University. He compared the nitrogen release rate of Nature Safe, Milorganite and Bion. These are three representative types of organic fertilizer. The nitrogen sources vary – Nature Safe 8-3-5 is animal protein meal-based, Milorganite is treated sewage sludge and Bion is hog manure waste. Final release rates, averaged between the two separate replications done over a ten week period over two years, were approximately 80% for Nature Safe, 50% for Milorganite and 30% for Bion. Nature Safe was the most consistent over the two years with only an 8% difference in release rates. Milorganite had the most variability between years of 22%. In fact, the overall conclusion in this study was that Nature Safe released the way turfgrass managers need a product to release – consistently in both timing and magnitude.

Griffin Industries has quality control measures in place to insure consistency and availability of nutrients. This research further demonstrates the importance of such quality control. With more competitors in the marketplace riding the Nature Safe wave, it’s important that products have the research and customer validation to support their claims. All organic fertilizers are not the same and even more importantly, all ingredients within an organic fertilizer are not the same.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |

The Amount of Nutrition in a Bag of Nature Safe

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

One of the first things that I hear from turf managers when we are discussing organic fertilizer is, “Organic fertilizers are nice, but I can get much more for my money when I purchase a synthetic fertilizer.” They to point out the fact that they can purchase a synthetic product like 18-5-9 for considerably less per bag and get almost double the amount of nitrogen for their money than what they can get in Nature Safe 8-3-5 or 10-2-8. And, if you are comparing just the amount of nutrients listed on the labels, they are correct. However, to find the real value of a fertilizer, we must go beyond what meets the eye.

When it comes to organic fertilizers, the nutrients listed on the label do not tell the whole story. The numbers on the bag are only a guarantee of the minimum nutrients that will be found in that bag. With synthetic fertilizers, the minimum listed on the bag is also the maximum that will be available. With organic fertilizers, the numbers only tell you that if you run a chemical analysis on the contents in that bag, you had better find at least what is listed. In other words, it will tell you the minimum amount of nutrients that you will receive from that bag, which will probably be quite a bit different from the maximum you are likely to receive. The maximum will be determined by the amount of food value that a particular organic product has for the soil microbes.

Beneficial soil microbes eat carbon. The more carbon they are fed, the more they increase their numbers. The carbon they eat is contained in proteins, which are made up of amino acids. The products that contain the highest level of amino acids will therefore produce the highest populations of beneficial soil microbes. When these microbes die off, they release nutrients in the form that is usable by plants. Therefore, these higher populations of soil microbes translate directly into increased fertility for the plant. If you look at the amino acid profiles of various products, it quickly becomes obvious that Nature Safe contains far higher percentages of amino acids than any other fertilizer on the market. Since synthetic fertilizers do not feed the microbes, they cannot cause any increases in nutrient levels above and beyond their guaranteed minimums.

The beneficial soil microbes break down and release many nutrients that are contained in unusable forms in the soil. The increased microbial activity releases many of these nutrients and makes them available to the plants. Some forms of microbes that are being fed by the amino acids also convert atmospheric nitrogen that is in a form that is unavailable to plants, into forms that plants can readily use. This available nitrogen is added to the supply of soil nitrogen.

In addition to the nutrients that the microbes manufacture, they also conserve nutrients by tying them up in their bodies and keeping them from leaching and volatilizing. Synthetic fertilizers tend to contain large portions of soluble nutrients that can be lost to leaching and volatilization before they can be taken up by the plants. The bottom line is that Nature Safe provides more nutrition for the plants than synthetic products that have far higher analyses.

Of course, the above discussion only considers the nutrition that can be derived from using Nature Safe. There are many other benefits that can be realized from using Nature Safe on a regular basis. These benefits include:

  • Suppression of plant diseases.
  • Thatch reduction.
  • Improvement of soil structure.
  • Reduction of localized dry spots.
  • Less mowing due to decreased shoot growth.
  • Reduced irrigation requirements due to lower salt levels and,
  • Greatly improved stress management.

Dr. Elliot Roberts found that decomposing soil microbes release a fertilizer with a 10-5-2 analysis. This is a continual process if the microbes are being adequately fed. At Nature Safe, we refer to this phenomenon as a little fertilizer factory in the soil. After a Nature Safe user has been using our products for a year or two, this little fertilizer factory in the soil gets cranked up enough that most customers report decreased fertility needs, which tends to prove that extra nutrients are being made available by the soil microbes. When one looks at the actual amount of nutrition that is being derived from a Nature Safe program and they add in the other non-nutritional benefits they are getting, it quickly becomes very obvious that Nature Safe is their least expensive option.

Posted in About Nutrients, About Organic Fertilizers, All, Amino Acids |

The Benefits of Organic Fertilizers

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

When I visit with professional turf managers I ask them if they have ever tried using Nature Safe. On occasion they respond, “Oh yeah I tried it once and I didn’t see much in the way of response or improvement.” When questioned further, they normally tell me that they made one or two applications of Nature Safe without seeing any major improvements in their turf and then returned to their synthetic products. What they didn’t understand, and possibly what no one explained to them, is that most of the benefits derived from using Nature Safe are cumulative in nature.

When a 100% organic Nature Safe product is applied to the turf, what you are applying is a rich food source for the soil microbes. The soil microbes consume the energy in Nature Safe and proceed to build their populations rapidly. These microbes have life cycles of as short as 20 minutes. When they begin to die off, the decomposition of their bodies releases nutrients in the form that plants can use. It normally takes about 30 days for the microbes to consume all of the energy from an application of Nature Safe, but at the end of that 30-day period, the beneficial soil microbe population will be maximized. If no more Nature Safe is applied, the microbes will proceed to die off and they will be pretty well gone by the end of the next 30 days. However, if a second application is made at the end of the first 30 days, the microbe populations will continue to grow and expand to new maximum levels. Each succeeding application pushes the beneficial soil microbe levels higher and higher.

While the dead soil microbes provide the fertility to the plant, the living soil microbes provide most of the other benefits that are derived from a Nature Safe program. They do things like:

  • Compete with and suppress pathogenic organisms that prey on the plant.
  • Compete with the organisms that cause localized dry spot, thus reducing the problem.
  • Produce increased levels of carbon dioxide that the plant uses in the photosynthetic process.
  • Flocculate the soil and cement the soil particles together to create a soil structure.
  • Break down and decompose thatch.
  • Provide thicker and denser rooting by competing with the pathogenic organisms in the soil, such as nematodes, that normally keep the root systems from developing to their fullest possible extent.

Most of these benefits can be realized in one or two seasons. Processes such as building soil structure will hardly be noticeable from the first application or two of Nature Safe. Therefore, you will always benefit from a Nature Safe application, especially during aeration, to maximize its effectiveness. Monthly applications will deliver tremendous results that differentiate you from the competition.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Thatch Reduction

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

While thatch accumulation is a potential problem on most types of turf, it is a particular problem on bentgrass and Zoysia. Some thatch is beneficial to the turf, but when it becomes excessively thick, problems arise. It can cause poor playing conditions on athletic turf, limit the rooting depth of the plant, increase the chances for the development of turfgrass diseases, cause mower scalping, and cause localized dry spots to develop.

One of the ways Nature Safe will have an effect on thatch is by reducing how fast it accumulates. Most thatch is caused by excessive shoot growth, and excessive shoot growth is caused by the use of water-soluble, synthetic fertilizers that promote flush growth. The excessive clippings themselves do not add much to the accumulation of thatch, but the old dead stems definitely do. Since Nature Safe does not cause surge growth, the thatch will accumulate at a much slower rate.

Another way that Nature Safe can help reduce thatch is by feeding the soil microorganisms that decompose it. These microorganisms require food to do their jobs, and Nature Safe is loaded with food energy that the soil microbes can use. The rate at which the thatch is decomposed is directly dependent upon the management practices of the turf manager. Even though there is plenty of food available for the microbes, they also require moisture to do their work. Therefore, if your goal is to reduce thatch, you must keep the microorganisms both well fed and moist. Apply Nature Safe every 30 days to maintain a constant supply of food energy and try to keep the thatch layer moist. Keeping the thatch layer moist usually requires irrigating lightly at least three or four times per week. If it is economically feasible, topdressing will help to keep the thatch layer moist by burying it under layers of soil and sand, which helps to hold the moisture in the thatch. If the thatch layer is allowed to dry out, the microbial activity slows down to a crawl. Therefore, the turf manager who irrigates his turf deeply and infrequently will be less successful in the reduction of thatch. While he will see some reduction in thatch, the results would be much more dramatic if the thatch layer would be kept reasonably moist.

If the directions above are followed, it is not unusual to see thatch decomposed at a rate of an inch per year. In some instances, where the conditions are ideal, it is possible to achieve even faster rates of decomposition.

Posted in All, General |

Overseeding: A Necessary Evil

by Natural Choice Editor

Overseeding is a necessary evil for turf managers in southern and transition areas. Overseeding is “necessary” to provide the visual stimulation that the golfing public demands and is “evil” because of the extreme pressure placed on the turf manager and his budget. Nature Safe can help ease the pressure of this expensive program by providing quick seed germination and turf establishment for the overseed, yet still protect the dormant turf for spring. Here are some of the benefits to using Nature Safe during overseed:

  • Low salt index – Salt can easily burn tender seedling roots. Nature Safe has an extremely low salt index allowing the seedling roots to establish quickly. Nature Safe can represent a huge decrease in applied salts versus inorganic fertility options.
  • Available Phosphorus – Bone meal is an excellent source for phosphorus and calcium. The bone meal in Nature Safe is broken down and ingested by microbes found in the soil. As they die off, the minerals are made available to the plant. In this way, the phosphorus in Nature Safe is naturally chelated and will not leach or become tied up in the soil. This release happens over several weeks allowing the seedling time to develop its root system. As the seedling uses up the energy in the cotyledon, the phosphorus becomes a critical component in establishing the overseed. Phosphorus is required for almost all life functions including root development, photosynthesis, protein synthesis and metabolic reactions. The phosphorus in synthetic fertilizers can either leach with water or bind with the soil, making it unavailable to the seedling.
  • Available Calcium – Calcium is needed in the development of structural components in plant cells such as the cell walls. Calcium aids in meristematic activity, essential for new seedling growth. The calcium in the bone meal is released the same way as phosphorus. The natural chelation process binds the calcium to an amino acid. This is a critical part of ensuring a good stand for your overseed. The calcium will also help leach salts out of the root zone.
  • Slow Release Nitrogen – In overseeding, we want to develop both root and turf density as quickly as possible. Nature Safe stimulates root development and sideways growth by providing carbohydrates for extra energy. This energy reserve allows for tighter turf growth and quicker root development. The higher levels of carbohydrates in the tissue also help prevent desiccation and damage from freezing. Nature Safe fertilizers are 90% WIN and will release for 8-10 weeks depending on soil type, temperature, and to some degree, the analysis of Nature Safe used. Also, because of microbial breakdown, Nature Safe becomes available when the new seed is germinating. This ensures that the overseed will use the nutrients and the existing Bermuda grass will not be stimulated.
  • Protection of Primary Turf – Late fall and early winter applications of Nature Safe have been shown to improve dormant turf vigor and resilience. Healthier turf will be more resistant to disease, winter damage and stress. The spring transition from the overseed turf to the dominant turf will be much smoother. The dominant turf will have the energy reserves it needs to aggressively establish roots and shoots in overtaking the overseed.
  • Microbial Activity – Increased microbial populations are vital in maintaining healthy turf. Microbes suppress disease, reduce thatch, deliver broad-spectrum fertility, and increase soil porosity and water absorption while reducing compaction. Nature Safe has been shown to increase beneficial microbial populations significantly.

For all areas, it is safe to apply 1 lb of nitrogen per 1000 sq ft. For greens, it is best to apply after they have been thin cut or lightly verticut, then seeded. Apply while overseeding or up to one week before.

Fertilizer Rate (for 1 lb of nitrogen/1000 sq. ft. Areas Benefits
NS 5-6-6 20 lb. Greens & tees Excellent starter fertilizer
NS 8-3-5 12 lb. Greens & tees Can use products with play
NS 12-2-0 Special blends All areas Correct soil deficiencies
NS 10-2-8 9 bags/acre Fairways All organic, higher nitrogen
NS 15-2-8 6 bags/acre Fairways Higher nitrogen using Meth-Ex
Posted in All, General |

Core Cultivation The Right Way

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

For every procedure or process there is right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Using Nature Safe properly when core cultivating is a little different because there is really no wrong way to do it. No matter how you do it, you will get some good results when you use Nature Safe following core cultivation. However, you will get better results with some methods than with others.

The process I personally like and have seen the greatest amount of success with involves first core cultivating and then removing the cores from the turf surface. Next, apply either Nature Safe 8-3-5 or 5-6-6, depending upon soil type, at the rate of 1 lb. N per 1000 sq. ft. of turf area. Immediately apply the topdressing mix of choice on top of the fertilizer. As soon as it has had a few minutes of lying in the sun to dry, start the process of dragging the topdressing into the holes. Make sure that the dragging is done in circular patterns so that the majority of the topdressing material and fertilizer remains on the green and does not get dragged off into the surrounding areas.

After the topdressing has been properly worked into the holes and into the surface of the green, it should receive a light watering, followed by a drying period for the remainder of the day. The water will begin the breakdown of the fertilizer particles. They will first swell up slightly after they are irrigated and then crumble as they dry in the sun. That evening, the green should be well irrigated to finish the process. If possible, for the next two or three mowings, mow without baskets, when the turf is dry, to avoid picking up any of the topdressing material.

Some people like to apply the topdressing material first and then apply the Nature Safe on top of the topdressing. The problem with this method is a disproportionate amount of fertilizer gets dragged into the holes and not enough remains on the green surface area between the holes. This can result in differential greening and excessive growth in the immediate proximity of the holes. When the fertilizer is on top of the topdressing it is almost totally dragged into the holes, leaving very little to fertilize the areas between the holes. Of course, you want a good portion of the fertilizer to go into the holes, but not all of it. When the fertilizer is under the topdressing, a large portion of it does get into the holes, but there is enough remaining on the green surface to avoid any differential greening. Some superintendents are overly fastidious about working the topdressing into the green or tee surface. The use of some of the new topdressing power brooms can do the same thing. They are so efficient that they leave very little on the surface. Bear in mind, some material needs to remain on the surface when you are finished, and some of this material needs to be fertilizer.

You will benefit from the first process explained above because greens and tees will recover much more rapidly than normal and turf quality and rooting will be improved for months to come. The turf will go into the winter much healthier than otherwise possible and will green up earlier in the spring.

Posted in Aeration, All |

The Dollar Spot Problem Continues

By Natural Choice Editor

Over the past several seasons Dollar Spot has been the number one problem for turfgrass managers in the Northeast region. I researched my files and ran across this article printed in Golf Course Management June of 1983 Recognizing and Neutralizing Another Foe: Dollar Spot. Richard W. Smiley, Cornell University, wrote the article. The following are highlights from the article.

Dollar spot is considered among the most persistent of diseases on golf courses in North America, Japan and Australia. Individual infected leaves develop a lesion that is first chlorotic, then water-soaked, and finally a bleached color. Dollar spot lesions are characteristically bounded by a tan to reddish brown margin, and they generally enlarge to extend across the entire leaf. When dew is present on grass blades in the early morning and the pathogen is active, a white cottony or cob-webby growth of fungal mycelium may be seen on diseased turf. The mycelium disappears as it dries.

Disease Cycle
The dollar spot fungi survive unfavorable periods as dormant mycelia in infected plants and as stromato on foliage surfaces. Dissemination of this fungus is, therefore, restricted to movements of infected leaf debris by equipment, people, animals, water or wind. When the turfgrass environment favors the fungus activity, the dormant mycelia or stromata resume growing on foliar tissues and out into the humid air. Whenever the aerial mycelium contacts a moist leaf surface, it may penetrate the leaf and cause an infection. These fungi are not able to infect roots or rhizomes, but some may produce a toxin in the foliage that adversely affects root health. The roots thicken, stop elongating and turn brown. The new roots quickly become affected themselves, and the root system becomes incapable of supplying adequate nutrition and water to the foliage.

Prolonged high humidity in the turfgrass canopy is required for fungal growth. Different variants of the dollar spot fungi commence activity at different times from late spring through late autumn. Disease becomes more severe in dry soils, event though high moisture in the aerial turf canopy is also required. Turfgrasses that have low amounts of nitrogen are most susceptible. Favorable environmental conditions for disease, therefore, include warm, humid weather, cool nights that result in heavy dews; and dry soils of low fertility.

Control
Maintain adequate to high nitrogen and potassium fertility during the period of dollar spot activity. Water thoroughly (deeply) but as infrequently as possible without causing moisture stress between watering. Do not water in the late afternoon or evening, for this prolongs the period of leaf wetness during cool nights when dew is likely to form. Many fungicides are also available for dollar spot control.

Nature Safe Research
The following conclusions from our research at universities validate our claim that the use of Nature Safe when used as a nutritional program will increase your disease resistance and increase your effectiveness of your spray program.

  • R-17 Dollar Spot Study Michigan State University, Dr. Joe Vargas, PhD Conclusion: Nature Safe significantly suppressed Dollar Spot for the duration of the study versus the control for the synthetic and liquid test plots. Nature Safe had a major impact on disease management when used before disease outbreaks and continued throughout disease pressure.
  • R-4 University of Georgia, Dr. L.L. Burpee Conclusion: The use of Nature Safe promotes an environment, which naturally increases the vigor of turf helping it to better resist diseases.
  • R-7 Rutgers University, Dr. B.B. Clarke and P.Majumdar Conclusion: The combination of Nature Safe and Banner demonstrated excellent results a well as extending the suppressive characteristics of Banner far beyond the normal 28 day period. In fact, the combination product extended the effectiveness an additional 21 days. By using Nature Safe in a regular summer program turf managers can increases the effectiveness and longevity of performance of Banner, thus reducing fungicide use on turf.
  • R-10 Rutgers University, Dr. B.B. Clarke, P. Majumdar and W.Hlubik Conclusion: Daconil and Banner performance increased when used in combination with Nature Safe Fertilizer in a regular fertility program.
  • R-6 Cornell University, Dr. Eric B. Nelson Conclusion: Test plots showed a 30% – 50% reduction in dollar spot and 40% hindrance in the development of grey snow mold.
Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Summer Stress and Nature Safe

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Whenever you lose turf during the summer months, you try to find the cause. You run chemical analysis of the soil, leaf tissue analysis, send samples to plant pathology labs to check for fungus diseases, test the irrigation water, and perhaps, may even look for other causes, such as nematodes or problems with the soil structure. In general, none of these tests show any problems that were sufficient to cause the loss of turf. When that happens, you chalk this loss up to “summer stress.” You can only assume the heat of the summer put so much stress on the plant that it weakened and died. In reality, the turf died because of a combination of many factors.

Factors that can be associated with summer turf loss are elevated salt levels from certain types of fertilizer, poor soil structure, fungi, nematodes, localized dry spots, high soil temperatures, reduced root systems, fungicide deficiencies, and many others. Usually, these factors are not sufficient to kill a plant on its own, but acting in unison, they become lethal.

The regular use of Nature Safe fertilizer as part of your turf program can help to alleviate all of these problems. You cannot wait until you have a problem before you use Nature Safe and then expect miracles. Many of the benefits that can be derived from using Nature Safe are cumulative, and can only be realized through regular use of the product.

Regular users of Nature Safe report better rooting and denser turf. This is a result of the improvements in soil structure. Nature Safe feeds the soil microbes. The microbial populations cement soil particles together, thus creating cracks and fissures in the soil that allows air and water to reach the roots, which can then grow deeper and spread out. This, coupled with the extremely low salt content of Nature Safe, allows the plant to make better use of the water and nutrients that are available. The extra turf density helps to shield the soil from the heating rays of the sun and keeps the soil cooler. Thin turf allows more of the sun’s rays to penetrate the turf, thereby heating the soil to the point that can result in the loss of roots.

Pathogenic nematodes and fungi are always present in soil in all areas of the country. These pathogenic organisms may be poor competitors for the food and space available in the soil, however, they are excellent survivors. Their populations usually remain low until the opportunity presents itself, then they rapidly multiply and create problems. Although their populations may be low, they can still cause some stress on the plant. Nature Safe greatly increase s the populations of the beneficial microorganisms while reducing the pathogenic organisms such as fungi and nematodes. In addition, Nature Safe has repeatedly been shown to enhance the efficiency of fungicides. The result is a healthier plant that can withstand more stress.

Localized dry spots and fairy ring are problems created by fungi working in the soil. While they may not be present in large enough quantities to cause their classic turf symptoms, they can still be putting some added stress on the turf. Nature Safe has been shown in a recent study to significantly reduce damage from both localized dry spots and fairy ring.

A noted professor of turfgrass management said that plants have a stress budget and once you exceed that budget, the plant will die. If the stress budget is 100 units (whatever those units may be) and is already under 99 units of stress, and one more unit of stress is added, the plant will die. Therefore, very small, insignificant factors can add just enough stress to kill the plant. This is the classic case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Nature Safe, with it’s extremely low salt content, allows the turf manager to safely fertilizer his turf even at the hottest times with no surge of growth to overstimulate the plant, and to help reduce a whole myriad of stress factors that can be detrimental to the turf. By lessening the stress factors that you can control, you increase the amount of stress that the turf can take from factors that you cannot control and still remain healthy.

I have personally been involved with the use and sale of turfgrass fertilizers for over thirty years, and I have never seen anything work like Nature Safe. Even on my home lawn, I have been able to achieve a density that I have never been able to in the past. I was also able to suppress diseases without the use of fungicides since I began to use Nature Safe. Anyone who manages turf owes it to themself to try Nature Safe and see the benefits of stress reduction, both on their turf and on themselves.

Posted in All, Summer Stress |

Pushing The Transition Zone South

By Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

The transition zone is normally defined as the climatic zone where the winters are usually too cold for the warm season grasses and the summers are usually too hot for the cool season grasses. That is an area in the United States that roughly corresponds to an area on both sides of a line drawn from about Kansas City to Washington, D.C.

We know that there is very little that can be done to better adapt the warm season grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine grass to the colder areas of the country. However, we are finding that it is possible to successfully grow some of the cool season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and creeping bentgrass further south than previously thought possible.

From a physiological point of view, one of the main differences between the cool season grasses and the warm season grasses, is that the warm season grasses are better able to carry on photosynthesis at higher temperatures. On the other hand, cool season grasses tend to reduce their photosynthetic rate as the temperatures increase. At the same time their rate of respiration increases. That means they are using more food, but they are producing less. During sustained heat spells the cool season turf can use up more stored energy than it can replace. The plant is literally starving to death. When this happens, the plant becomes weakened and it can easily succumb to one or more of the numerous stress factors that plague it during the long hot summer.

The rule of thumb among turf managers is to avoid feeding cool season turf during sustained periods of high temperatures. Of course, they are trying to avoid such things as salt damage from fertilizer, flush growth that would further weaken the plant, and diseases that may attack any lush turf that might be produced from the flush growth. However, even if the turf managers are successful in their efforts, they still stand a very real chance of losing turf due to what amounts to starvation.

Many turf managers have found that Nature Safe allows them to grow much better cool season turf in areas that suffer from sustained heat. Some of this success is due to such things as the lowered salt index in Nature Safe, the lack of flush growth after applying Nature Safe, superior root systems, and the suppression of pathogens like fungus diseases and nematodes. There is one usually overlooked factor that helps the cool season turf survive when it is fertilized regularly with Nature Safe – the extra carbon dioxide that a healthy population of soil microbes produce as a by-product of their activity. With this extra carbon dioxide the cool season turf can carry on more photosynthesis than would otherwise be possible. This is the same mechanism that helps semi-shaded turf to prosper in areas where it could not otherwise survive. Even though the plant may be unable to carry on photosynthesis at high efficiency levels, it may be able to produce just enough extra food to make it over the hump. The extra food produced from the CO2 can mean the difference between life and death for the plant. That is one of the main reasons that Nature Safe fertilized turf survives some of the hottest summers in the North as well as in the transition zone while neighboring turf that is being maintained under different regimes frequently suffers.

Posted in All, General |

How Nature Safe Can Help With Environmental Challenges

By Natural Choice Editor

Nature Safe and a strong IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program offers a great solution for the environmental challenges turf managers face every day. To understand this, it is important to keep in mind that the soil and turfgrass are truly dependent on each other. The soil in itself is a biosphere, maintaining microbial populations and supporting the growth of plant life through nutrients and minerals found there. The theory behind most chemical applications is to “wipe” out problems, whether caused by disease or insects. In essence, you break down the soil biosphere. Once chemicals are applied, the microbial populations in the soil are weakened in health and in numbers. The turf’s health and natural resistance to pests and disease is impeded. We fertilize over and over to compensate for this void. Suddenly one problem is fixed, but several others may surface and a vicious cycle is started. With Nature Safe, soil health is most important. Soil health correlates directly with plant health. Nature Safe builds up the soil and in turn builds up the turf. By increasing microbial populations, Nature Safe creates its own fertilizer factory in the soil for turf. A healthy, stronger turf will handle stress conditions better and will build up resistance to disease and pests.

By understanding some of the simple concepts below, you will be successful in your turf management practices.
Nature Safe improves soil health and ultimately improves plant health. As Nature Safe is released in the soil, the product provides the NPK the turf needs and the food energy the soil microbes need. As you feed the microbes, they provide the biological formula for reducing pest pressures. The more microbes in the soil, the better. University research shows that Nature Safe increases bacterial populations from 30 million cfu/g soil to 1 billion cfu/g soil.
Nature Safe requires a program application approach. Nature Safe needs to be applied monthly during the growing season to maintain the food energy needs of the microbial population. The key benefits are stress and pest reduction.
Nature Safe is the foundation to good IPM. Nature Safe offers the biological benefits void in many turf programs. Nature Safe combined with sound cultural practices and wise spray programs offers the formula for success.

Posted in All, Environmental |

Sludge May Harbor Toxins, Study Warns

By Natural Choice Editor

Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have raised questions about the safety of using treated sewage as fertilizers. Sludge often contains high levels of toxic chemicals called BDEs according to the research published in the journal Nature. Sludge is the byproduct of sewage treatment – the processing of human excrement and household waste.

Sludge samples examined by the research team typically contained 1 to 2 parts of BDEs per million of sludge, which is high. The chemicals are more often measured in parts per billion. Medical researchers suspect BDEs may impair the immune and endocrine systems and delay intellectual and physical development. BDEs are used to make foam seat cushions fire-resistant and are chemically similar to PCB, DDT and dioxin, pollutants considered lethal threats to people and animals. DDT and PCBs were banned in the United States in the 1970s. Researchers also found BDEs in hundreds of fish across Virginia, the possible result of the chemicals seeping into waterways from the fields.

The above information was taken from the Free Lance STAR
Additional information can be obtained at Virginia Institute of Marine Science: www.vims.edu

Sludge products are subjected to high temperatures during the sterilization process that in turn denatures the available protein. This translates to an inconsistent release of Nitrogen and possible build up in the soil. A safe alternative to a sludge product are Nature Safe 12-2-0 or 10-2-8. Both are 100% organic and will deliver unsurpassed value and performance. Our products are composed from feed grade quality protein and do not contain heavy metal or BDEs. Nature Safe also provides up to 5 times more amino acids than any sludge or manure product.

Posted in About Synthetic Fertilizers, All |

Importance Of Fall Fertilization and Dormant Feed For Cool Season Turf

By Steve Thomas, Nature Safe Specialty Products Manager

Late fall and early winter fertilization is a common and recommended practice in today’s turf management programs. As turf comes out of a stressful summer period, it is important to build the carbohydrate reserves to prepare the turf for winter. The accumulation and storage of carbohydrates is greatest during late fall and early winter because there is minimal shoot growth, yet good photosynthetic conditions. A pool of reserve carbohydrates is essential since it will serve as a source of regrowth and recovery during the following spring.

The roots of most cool season grasses continue to grow in autumn as long as the soil is not frozen. Cell division can occur in the root tips of cool season turfgrass at temperatures as low as 32°F.

Since it has been established that fall fertilization and dormant feeding are important in a fertility program, the question then becomes, “What fertilizer should I use?” When I was in a turf management class some 20 years ago, it was thought a good dose of synthetic nitrogen would be the optimum selection. It is true that the turf is in need of nitrogen at this time. Nitrogen is needed for shoot density, root growth and plant repair. Yet, excessive nitrogen in a soluble form will stimulate excessive shoot growth. This causes increased hydration of the tissue and decreases the carbohydrate levels in the plant. The result is decreased low temperature hardiness, making turf more prone to winter kill.

A more preferred nitrogen source would be in an organic form. Organic matter decomposition slows during cool weather, thereby slowing the release of nitrogen. An application of 1 to 2 pounds of N during this season provides the essential nitrogen needed, while keeping the nitrogen release rate at a minimum. There will be no flush of growth in the plant and carbohydrate levels will continue to increase.

It was once thought the use of organic nitrogen would be inadequate because the microbial activity in the cool season would be so low it would not mineralize the nitrogen. It has been proven through the research done at the University of Wisconsin by Dr. Wayne Kussow and by research conducted for Nature Safe by Dr. George Lazarovits of Agri-Food Canada that this in inaccurate. The reduction in biological activity in frozen soils will not impede the microbial activity needed to breakdown the organic nitrogen. This allows the fertilizer to work during the winter as well as in early spring. The nitrogen released when soil temperatures are above 32°F will be used for root cell division. When below 32°F, it will allow a reserve to build up in the soil that the plant can use immediately when it breaks dormancy.

We recommend two applications of Nature Safe during the fall. If you are aerifying in the fall, apply 1 lb. rate of nitrogen at this time. Nature Safe can get directly into the root zone and will improve the root density and length. If you are not aerifying, apply a 1 lb. rate of nitrogen in October. Apply the second application of 1 lb. of nitrogen as late as possible in the season (by the end of December). If aerifying, we recommend either 5-6-6 or 8-3-5. For the other applications, 8-3-5 or 10-2-8 make excellent choices. We have observed some of our most impressive results by using Nature Safe during this period. Our winter color has been excellent and our spring color has been outstanding. This method of fertilization allows the plant to get ahead start in the spring and be prepared for stress in the summer.

Posted in All, Dormant Feed & Overseed |

Nitrogen – The Turfgrass Manager’s Struggle

By Natural Choice Editor

Nitrogen influences the health and quality of turfgrass more than any other nutrient. Nitrogen is the primary component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins found in all living organisms and the most abundant element found within a turfgrass plant. Even more importantly, our atmosphere is almost 80% nitrogen. With nitrogen so abundant, why do turfgrass managers struggle to keep this nutrient available to their turfgrass? Why is fertility value so important when buying decisions are made? The answer lies with the reactions nitrogen undergoes in the soil.

All compounds that have proteins present represent nitrogen in an “organic” form. Microbial activity will degrade this type of material. Some forms of “organic” nitrogen are broken down as far as they can go, and in the soil, are referred to as humus. “Inorganic” nitrogen is any nitrogen compound that releases through microbial breakdown or chemical reactions. This includes nitrate, nitrite, ammonium and ammonia. Nitrate and ammonium compounds are the forms plants will readily take up nitrogen, while nitrite and ammonia are toxic to plants. How ammonium and nitrate are formed and the characteristics of both compounds will effect the amount of nitrogen available to a plant.

Ammonium (NH4+) Formation

When microbes break down an organic nitrogen product, ammonification will take place, converting organic nitrogen ultimately to ammonium nitrogen. The nitrogen will be broken down into smaller and smaller molecules until it is finally ammonium. The microbes ingest the ammonium through mineralization. The ammonium is immobilized, and as the microbes die off, release nitrogen to the plant. This is the ideal form for the plant. Ammonium is immobile in the soil and will not readily leach into the water table. Various factors can influence the mineralization/immobilization process. Optimum temperatures (above 40°F, below 60°F), a good supply of water, soil pH above 5.5, good aeration and a low Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio will keep microbial activity at its peak allowing for the conversion of the material to ammonium. An active, healthy microbial population will help maintain the available ammonium concentrations for the plant.

Nitrate Nitrogen (NO3-)

With much higher temperatures and higher C:N Ratios, microbes have problems decomposing the fertilizer material. This allows the process of nitrification to occur. In nitrification, the ammonium is converted into nitrate. A plant enlists the help of Nitrogen-fixing bacteria in this process. The ammonium will be converted to nitrite by Nitrosomonas bacteria, and then Nitrobacter bacteria will quickly convert this nitrite to nitrate without any harm coming to the plant. These bacteria can also fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere. Nitrate will make up the majority of the nitrogen used by a plant. A plant can easily use the nitrate form, however, due to the movement of nitrate through the root zone via water, it is more prone to leaching. Whatever the plant does not readily use, will be leached out of the root zone.

It is important to remember that whenever nitrogen fertility, whether organic or inorganic, is applied, both ammonification and nitrification will occur. The soil conditions determine which will be the primary mode of nitrogen breakdown. Last year, many areas of the country had plenty of rainfall and comfortable temperatures. Many superintendents skipped applications of fertilizers because of this. Because the conditions were favorable, more microbial activity took place, allowing for ammonification and mineralization to occur. In areas that were hot and dry, nitrate was the final product requiring increased applications of nitrogen to maintain nitrogen availability. According to Dr. James Cambretato in an article in SC Turfgrass Foundation News, any research to date done on either turfgrass or agriculture products has shown ammonium nitrogen outperforming nitrate nitrogen through denser root systems, increased numbers of tillers and greater dry matter.

There are other bacteria and fungus in the soil that are beneficial to plants. Azotobacter can fix Nitrogen directly from the atmosphere, Rhizobial bacteria form nodes on roots of legumes that will fix nitrogen, and mycorrhizae of fungus literally become part of the plant’s root system increasing root surface area significantly. All of these are important to plants for helping with nitrogen uptake. However, the most cost effective fertility product for turf managers is one that stimulates microbial activity, promotes ammonification and mineralization through these populations, ensures ammonium formation through these processes so nitrogen leaching does not occur and develops better and stronger root systems for increased uptake of nitrogen. That fertility program can be found in Nature Safe. To further validate this check out Dr. George Lazarovits’ research, “Influence of Nature Safe on the Microbiology of Soil” and “Effect of Nature Safe and Synthetic Fertilizer Application on Bacterial and Fungal Populations” along with our research on “Leaching Rates” by Dr. Gary Janicke. These research summaries will provide further insights into Nature Safe’s importance in a fertility program. For questions or more information concerning Nature Safe in a fertility program, contact Nature Safe at sales@griffinind.com.

Posted in All, General |

Thatch Problems and C:N Ratio

by Natural Choice Editor

Nature Safe lists the Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio (C: N ratio) for each Nature Safe product in the Product Brochure. What is the importance of this ratio to a turfgrass manager? For Nature Safe, it correlates to one of the best benefits we provide turf – thatch reduction. To understand the role of the C: N ratio, we first must understand what thatch is, how it forms and how, in a perfect world, thatch is controlled.

Thatch is defined as the layer of living and dead plant material that has accumulated between the green vegetation and the soil surface. Excess thatch can accumulate when the rate of dead organic matter from an actively growing turf exceeds the rate of decomposition. When this accumulation occurs, water, nutrients, fungicides, insecticides and oxygen have problems getting to the soil. This can result in localized dry spot, soil compaction, increased disease pressures from dollar spot, brown patch, and leaf spots, a decrease in root density and a turfgrass plant more prone to environmental stresses due to structural changes. The turfgrass plant’s crown, rhizomes and stolons will grow above the soil to accommodate the increasing thatch region leaving the plant vulnerable to environmental stresses. Thatch control is achieved through decomposition. Ultimately, a turf manager relies on soil microbes to accomplish this process.

In an ideal turf environment, beneficial microbes are abundant within the soil surrounding the roots of turfgrass. According to E.C. Roberts, populations can run over 900 billion organisms for 1 lb. of soil! What is missing though? Thatch! The large populations of microbes keep thatch under control. Decaying plant tissue has varying amounts of cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose, all high sources of Carbon. Carbon is the primary food for microbes, providing energy for their life processes. As dying plant material is introduced to the soil surface, microbes begin the degradation process using available Nitrogen to break down the Carbon for food and releasing CO2 and NH4 as by-products. Plant materials also contain Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium, other minerals, sugars, etc. The microbes ingest these nutrients and additional Carbon and Nitrogen through immobilization. This process changes elemental forms of the nutrients to a chelated form. Immobilization makes nutrients unavailable to other organisms until the microbe dies. As the microbes die, they “mineralize” releasing nutrients in this readily available form for future plant use.

In the real “turf manager” world, there are many other factors that influence thatch build up. Temperature, moisture, pH, soil compaction, mowing heights and chemical usage can all influence thatch build up and microbial populations. As a rule, any factor that improves microbial activity will increase the breakdown of thatch. Likewise, any factor that impedes microbial activity will decrease the breakdown of thatch. The C: N ratio of the products becomes significant at this point. This ratio compares the amount of Carbon to the amount of Nitrogen within a material. Carbon is higher in organic products than the Nitrogen. Since microbes need Nitrogen to accomplish this decomposition, Nitrogen within the product becomes a limiting factor. Here is a chart with some typical C: N Ratios and results:

Nature Safe 12-2-0 1.5:1 Decomposition
Nature Safe 8-3-5 5:1  
Microbes 8:1  
Soil Humus 10:1  
Turf Clippings 10:1 15:1 or less
Manure 20:1 15:1 – 30:1
Straw 100:1 30:1 or above
Sawdust 400:1  
    Decomposition

The lower the ratio, the more Nitrogen is available and the quicker decomposition and mineralization. A ratio of 15:1 or higher may not have enough Nitrogen available. This forces the microbes to pull in inorganic Nitrogen from the soil, slowing mineralization down. Any ratio over 30:1 is considered extremely high and can result in some soil Nitrogen deficiencies. The microbes, which tend to be more competitive than the plant, will completely exhaust the Nitrogen resources in the soil. Depending on the C: N ratio, this could go on for a considerable length of time. With no added Nitrogen, grass growth will completely halt. Nitrogen needs to be applied at higher rates just to get the turfgrass to respond.

Nature Safe has a very low C: N ratio. The microbes can easily break down the Nature Safe, releasing some NH4 and CO2 in the process, and mineralizing Carbon, Nitrogen and other nutrients for later plant use. Mineralization is why Nature Safe will not leach nutrients into the surrounding soil or water table. Nature Safe significantly increases microbial populations to keep thatch under control. Check out our research by Dr. Janicke, EKU, on leaching and Dr. Lazarovits, Agriculture/Agri-Food Canada, on our ability to increase microbial populations. For programs for your particular area tailored to thatch problems talk to your Nature Safe Regional Manager.

Posted in All, General |

Not All Organics Are The Same

by Natural Choice Editor

There are many organic fertilizers currently on the market that claim to provide comparable quality and benefits of Nature Safe. In actuality, several different types of organic fertilizers exist based on the raw materials used in their formulations. To compare these types, you must look at the raw material, the processing method for this material, the protein value and the availability of this protein to the plant. Protein value in organic fertilizers translates into nitrogen value for a plant. The digestibility of the proteins will determine the product’s release characteristics.

Types of Organic Fertilizers

Constructed

Formulated from feed grade quality meals derived from blood, bone, feather, fish, meat and grain by-products. In the case of Nature Safe produced by Griffin Industries, these highly digestible meals are homogenized and screened for granular size and uniformity. They consist of unique ingredients that include vitamins, minerals, chelated secondary elements, enzymes, sulfur amino acids, simple sugars, carbohydrates, starches, proteins and fats. Each meal is processed to make the protein as available as possible to supply the food energy to feed and stimulate the natural soil microbes, which aid in the breakdown of the product. In addition to characteristics including a neutral pH, low salt index, high organic matter, high WIN content, and low odor, constructed organic fertilizers have been shown to promote healthy plant growth which can reduce overall turf disease pressures. Nature Safe products contain no animal or human waste by-products or fillers.

*Nature Safe 12-2-0, 10-2-8, 8-3-5, 7-1-14 and 5-6-6 are all constructed fertilizers.

Composted

Formulated from animal manures and their bedding materials. The composting process utilizes the natural aerobic and anaerobic microbes and the free ammonia found in manure to breakdown the complex cellulose fibers found in the bedding. The finished product is sterilized by heat to destroy any harmful pathogens. This type of organic fertilizer is characterized by low analysis, high WIN product, and possibly a strong odor. It adds organic content to the soil and supplies slow release nitrogen to the turf. Due to the composition of the raw material and the varying composting methods, ingredient composition may vary, resulting in a higher probability of inconsistencies in the final product’s composition and performance.

Activated Sewage Sludge

Formulated from human and industrial waste by-products, this organic fertilizer is made using a series of screening and centrifugal processes to remove debris, oil, grease and grit. The final biomass produces a thick fibrous cake that is then kiln dried to kill all remaining microorganisms or pathogens. Activated sewage sludge is high in denatured proteins that are high WIN sources. These fertilizers have a very low salt index, are high in organic matter and may contain minor elements such as zinc, copper and iron. Because of the high heat used to sterilize the material, the protein becomes tightly bound, resulting in a high percentage of the nitrogen made unavailable to the plant.

Fortified

Formulated by combining an organic fertilizer with a synthetic or chemical fertilizer. These products are either homogenized or blended to achieve a particular analysis. The final product offers a higher analysis than an all natural organic product alone. The key to success with fortified fertilizers is the ratio by which they are combined. Always read the label for the ratio between organic and synthetic fertilizer content and verify the source of organic nitrogen in the product.

*Nature Safe 20-1-5, 15-2-8, 13-0-11 and 12-2-6 are fortified fertilizers.

Editor’s Note: This information will be featured in the upcoming Food for Thought newsletter.

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All |

Disease Suppression With Nature Safe

by Ken Quandt

Most superintendents who use Nature Safe as a regular part of their fertility program have found that fungus diseases attack their turf less frequently and with less severity. We know that we can control some diseases such as Necrotic Ring Spot by fertilizing with Nature Safe on a regular basis and totally eschewing fungicides. On other diseases such as Brown Patch, Dollar Spot and even Snow Mold, Nature Safe will usually have a suppressing effect, but it will not totally eliminate them. Our research work and field experiences have shown reductions of these diseases in the twenty-five to fifty percent range over untreated plots. Having greens or tees that have fifty percent less disease than untreated areas makes for wonderful research data, but it will still get the golf course superintendent fired. Obviously, the club management expects to have no disease at all. Yet some organic purists and even some makers of organic products would have you to believe that if you are on an organic program, you cannot use any chemicals at all, or you will supposedly destroy the effects of the organic products being applied. Evidently, you are supposed to live with some disease on your turf because you are using organic products. Try explaining that one to the greens chairman at an exclusive country club.

All of our work at Nature Safe would indicate that we get better results where chemicals are used in moderation along with a regular Nature Safe program. In other words, we are seeing a synergistic relationship between Nature Safe and the fungicides. To better understand this apparent contradiction, consider for a moment what happens when you spray an insecticide in an attempt to control flies or mosquitoes. When you spray, you do not kill only the flies or the mosquitoes, you also kill many other species of insects. Some of these species may be quite beneficial, such as spiders or honey bees. Others may not seem to be beneficial directly to man, but they all have a role to play in the overall scheme of things. Much the same thing occurs when a fungicide is applied to turf. If the original target was the organism that causes Brown Patch, that is not the only organism that is killed. Usually a wide range of soil borne microorganisms will be killed. Some will be pathogenic organisms, but many others will be beneficial organisms.

One of the characteristics of most beneficial organisms is their remarkable ability to reproduce themselves quite rapidly if a food source is available to them. When Nature Safe is the regular fertilizer on a given plot of turf, the beneficial organisms will reproduce much more rapidly than the pathogenic organisms because Nature Safe provides the food energy needed for reproduction. That means that the ratio of beneficial organisms to pathogenic organisms is being changed following a fungicide application. The end result is higher levels of beneficial organisms and lower levels of pathogenic organisms. Is it any wonder then, that we continually see a lower incidence of diseases where Nature Safe is used? This does not mean that we can totally eliminate the use of fungicides at any point in time, but it does mean that we can probably reduce the rate and/or the frequency of chemical applications. Some golf clubs have reported reductions of over twenty-five percent in their chemical budgets after switching to a regular Nature Safe program.

Bear in mind, however, that Nature Safe is not a magical formula or a one shot, cure all product. When Nature Safe is applied to the turf, it is not really a fertilizer. There is nothing in Nature Safe that a plant can use for food when it is first applied. Nature Safe is really food for the soil microbes, not a fertilizer. It takes the beneficial soil microbes approximately three to four weeks to consume all of the food in Nature Safe after it is applied. During that three to four week period of time, we achieve the maximum population levels of the beneficial microbes. Some of these microbes have life cycles that are as short as twenty minutes. As they die off, they release nutrients in forms that the plants can utilize. However, while they are living, they are competing directly with the pathogenic organisms and helping to keep them in check. Therefore, for maximum effectiveness, Nature Safe must be applied at least every 21 to 28 days in order to keep the beneficial soil microbe levels at their peak.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Nature Safe and Necrotic Ring Spot

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Necrotic Ring Spot is a particularly devastating fungal disease of Kentucky bluegrass, annual bluegrass and fine leaf fescues. Originally, this was called Fusarium Blight because Fusaria was believed to cause the disease. Later research found the causative agent to be Leptoshaeria korrae,. The disease is commonly referred to as “Frog Eye” because it tends to leave round dead spots in the turf that have green grass in the center.

The disease first appears in small patches six inches to a foot in diameter. The soil borne fungi destroy the majority of the turf’s root system in the spring when moisture is plentiful and the temperatures tend to be cool. Even with a severely damaged root system, no symptoms of the disease are evident at that time because the turf can still get the moisture it requires from the cool, wet soils. Once the hot, dry weather of summer arrives, the affected turf tends to wilt and die in the circular patterns described above because it can no longer get enough water to meet its needs.

Chemical control of this disease is spotty at best. Heavy rates of systemic fungicides must be applied and immediately drenched into the soil beginning early to mid spring. Waiting until the symptoms appear is too late because the root damage has been done. Early application of fungicides will reduce the severity or delay disease onset by a few weeks, but will not eliminate the disease or the use of more chemicals. Since these fungicides must be used in heavy amounts, and since they are quite costly, the only thing that a turf manager is likely to do is wipe out his budget. If he is successful in controlling necrotic ring spot, this will only last through the growing season. The following year the disease will reappear.

Nature Safe, on the other hand, offers a complete and permanent control of Necrotic Ring Spot without the use of expensive chemicals. The soil bacteria that Nature Safe feeds and promotes tend to produce anti-fungal compounds that have been shown to inhibit the growth of the Leptosphaeria korrae fungus in laboratory studies. These bacteria are believed to aid in the prevention of new infections in the late summer and early fall. Light frequent irrigation cycles also aid in promoting large populations of these bacteria.

In order to control this disease with Nature Safe, you must apply one pound of actual Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per month, preferably from 10-2-8 or 8-3-5 for the first year. These applications should begin no later than May 15th and continue until mid-September. Then apply one pound of actual Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet at dormancy. This program is not an immediate cure. After the first two or three applications, a turf manager will see little or no healing to the damaged areas. Late in the season, improvements will be seen and the turf will get progressively better. By the spring of the following year, the disease should be gone. Be careful not to use any synthetic water soluble Nitrogen on the diseased turf because this will cause the disease to get worse. After the first year, you can decrease Nitrogen rates and apply only 1/2 to 3/4 lbs. of actual Nitrogen per application if you so desire.

I can personally attest to the fact that this method works. I had a very bad case of Necrotic Ring Spot on my own lawn that I could not stop with heavy applications of chemicals. I had previously used one of the best forms of synthetic slow release Nitrogen on my lawn for several years. However, each year, the disease got progressively worse. Beginning in the spring of 1999 I began applying Nature Safe 10-2-8 exclusively. By late season, the turf was looking better, but the disease was still evident. By the spring and summer of 2000, the disease was totally gone. Even when the warm weather arrived and the lawn dried up, there were no symptoms of the disease. The best part of this program is that it is a permanent cure, providing that you do not go back to using synthetic forms of water soluble Nitrogen. Overall, a Nature Safe program is much cheaper than applying chemicals, provides great fertility and helps the environment. For more information on formulating a program specific to your area, contact your Nature Safe Regional Sales Manager.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

I Can’t Afford Nature Safe on Fairways

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

“I love Nature Safe on greens and tees, but I just can’t afford to use it on my fairways.” New research data from Michigan State University suggests that the exact opposite is true. You can’t afford to not use Nature Safe on fairways.

The study conducted by Michigan State University showed that bentgrass turf fertilized with 1/2 lbs. of Nitrogen from Nature Safe 8-3-5 on a monthly basis suffered over 61% less damage from Dollar Spot versus similar plots fertilized with a 18-5-9 turf fertilizer at the same rate of N per month. Compared with a 15-3-15 liquid product, the Nature Safe plots suffered 66% less damage. A similar study also showed a significant reduction in Summer Patch when Nature Safe was applied at the same rate. That could translate into some big reductions in the cost of fairway maintenance for your customers and make it less expensive for them to use Nature Safe than any other fertilizer.

Many turf professional have seen similar reductions in disease on their golf courses and have not correlated it with the use of Nature Safe. One superintendent, after having the data explained to him, said “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that on my own golf course. I used Nature Safe on my tees and had very little Dollar Spot, but I had it crawling up my legs on the fairways, where I used a synthetic fertilizer.” You could see light bulbs going off as he grasped the significance of what he was being told.

Dollar Spot control is easily the single most costly item in most golf course budgets. Using very conservative estimates, a golf course could easily reduce the cost of Dollar Spot control by 25% or more. If that is the case, a superintendent can pay for a Nature Safe program on their fairways and have quite a bit of money left over for other uses. You will benefit from stronger, denser, better-rooted turf that is far easier to maintain under stress conditions than in the past.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Where Did That Turf Disease Come From?

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Every time we pick up a turf magazine or newsletter, we read about some new disease wreaking havoc on the fine turf in some part of the country. Usually it is caused by an organism that we have never heard of that suddenly turns virulent. Turf managers scramble to find a chemical to control this new super bug before it can wipe out too much turf, and, if turf managers are willing to shell out enough money, some chemical is found. The interesting thing is, if we talk with turfgrass pathologists and ask them where this new disease came from, they will usually tell us that it is not really a new disease at all, but an organism that has been around forever without causing any trouble. The question then arises as to why it is causing problems now. The answer can include many things, such as lower height of cut, heavier play, artificial soil mixes, etc. All of these add up to STRESS! Get with the Nature Safe professional in your area to help develop a stress program to help keep these “new” diseases from emerging.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

The Importance of Humates in Organic Fertilizers

by Natural Choice Editor

Humates are formed from the breakdown of organic matter in the soil. Humates contain most of the known trace elements necessary for the development of plant life since they are mainly derived from plant material. If you were to look at the composition of the humic substance used in our Nature Safe products, leonardite, it is composed of 65-75% humic acids, with total organic material being around 86% (total Carbon is usually around 30%). Leonardite is also a natural source for Phosphorus (P), Potash (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S), Boron (B), Iron (Fe) and Manganese (Mn).

Humates have long been known for their ability to increase water-holding capacity in the soil. They can help soils resist drought conditions more effectively and help plants continue their productivity when rainfall or irrigation is insufficient. Humates also react with salt solutions to protect plant roots. They can reduce the pH in alkaline soils and bind up certain toxic aluminum compounds in acid soils. They also can prevent chemical applied to turf from leaching and speed up the decomposition of poisons.

Other little known benefits to using humates include: CO2 liberation from calcium carbonates for plant roots; reduction of soil erosion by increasing the cohesive forces of fine soil particles; increased plant recovery from mowing or damage; prevention of soil crusting; increased root system development; and increased rate and efficiency of seed germination.

Because of all the benefits that humates offer, we incorporate them into all of our Nature Safe products. This is an important ingredient in our products that makes Nature Safe unique.

Posted in All, General |

The Effects of Chemical Fertilizers on Soil Microbes

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

Many turf managers fail to realize just how important the beneficial soil microbes are for maintaining healthy turf. These beneficial microbes are the best friends that a superintendent can have, yet they are often starved out and killed with fertilizer and chemical programs that wreak havoc on them. This is unwittingly done through a process that I like to call “The Vicious Circle”. It happens something like this:

  • The turf is fed exclusively with synthetic nitrogen sources that do not contain enough carbon to adequately feed the soil microbes. This results in slow starvation for the microbes.
  • The starving microbes, desperate for a source of carbon, deplete the soil of organic matter, which is the only other source of carbon available to them.
  • The soil structure slowly begins to deteriorate because the class of organisms that flocculate, or glue the soil particles together to create a granular, well-aerated soil, are no longer being adequately fed. The soil then begins to compact and resemble adobe bricks.
  • The high salt content in many synthetic fertilizers and the compaction of the soil combine to cause the roots of the plants to decline.
  • The lack of sufficient soil organic matter tends to reduce the buffering capacity of the soil, which allows the high salt content synthetic fertilizers to cause increased damage to plant roots.
  • The water-soluble synthetic fertilizers tend to promote surge growth that tends to build up thatch layers.
  • The lack of adequate populations of beneficial microbes keeps the thatch from decomposing rapidly enough, so the thatch levels continue to build, particularly with some of the vigorous new cultivars of turf that we now have available.
  • The build up of thatch gives the pathogenic organisms a wonderful place to breed.
    The pathogens sometimes run wild due to a lack of competition from the beneficial microbes that have been starved out.
  • The weakened plants with poor roots systems, growing in compacted soils, are easily preyed upon by pathogenic organisms.
  • Usually, toxic chemicals are then applied in an attempt to control the fungi, nematodes or other pathogens that are creating problems for the turf. Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals kill off more of the beneficial organisms.
  • Further depleting the beneficial organisms sometimes opens the door for more exotic diseases to attack the turf, so more chemicals are applied and the problem only gets worse.
  • Expensive, controlled release synthetic fertilizers are applied in an attempt to reduce the problems, but the soil microbes are still being starved because of a lack of carbon.
  • The result is weakened turf that easily succumbs to stress factors such as traffic and heat. In a year with lots of stressful weather, the superintendents’ jobs become Hell!
Posted in All, General |

5-6-6 The Oft Neglected Jewel

by Ken Quandt, Regional Sales Manager

When examining the outstanding line-up of products in the Nature Safe catalog, most people tend to overlook or dismiss Nature Safe 5-6-6. Perhaps some of them think that there is not enough nitrogen in 5-6-6 or there is insufficient phosphorus and potassium. Whatever the reason, they are overlooking one of the best products that Nature Safe produces.

Our 5-6-6 contains 85% Water Insoluble Nitrogen (WIN), which is more than any other starter fertilizer of which I am aware. That means that the nitrogen you apply to sandy soils will not leach out or volatilize. You will not be wasting Nitrogen or polluting the water table with soluble nitrogen.

Secondly, all of the phosphorus in 5-6-6 is derived from steamed bone meal. That is important because it means that the phosphorus will not leach out of sand greens and athletic fields. Because the phosphorus is in an organic form, the soil microbes have to break it down before it becomes available to the plant. It therefore becomes available slowly in an organic or chelated form that is resistant to leaching and readily taken up by the plant. Since the phosphorus is in a chelated form, it resists being chemically bound up in unfavorable soils. The diammonium phosphate and the monammonium phosphate found in other fertilizers will leach rapidly in sand and have a tendency to become chemically bound in unfavorable soils.

The 7% calcium in 5-6-6 is also derived from steamed bone meal. Of all the nutrients a plant requires, only the requirements for nitrogen and potassium are greater than calcium. Calcium is a vital constituent of cell walls, an essential nutrient for cell division and a neutralizing agent for potentially toxic substances within plant cells. High levels of calcium enhance root growth, particularly the development of root hairs.

The desired levels for calcium in sandy soils is often misunderstood. Turf managers frequently determine their calcium needs by looking at the Percent Base Saturation (PBS) of the soil. If the PBS is at least 80% calcium, they assume they have enough for the needs of the plants. The problem is that PBS tells you what percent of the storage sites in the soil are being occupied by the various cations. If you were to graph it on a pie chart, it would tell you how big each slice of the pie would be. Therefore, if the PBS for calcium were 80%, it would be represented by a huge slice of the graph. Many people make the mistake of thinking that means they have plenty of calcium. What they really need to look at is the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil. Many very sandy soils have CEC’s of less than 5, while heavier soils can exceed 100. The CEC is a measure of the total number of storage sites that are in a given soil. A very low CEC means that you have a very small pie. Calcium may occupy a huge portion of that pie, but still be inadequate for the needs of the plants.

Even if they are aware of the calcium deficiency in their soils, most turf managers are reluctant to add calcium because they are afraid it will raise the pH since the sand they have used for soil mixes is alkaline. They also know that most forms of Calcium will leach out of sand quite rapidly anyway. Because the calcium in 5-6-6 is in an organic form, it will have very little effect on the soil pH. 5-6-6 is a good way to add substantial amounts of non-leaching calcium to a high pH soil without changing the pH of the soil. In addition to the high levels of calcium and phosphorus, 5-6-6 has is produced with a high quality humus rich in humic acid. The humus conditions the soil, adding water and nutrient holding capacity at the same time.

All of these characteristics make Nature Safe 5-6-6 the perfect product to use for preplant applications when seeding new turf or overseeding existing turf. The phosphorus, potassium and calcium all facilitate seedling germination and establishment, while the humic acid helps to hold extra water and nutrients for the new plants. It is the perfect product to use on sand based greens after aeration. It should be applied at the rate of 1 lb. of actual Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf area, and worked into the aeration holes. The 5-6-6 will help turf recover from aeration rapidly, supply non-leachable nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium, and increase nutrient and water holding capacity to the sand.

Nature Safe 5-6-6 is the ideal product for annual flowers, perennials and roses. It is totally safe to use on even the most delicate plants, and will supply large amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients that flowering plants require. Many higher nitrogen, more water-soluble, fertilizers produce an over abundance of green growth at the expense of floral production. On the other hand, 5-6-6 produces healthy green plants and plenty of flowers throughout the season.

Posted in All, General |

The Benefits of Nature Safe on Shaded Turf

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

Users of Nature Safe have long recognized that turf grown in semi-shaded conditions does much better when fertilized with Nature Safe than with synthetic sources of nitrogen. Turf that had previously been of only marginal quality was greatly improved when put on a steady diet of Nature Safe. Naturally, some of this improvement comes from such things as the suppression of pathogenic organisms, the increased rooting due to lower salt indexes, and improved soil structure. While these factors are all important, possibly the most important factor is the increased carbon dioxide levels that are generated by healthy, active soil microbes.

The normal level of CO2 found in our atmosphere is 300 PPM or 0.03% of the total atmosphere by volume. We know, however, that plants can not only tolerate much higher levels, but that they will actually thrive under such conditions. Geologists who study the fossil records of our Earth, tell us that during geologic eras when the Earth’s atmosphere was naturally enriched with CO2, the face of our planet was covered with much more lush vegetation than we see today. This is thought to be due to a worldwide increase in the rate of photosynthesis in plants, due to the elevated CO2 levels.

Greenhouse growers have found that artificially increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surrounding their plants creates larger, healthier plants. This is due to the fact that plants use carbon dioxide and water plus sunlight in the photosynthetic process to make and store simple sugars. This process is often represented by the formula:

6CO2 + 12H2O (C6H12O6 + 6H2O + 6O2). If extra carbon dioxide can be added, photosynthesis or the manufacturing and storing of food, increases. This food is then used in the process of respiration.

In a closed environment, such as in a greenhouse, artificially enriching the environment with extra carbon dioxide is a relatively easy task. One simply closes the vent windows in the greenhouse and then pumps in CO2 from dry ice. For plants such as turfgrasses that are grown out of doors, it is virtually impossible to artificially enrich the environment with carbon dioxide.

Turf grown in semi-shaded conditions frequently uses more stored food for respiration than it can manufacture during the limited times that sunlight is available for photosynthesis. When this occurs, the plant literally overdraws its bank account of stored food. The plant then becomes weakened and it can easily succumb to other stress factors.

A healthy biologically active soil that is fertilized with a high-energy source like Nature Safe will produce more carbon dioxide than soil that is fertilized with synthetic nitrogen sources. The plant can then manufacture more food in the limited amount of time that it is exposed to sunlight. This extra food production can be the difference between live healthy turf and dead turf when summer stress factors are at their peak.

Posted in All, General |

Why Nature Safe?

by by Natural Choice Editor with contributions from Feeding the Soil, Dr. George Lazarovits, Agri-Food Canada

Our customers have many choices of fine fertilizer products available to them, whether it is derived from sources of synthetics, organic, or combination of both. However, when it comes to soil and plant nutrition for healthy plant growth and overall turf quality, Nature Safe Natural & Organic Fertilizers stands apart from the others.

Nature Safe is unlike any other organic fertilizer, in that it is a constructed fertilizer, composed of a blend of various plant and animal meals that have been balanced with proteins, fats, yeast, sugars, starches, and carbohydrates. These animal meals consisting of meat, bone, blood, fish, and poultry are rendered into very digestible protein sources and of various amino acids. Amino acids enhance turfgrass health and improve the overall nutrient efficiency by buffering heavy metals and sodium in the soil, improving the availability and exchange of plant nutrients on the root surface, and improving microbial activity in the soil. These constructed meals contain not only amino acids, but chelated secondary elements, vitamins, and enzymes. The different sources of protein derived from those animals and plant meals are then ultimately converted into slow release nitrogen. At Griffin Industries, we are the only company that manufactures their own proteins and formulates them into a natural organic fertilizer. By producing our own sources of animal and plant meals, a high level of quality control and consistency in our manufacturing process is achieved in the final product.

Over the last 50 years, chemical fertilizers have become the choice for plant production. They can be relatively inexpensive, are rapidly available to the roots, and can be accurately delivered to the root zone. Such products however, provide no net energy input into soils. The flush of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) actually results in a short-term stimulation of microbial activity further accelerating the demise of soil organic matter. Loss of microbial diversity invariably leads to an unbalanced ecosystem, where plant pathogens can more readily survive and cause serious plant damage. Although plant pathogens are not great competitors in soil, they are good survivors, particularly in soils with low levels of microbial activity. Increased activity of plant parasites has numerous impacts on plant production. The most obvious is the destruction of plants requiring the use of chemical control. This further reduces microbial populations and creates “microbial vacuums” that lead to a rebound in pest populations and greater plant losses than originally targeted. Managers then become locked into a perpetual cycle of chemical usage. Reduced root health also means that plants become less effective in nutrient uptake or use of water. Diseased plants need more fertilizer, more water, and more management. Thus, over the long-term, the less costly approach to management of soil health ends up costing more if full cost accounting is used.

Bacterial and fungal populations decline in about a month, resulting in the slow release of nutrients they originally incorporated from the organic fertilizer. Single applications of protein-based organic fertilizers like Nature Safe clearly provide benefits as far as plant nutrition is concerned and have the added advantage that they increase soil microorganism populations. Continued applications of Nature Safe help develop a strong, healthy soil ecosystem that will help plants through environmental stresses.

The real benefits of using Nature Safe organic fertilizers become more evident with long-term use. Dr. George Lazarovits, Southern Crop Protection & Food Research Centre, stated when we compare adding a single rate of inorganic and organic fertilizer at 0.4g per 100g of soil, we found a significant increase in bacteria numbers. These populations remained higher than in untreated soil for 9 weeks. Inorganic fertilizers in contrast reduced populations by 100 fold within a week and they remained below those levels found in untreated soil for 15 weeks. Repeated applications of the same organic material (4 times) at 0.1 g per 100 g of soil at 3-week intervals maintained bacteria populations at higher levels than in soil with a single application. Repeated addition of inorganic fertilizer again reduced populations of bacteria.

In summary, the one important thing to remember is that Nature Safe offers a balance in a fertilizer. All of the nutrients found in Nature Safe work together to promote total plant health. A plant can receive the required amount of N-P-K, however, if it does not receive other nutrients, water, light, vitamins, etc., it will be a poor plant in terms of its health, growth, and reproduction. Conversely, too much of any nutrient can do more harm than good. Nature Safe helps build your plant from its foundation up!

Posted in About Organic Fertilizers, All, General |

Preparation for Summer with Calcium

by Natural Choice Editor, with excerpts from Turf, Greens Fertility, Frank Lopes, 10/99

To get the most out of turf in the summer, superintendents start late in the fall. Dormant feed or overseed applications in the late fall or early winter get the turf in the best possible shape it can be in for spring. Spring aeration is done to help relieve compaction of the soil, and further develops the turf’s root system for possible drought conditions. The key is to develop a strong and healthy turf before the hot and dry summer begins. Through this entire process, superintendents focus on nitrogen, phosphorus andpotassium. All of these elements are important and cannot be discounted. However, summer heat can deprive turf of calcium, which many times is overlooked. What’s important about calcium and why should we look at this in spring?

Calcium is the second highest element percentage wise found in plant tissues. Calcium provides our bodies with stronger bones to maintain our structure. It does the same for plant structure. Root and cell wall development, proper cell division, strong cell membranes, cell bonding and cell integrity are all dependent on calcium. Calcium deficiencies can also disrupt cell respiration and starch conversion within the plant. If the root or cell wall development is affected, water and nutrient uptake can be significantly reduced creating either a very weak, disease-prone plant or causing death. If cell integrity is affected, the plant will not be able to fight off diseases.

Calcium plays an essential role in the structure of the soil as well. Maintaining a balance between calcium and other nutrients, especially magnesium, potassium and sodium, is critical. Calcium will improve Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and soil structure by reducing compaction. CEC is defined as the amount of exchangeable, positively-charged ions per unit of dry weight of soil. When the calcium level is not in balance, soils will become restrictive and tighter, cutting off the flow of water and air. Beneficial microbe levels will be reduced. Even if a soil is calcium-rich, with abundant beneficial microbes, calcium is not very soluble or mobile. The important thing is to keep calcium readily available for the plant to uptake.

Summer can make this task difficult. Heat tends to intensify the plant’s use of calcium. Greens are under stress due to heavy traffic regardless of the time of year. Newer bentgrass varieties cut at shorter mowing heights are requiring more calcium. What can Nature Safe do to help?

Nature Safe derives calcium from bone meal that has been heated by steam at a controlled pressure. For our pet food customers, this insures the highest digestible product available. To our Nature Safe customers this translates into a naturally chelated, highly available form of calcium for the soil and turf. If a superintendent has a serious deficiency in calcium, Nature Safe alone will not solve this problem overnight. Limestone, gypsum, dolomite, etc. are all products that can add a large amount of calcium to handle a serious imbalance quickly. Nature Safe, when used in a fertility program, can help maintain the balance of calcium with other nutrients and will provide a steady supply of calcium for the turf. Over time healthier, well-developed plants, with excellent rooting will be the most important benefit of all. Remind your customers, don’t overlook the calcium, it could be the edge they need to get their turf through the summer.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, Summer Stress |

Benefits of Spring Aeration

by Natural Choice Editor

Spring aerification offers so many benefits in addition to providing a great opportunity to incorporate Nature Safe into your turf management program. Harrell’s Fertilizers, a Nature Safe distributor headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, lists the following benefits in their literature. Remember, applying Nature Safe during aerification will really give your customers great results. Nature Safe strengthens all the benefits that aerification offers by creating a nutrition foundation in the turf’s root zone. You can dramatically enhance results by combining the Nature Safe with aerification.

Benefits of Aerification: relieves soil compaction, prevents layering, allows deeper andfaster water penetration, promotes thatch decomposition, aids in gas exchange, increasesmicrobial activity, promotes rooting, and improves drainage

As you know, failure to maintain an aggressive aerification program in stressed areas canresult in poorly drained soil, thin grass stands and continued problems with algae and disease.

Posted in Aeration, All |

A Comparison of Organic Fertilizers

by Steve Thomas, Nature Safe Specialty Products Manager

There is a paradigm shift today in turf fertility. Organic fertilizers are here to stay and rightfully so. Superintendents that have implemented organics into their programs are having great results. The secret is out that organics work and can help alleviate a multitude of problems for today’s turf manager. The question has shifted from Why organic fertilizers? to Which organic fertilizer do I use? To help answer that question, we need to look at the main component in each of the four types of organic fertilizers: sewage sludge, manure, composts and animal/plant proteins.

Sewage sludge is a dry product created during the biological and physical treatment of wastewater from homes and industry. This product has been around for years and increasing each year. Disposal of this product has been through landfills, incinerators and ocean dumping. Environmental factors have made many of these options impossible. Several major metropolitan areas across the U.S. have constructed facilities to process sludge into fertilizer with probably many more to follow.

To process, the water is removed and the remaining sludge is sterilized at 800-900ÁF killing any harmful bacteria and minimizing offensive odors. Although sludge may contain nitrogen (5 to 7%) and phosphorus (1 to 3%), it does have a number of drawbacks. The excess heat used in drying and sterilizing often bind the proteins so tight that the nitrogen is not readily available to the plant. Sludge can also contain alarming amounts of undesirable elements such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chromium, lead and nickel. Sewage treatment plants are routinely monitored for heavy metal content by state and federal environmental protection agencies. These elements can contaminate soil and water.

Manures increased interest in the environmental management of poultry and other livestock manure has emphasized the need for alternative disposal systems. Golf course acreage is viewed as an excellent opportunity to dispose of animal manure and still make money. To understand how manure may work on your turf, it is important to understand how it is collected. Manure can be collected from either broilers (eating chickens) or layers (chicken used for egg production). The diets of each vary greatly. Cultural practices also influence the quality of manure. Farmers can use wood shavings, straw or other fibrous materials as bedding. They clean the bedding every 8-16 weeks. The bottom line is there is a large amount of variance in the nutrition content of the manure. Nitrogen (2 to 5%) and phosphate is (1 to 5%) are both derived from manures.

Composting manures is the process of using the natural aerobic and anaerobic microbes along with the free ammonia found in the waste to breakdown complex cellulose fiber into more available nutrients. The used bedding and manure are allowed to compost for a certain period of time, with the material being turned periodically to allow the process to continue throughout all the material. If the composting manure is not turned and worked properly, problems can occur. If the middle of a compost pile has not been worked through, composting may not occur in that section. This will leave soluble nitrogen, that, when used in a fertilizer, will burn turfgrass. If the pile as a whole is not composted long enough, the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C: N ratio) will not be in balance resulting in a temporary loss of nitrogen turning your turf yellow. Manures are generally low in nitrogen (3 to 4%) and are variable in their release characteristics.

Composts are not fertilizer, but are often classified as such. Compost can be derived from any organic matter and its nutrient content will depend upon its original raw material. These include grass clippings, leaves, other plant materials and garbage. Properly composted organic matter is an excellent soil amendment loaded with beneficial microbes. If compost is properly made, its food energy has already been used. This results in a low nutrient analysis with nitrogen usually less than 1%. Compost can be used as a topdressing to add organic matter or as a construction mix to aid in soil tilth. Caution should be used when applying compost as a topdressing due to particle size and uncomposted pieces of organic matter. If composting is not complete, an imbalance in the C:N ratio can result in a sudden decrease in nitrogen from your soil.

Animal and plant proteins are the most expensive and concentrated source of nutrients among organic fertilizers. Nature Safe is a type of this organic fertilizer. Ingredients such as meat meal, feather meal, bone meal, poultry meal, blood meal and fish meal all fall into this category. Nitrogen levels (5 to 14%) and phosphorus levels (5 to 14%) vary depending on the source of the ingredient. The high nitrogen levels often cause prospective buyers to question whether the fertilizer has been spiked with a synthetic nitrogen source. Higher nitrogen formulations can mean less volume of product to be worked into the turf. These proteins are derived from the feed or food industries rather than waste by-products. Therefore, they have been more carefully processed to insure quality and availability of nutrients. Protein sources derive their nitrogen from amino acids, which will be digested by the soil microbes and released over time. As the nitrogen is released, it is bonded by the soil in an ammonia form that prevents leaching. Protein based fertilizer also contain abundant levels of minerals and vitamins. These minerals and vitamins will chelate meaning they bind to the amino acids or other organic molecules. These minerals then become more available for plant absorption. Protein based fertilizers are an excellent food source and stimulant for beneficial soil microbes. Because protein based ingredients are treated more carefully than waste by-products, their release characteristics are more predictable. This results in a higher quality product that provides fertilizer efficiency and value, meaning more bang for your buck!

Posted in About Nutrients, All, General |

Using Nature Safe at Overseeding

by Natural Choice Editor

Just as Nature Safe is important in cool season turf areas as a fall fertilizer and dormant feed, it is equally important to use it during overseeding of Bermuda grass. Nature Safe 5-6-6 or 8-3-5 can be applied at a 1 lb. of N rate the same time overseeding is done with no fear of burn. Nature Safe begins to release in about three days ~ the same time the seed begins to germinate. Because Nature Safe is 85% water insoluble, very little will be leached with the frequent initial watering needed.

Nature Safe provides a complete nutritional foundation to establish overseeded turf. It will provide excellent color and density with slow-even growth and will build up the soil microbial populations as well. A reserve of microbes will be built up to help stimulate the Bermuda grass to establish in the spring.

Nature Safe will release in the top 1-inch of soil and stays there feeding the overseeded grass, while not stimulating the Bermuda grass underneath. The release will last for 28 days. A second application can be made based on clipping yield. This is usually at a 1/2 to 3/4 lb. rate. For more information on a Nature Safe overseed program, contact your Nature Safe Professional.

Posted in All, Dormant Feed & Overseed |

Nature Safe Turf Tips

by Natural Choice Editor

  • Lower rates more frequently: use .25 – .50 lb. of N on greens applications 2-3 weeks apart. This will keep a good balance in the rhizosphere and will help avoid problems with application. I have found that with our Fine and Superfine products, a rate of .5 lb. or less will tremendously decrease mower and roller pick up of the product.
  • Use a rate of .75 to 1.5 lbs. of N at aerification in the holes before top dressing on greens, tees or fairways, and drag in. The more Nature Safe that can be worked into the rhizosphere, the better the results.
  • Always use the right product and particle size for the surface it will be applied to.
  • Proper product application. To apply, wet product (we recommend syringing for a 3-5 minute cycle), let product thoroughly dry and then either wet the product or mow without baskets to further break up the particle.
  • Nature Safe (which is 85% WIN) will not have a color response for 7-10 days. However, what you will get is a very even and deep color along with a slow, even feed that alleviates the flush of growth you can see with other fertilizers.

For more information, contact your Nature Safe Professional.

Posted in All, General |

Nature Safe’s Value

by Ken Quandt, Nature Safe Regional Manager

What’s the difference between Nature Safe and other organic fertilizers such as Sustane and Milorganite? There are many differences between them, but many, such as higher protein content, are difficult to quantify in terms the user understands. The adjacent comparison of amino acid profiles will help you to understand this.

In any organic fertilizer, the slow release nitrogen comes from proteins, which are made up of amino acids. Therefore, the more amino acids in an organic fertilizer, the more slow release nitrogen it can provide. The numbers listed on the comparison page are all percentages. The totals on the bottom of each column are for the amino acids only. As you can see, Nature Safe contains nearly five times more amino acids than Sustane and twice as many as Milorganite. It should be noted that the reason Milorganite shows up as good as it does is that it contains no potash. Potash contains no amino acids, so if you add it to an organic product like Nature Safe 10-2-8, the percentage of amino acids in the end product is lowered. If we did not put potash into 10-2-8, it would test out at 80% amino acids, and if Milorganite were to add potash to their product, it would drop to about 20% amino acids.

An amino acid profile only can tell us how much slow release nitrogen is in a particular product. It does not address the nitrogen availability. Availability is a function of how easily the soil microbes can digest the proteins contained in an organic fertilizer. We know that all of the proteins in Nature Safe are very digestible. However, the proteins in Milorganite, due to the high heat process used, become very difficult for the soil microbes to digest. Dr. Wayne Kussow, University of Wisconsin has reported he could only get 47% of the nitrogen in Milorganite to release.

The ash contained in organic fertilizers has been implicated in the plugging of pore spaces in the soil and the reduction of infiltration rates. Some ash is unavoidable (ash represents everything that is not organic, so potash and other minerals are part of this), but you will notice that Sustane is 45.54% ash, nearly double the amount contained in Nature Safe. Since the Sustane is a 5-2-4 and Nature Safe is a 10-2-8, twice as much Sustane is needed to apply the same amount of nitrogen. That means you would be applying nearly four times as much ash with Sustane in order to apply the same amount of nitrogen per unit area. That certainly should be cause for concern.

This comparison is a great way to explain how Nature Safe is different than a composted or a sludge product while emphasizing the fertility value Nature Safe has to offer. If you have further questions concerning this information, please contact your Nature Safe Professional.

Posted in All, Fertilizer Costs |

Nature Safe From Grow-In To Everyday Maintenances

by Natural Choice Editor

Let’s go back to the beginning. You know, just after the Pans and Dozers are gone and final preparations are being made to the soil before seeding. In most construction situations, the soil’s quality is reduced and microbial populations are significantly diminished. Over time, the soil can be improved and the microbial populations re-established. But wait! There is no Time! Management companies and golf course owners want to recoup their investments as soon as possible. Once seeding is complete, it is a mad dash to get the first golfer on the course. So what do we do? We try to build greens and tees out of sterile sand. A superintendent’s solution to this problem is to use massive doses of synthetic fertilizers.

Superintendents work off the premise that you should give the plant what it needs to grow. No thought is ever given to the soil and what it needs. If the soil was in balance, it could hold and process more of the nutrients being applied. This would result in less leaching and reduced chemical usage. Are synthetics the answer? Synthetics may deliver the nitrogen a plant needs, but at what expense to the total rhizosphere? Research shows that synthetics will actually reduce the microbial populations and can leach. So what other options are out there for turf managers?

This is where Nature Safe fits, from grow-in to regular golf course maintenance. Nature Safe is set apart from other fertilizers because it will re-establish the balance of nutrients in the soil. Nature Safe feeds and increases the microbial populations. If you take care of your soil, it will take care of your turf. A balanced soil will produce and process its own nutrients. Today’s turf manager spends too much time thinking about what the turf needs and not enough on the soil. Sand greens can present the biggest challenge. With constant applications, spaced three weeks apart or less, Nature Safe will help improve sand soils.

Nature Safe provides much more than just N-P-K for your turf. Our fertilizers provide the following minerals and vitamins for improved soil and turf health: Amino Acids in Protein form Calcium, Carbohydrates, Carbon, Humus, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, Biotin, Choline, Thiamine, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid and Niacin.

All of these vitamins and minerals enhance the biostimulant properties of Nature Safe. Each are used for different metabolic processes within the plant. These include chlorophyll production, cell division, respiration, transpiration and reproduction. No other organic or synthetic fertilizer has this kind of package that addresses both plant and soil needs. This is why Nature Safe is the best nutritional product on the market.

Posted in All, General |

Evaluation Of Fungicides, Wetting Agents And Microbial Based Products For Control Of Fairy Ring And Localized Dry Spot Caused By Bovista Plumbea And Agrocybe Pediades

Research completed by Wendy Gelernter, Ph.D. and Larry J. Stowell, Ph. D. through PACE Consulting

Recently, Nature Safe worked with Plant Health Care on a study to evaluate different products on fairy ring control and dry spot. The research was performed at Dove Canyon Country Club in California. The following is the research summary along with the results concerning Nature Safe.

Summary: A study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of fungicides, wetting agents and biological control products, when applied curatively, for the management of fairy ring and localized dry spot. Results included symptoms of fairy ring that were observed during this trial included localized dry spot and the presence of puffballs (Bovista plumbea) and mushrooms (Agrocybe pediades). The presence of mushrooms or puffballs tended to occur in those plots where symptoms of localized dry spot were the most severe.

The best performing products included Heritage plus Primer (with or without post-application irrigation), ProStar plus Primer, Nature Safe and Nature Safe plus Compete. These products all provided control that was commercially acceptable.

These findings demonstrate that nitrogen fertilization (in the form of the organic fertilizerNature Safe) is an important tool in alleviating the symptoms of fairy ring.

Materials and Methods: The research plots were located on bentgrass tees at Dove Canyon Country Club, Dove Canyon, CA. This location was selected based on consistent infestation with fairy ring fungi, including Bovista and Agrocybe. Plots measuring 5 feet by 10 feet were replicated three times in a randomized design. Nature Safe 8-3-5 was applied using a Gandy drop spreader, forming a 33-inch swath. Calibration to deliver 1 lb. of N/A (12.5 lbs. of product) resulted in a Gandy setting of 43. The accuracy of calibration was confirmed to be within 5% of the desired rate.

Treatments: Application dates and treatments tested were initiated on 6/8/98 (when symptoms first appeared). Nature Safe was applied on 6/8, 7/8 and 8/3. The combination of Nature Safe and Plant Health Care’s Compete had Nature Safe applied on 6/8, 7/8 and 8/3 and Compete applied every two weeks starting on 6/8.

Evaluations were made every two weeks from 6/8-9/9. Percent of dry spot damage was calculated visually, while in the case of Agrocybe and Bovista, fruiting bodies were counted.

Results: Mean % Dry Spot Damage

(4 dates)Mean # Bovista Puffballs

(2 dates)Nature Safe3.30.4Nature Safe + Compete2.82.0 Control Plot9.61.4

The organic nitrogen fertilizer, Nature Safe (applied either by itself or in combination with Compete, a microbial based rhizosphere inoculant), resulted in high quality turf that had significantly reduced dry spot symptoms, as compared to the non-treated check. The data indicated that Nature Safe, and possibly other nitrogen fertilizers can be used to mask the symptoms of fairy ring/LDS by promoting the growth of healthy turf. Alternatively, it is possible that the organic fertilizer stimulated the growth of beneficial microorganisms that helped reduce pathogenic microbe populations responsible for fairy ring/dry spot symptoms.

Posted in All, Disease Suppression |

Grow-Ins On Sand Greens

By Steve Thomas, Nature Safe Specialty Products Manager

This past year we have had a few customer complaints regarding the use of Nature Safe on 100% sand greens. The USGA green section is on occasion recommending 100% sand on grow-in construction greens. I am very sorry to see this happening because without organic matter present, it is very difficult to establish a healthy microbial population in the soil. An established and prolific microbial population will help maintain soil and plant health and vigor.

Why are we having these complaints? Superintendents are using good logic and attempting to compensate for the lack of organic matter in their sand greens. That is why they are selecting an organic fertilizer such as Nature Safe. The problem comes when your organic begins to breakdown. The first product released is ammonia. In normal soil conditions, we have organic matter, which will provide sufficient cation exchange capacity to retain the ammonia until it can be utilized. Without the organic matter the ammonia is released as a volatile gas and will escape into the atmosphere. This problem will occur with any organic and also any synthetic in which nitrogen is converted to ammonia. We strongly recommend the incorporation of at least 10% organic matter in your new construction greens. This will allow for a much healthier soil and plant environment for the initial grow-in as well as after the turf is established. Microorganisms do not thrive in sand; therefore, they will not establish themselves and provide the benefits to the turf as in normal soil conditions. Imagine if you were in the desert with no food, shelter or protection. You would not fare well, either. This is exactly what a microorganism will encounter in a 100% sand environment.

If you have already made the commitment to 100% sand, then I would recommend a soluble program of nutrition along with small amounts of Nature Safe 5-6-6 initially until you can develop some organic matter in your soils. Nature Safe 5-6-6- contains humus, which has a high cation exchange capacity and will aid in retaining available nutrients against leaching. It usually takes at least a year to establish a microbial population. Applying organic matter will help you increase holding capacity in the sand, which normally has very little. We are currently developing a soluble organic fertilizer that we hope to have available in 1999. This will allow you to add organic matter in a soluble form. As we learn more about this hydroponic growing condition, we will keep you informed.

Posted in All, General |

Audubon Certification

by Rick Geise, Nature Safe Brand Manager

In an unprecedented accomplishment in the turf industry, Griffin Industries has achieved full Audubon certification of all of its Nature Safe operations as well as a number of other plant locations. To date, there are only 11 business properties certified under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Business and over half of these locations are Griffin facilities. Griffin has always believed that environmental stewardship is simply “good business”.

So what does this mean? For starters, the public relations opportunities within the turf industry are tremendous. As you know, ACSP enjoys the membership of over 2,000 golf courses with well over 100 of these being fully certified. Obviously, with today’s environmental pressures, there are a lot of superintendents searching for information and solutions in handling their environmental and turf management challenges. By walking the walk, Nature Safe is creating a paradigm shift within the turf industry. Currently, surveys have shown that many superintendents accept their role as environmental stewards. However, they typically point outthat there’s a cost to being environmentally conscious. That cost is both in dollars spent forenvironmentally sensitive products as well as the belief that their course cannot be maintained atthe same level with those products.

That’s all about to change. With Nature Safe, we bring to market the most nutrition oriented fertility products available. The success we’ve enjoyed isn’t a mystery, it’s no different than the principles you learned in your 9th grade health class. We believe that a nutritional foundation using Nature Safe will improve the effectiveness of your customer’s overall IPM program. Just like when you eat right and exercise you feel and look healthier. Why should turf be any different!? What’s even more exciting, the benefits are in fact cumulative. Back to our health class analogy, eat right and exercise for a year or more and you’ll really see a difference. That difference in turf is actually putting you more in control of your turf. Improve your ability to manage water, disease and fertility more effectively. And with improved effectiveness comes not only improved results, but also cost savings.

Posted in All, Environmental |

What Differentiates Griffin Industries And Nature Safe From Other Fertilizer Companies In The Turf Industry?

by Natural Choice Editor

Nature Safe’s protein ingredients are manufactured by Griffin Industries. Griffin is the feed industry leader in technological and processing innovations, producing the highest quality proteins in the world. Proteins are represented by nitrogen in fertilization terms. Nature Safe is a result of taking decades of knowledge of how to optimize animal nutrition and correlated that knowledge to soil and plant health.

In 1943, the company was founded as Griffin Fertilizer. The movement to animal nutrition was a result of the agricultural industry’s increased dependence on chemical solutions. Chemicals were used because of price and people believed N-P-K fulfilled a plant’s needs. As more research has been done, we are finding there are many other minerals and nutrients needed to aid in the health and fertility in turf. Add this to the environmental concerns continually facing today’s turfgrass manager, and it is easy to see why organic fertilizers are making a comeback.

If we never sold a bag of Nature Safe, Griffin would sell all of its finished goods (Nature Safe’s ingredients) to integrated feed manufacturers. These include feed manufacturers for dairy, swine, poultry and aquaculture, and pet food manufacturers. Griffin sells to 9 of the top 10 pet food companies in the United States. More than likely if you have a dog or cat, you are feeding them derivatives of Nature Safe. Currently, Nature Safe accounts for 1% of Griffin’s sales. However, the product line has huge growth potential that will enable Nature Safe to play a critical role in Griffin’s product profile into the next century.

Griffin uses only the highest quality ingredients that we produce (not the waste by-products) and formulates Nature Safe with an emphasis on optimizing soil and plant nutrition. Nature Safe is more closely similar to dog food, while the traditional organic fertilizer is more like dog doo-doo! Which has more energy?

Griffin’s unparalleled commitment to quality control and research in all of its products. Griffin products undergo very high standards of quality control. All of our plants have labs to test every load of product that leaves our facilities. In animal nutrition, not only are there customer specifications, but also FDA regulations that have to be met. This guarantees that Nature Safe will have the best ingredients. Our commitment does not stop there, however. We are continually working with some of the best universities and researchers found in the United States and Canada. Not only do we say we have the best product in Nature Safe, we want to verify this through research and strive for continuous improvement.

Griffin Industries and Audubon International stand for environmental stewardship. Audubon International promotes environmental stewardship through its Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Griffin has certified many of its locations through the Audubon program, including our Nature Safe production facility and our corporate office. We are proud to say that maintaining and protecting the environment has always been at the forefront of the Griffin philosophy. We have a simple belief that conserving resources is good business and are excited to position Nature Safe as a “solution” for turf and environmental challenges.

We believe Nature Safe is the natural choice for optimum soil and plant nutrition.

Posted in All, General |

Dormant Feeding – Why Is It Important

by Natural Choice Editor

The late fall fairway fertilizer application – dormant feed – is by far the most important application of the year. A Nature Safe fertilizer application put down now will show better results next spring than any other product on the market today. When spring rolls around, the turf will have greened up earlier, it will be denser and healthier. This will result in an earlier sales start, make sales presentations easier, and give you a much better closing rate. All of this can happen if you do a little sales strategy now! First of all, Nature Safe is better than other traditionally used synthetic products (i.e. IBDU). Here’s why we recommend putting down 8-3-5 at a rate of 1.0 lb. of nitrogen as a dormant feed.

The reason Nature Safe is a better dormant fertilizer goes back to its basic makeup. Nature Safe is a protein and carbohydrate based fertilizer. That means that along with the N, P and K, the customer is getting an energy source, carbon, to feed the soil microorganisms. Nature Safe is broken down into available nutrients through microbial activity. Because of this Nature Safe does not leach. Through the winter, the top growth of the plant will be dormant; however, the roots will still be feeding and developing. Microorganisms will remain active for most of the winter as well. Chemical fertilizers will leach under certain winter and spring conditions. Nature Safe is available to evenly feed the plant during the on and off weather feeding periods resulting in positive microbial community changes. Chemical fertilizers do not offer an energy source to the soil microbes. These microbes have been in the soil but have not had the proper food source to wake them up. Another factor is release of ammonia and nitrate nitrogen. Chemical fertilizers release the ammonia and nitrate very quickly, much too quickly for the plant to utilize. The positive charged ammonia converts to negative charged nitrate, which is readily leached through the soil system in chemical fertilizers. With Nature Safe, ammonia is initially released after the product is applied and then converted to nitrate over several days. This is why it will take a few days before Nature Safe appears to be working. The slower process results in a more controlled release of nitrogen for the plant, ensuring maximum efficiency by the plant to uptake nutrients.

Nature Safe will improve turf density and health through dormant feeding. Nature Safe will build up the natural soil microorganisms that promote better root development for winter stress tolerance. You will find turf density to be much better due to this application. It will enhance the effective control of snow mold fungicides thereby improving your overall winter disease management program. Nature Safe can improve fungicide performance when used together.

Posted in All, Dormant Feed & Overseed |

Fall Aeration

by Natural Choice Editor

The fall transition period of the year, when growing conditions have improved over summer heat, is the best time that turf grass can utilize nutrition applications. At this time of year, one pound or more rates of nitrogen can be safely applied. Current soil samples should be analyzed and the proper amendments added. Examples of amendments would be lime or sulfur which would not have any detrimental effect in the release of protein type nitrogen. Often during summer stress periods, as much as 85% of the total root mass is lost. Now is the time to grow and strengthen the root system to prepare it for dormant feed in 2-3 months. Aerification along with this increase in fertilization is the key to rebuilding roots.

According to Dr. George Lazarovits, who has been researching Nature Safe fertilizers for the last two years, “the more soil to fertilizer contact there is, the more microbial activity there will be.” Aerification offers an excellent opportunity to apply Nature Safe, and by dragging the fertilizer into the holes with the topdressing, you are stimulating microbial activity throughout the top several inches of soil. It is the microbial activity that utilizes the carbon in the proteins for energy, and also the microbes are stimulated by the sugars and starches. Due to the fact that there is a large energy source available (a pound or more of protein type of nitrogen), this increased microbial activity will help to break down substrates which have developed over the summer and enhance the development of the rhizosphere.

In Dr. Lazarovits’ most recent research, he has found that Nature Safe significantly increased the total bacterial populations. He took measurements at three different levels 0-1 cm, 1-2- cm, and 2-6 cm. He applied Nature Safe and a urea based product in 2, 4 and 8 pound rates. In the top layer, Nature Safe, especially at the 4 pound rate, increased microbial populations over 10-fold. Urea based showed some increase, but not nearly as much as Nature Safe. At the lower levels, the amounts dropped. Neither product impacted the populations very much at the lower levels. Aerification is the way to stimulate microbial activity in the lower levels. The more Nature Safe that is incorporated into the soil, the more the microbial populations are increased, which in turn will benefit root growth.

There is one Nature Safe fertilizer that I recommend at this time of year during aeration – - our 5-6-6 Starter fertilizer. The nitrogen sources are fish meal, poultry meal and meat meal. These are all fairly quick release nitrogen sources to quickly heal the aerified green. The phosphorus source is steam cooked bone meal (calcium phosphate) which is not tied up in the soil. The potassium source is from sulfate of potash magnesia (langbeinite) which is the most available source. Along with that we add additional humus and carbohydrates. This is a proven product that will give you excellent root growth and rejuvenation time and time again.

If there is one general philosophy worth mentioning, it would be that the success or failure of your turf next spring will not be due to the spring fertilizer application, but from the preparations you started this fall with aerification, fertilization, amendments and dormant feed.

Posted in Aeration, All |

Soil Organisms and Their Role in Plant Health

From Soil Organisms and Their Role in Healthy Turf, written by Elaine R. Ingham, Ph.D., Oregon State University, featured in Turfgrass Trends, August 1998.

There are some basic assumptions about growing plants by which turf managers and farmers alike have operated. We first assumed that plant nutrition is a relatively easy process. That if we add chemicals at the right time, the right place and in the right amount, we can supply all the nutrients plants require and at the rates plants require them. However, we were wrong. Our second assumption was that we understood plant nutrition well enough to supply these needs. We know now that plants are much more complex than we originally thought.

We had presumed that plant growth requirements were placing just enough nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for the whole of a plant’s growth in the soil at one or a few times. We had forgotten that plants require many other nutrients throughout their growth cycle. Before we decided that we had plant nutrition figured out, plants thrived without our help for millions of years. We started selectively breeding plants for more color, more fruit, bigger and more abundant flowers, etc. for our benefit. Plant physiology and plant nutrition did not change through this process.

Plants obtain almost all of their nutrients through the help of beneficial organisms working in the soil around the plant’s roots. This is referred to as the “soil foodweb.” These organisms are beneficial by supplying nutrients in plant-ready form, retain nutrients in the soil and not allowing them to leach, compete with, inhibit and consume disease causing and plant parasitic organisms, decompose plant residue, toxic materials and pollutants that kill plant roots, form soil aggregates that improve water infiltration, root penetration and the water-holding capacity of soil and improve plant quality and increase the nutritional and aesthetic value of plants through the above listed benefits.

So what are beneficial organisms? This group is comprised of certain bacteria, fungi, root-feeding nematodes and arthropod herbivores. Fixing bacteria and fungi immobilize nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium and other soil nutrients in their own biomass. Once nutrients are immobilized, they are transferred into plant-available forms through the process of mineralization. This allows the plants to take in these nutrients at the time and place they need it. All of these compete with pathogens for food. In doing this they either inhibit or kill off the pathogens, lessening the potential for plant injury caused by diseases. Also, the beneficial organisms influence soil structure by helping to produce soil aggregates, soil pores and channels. These aid in root penetration and water infiltration.

If the beneficial organisms are killed, we lose these benefits. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers (with a high salt index) can directly impact their populations. Generally, all organisms, beneficial or pathogenic are affected. However, there are some basic differences in their makeup which can hurt the beneficial organisms even more. Pathogens tend to have short life cycles (they usually kill their hosts), produce many offspring (increased odds at finding a host) and have a wide genetic variability (so a response to a change in the host’s defenses can be overcome). Pathogens can adapt quickly to their environments and can develop a resistance to chemicals. On the other hand, beneficial organisms don’t work the same way. They have long, complex life cycles, have fewer offspring to compete for food and the habitats they prefer get divided among other competing organisms. They need time to recover from chemicals. There defense is to compete. When pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used in small amounts with applications spread out, they are not very detrimental. Beneficial organisms require time to return and control pathogens.

We also need to understand the effects of cultivation on the soil. Every time the soil is disturbed during cultivation, some of the soil aggregates are broken allowing for organic matter to mix. This allows for bacteria to predominate, as compared to fungi. This tends to drive the soil pH more alkaline. As bacteria dominate the major form of nitrogen will be nitrate due to the nitrifying bacteria. Nutrients will be pulled from the soil by the turf not being replaced. This will start to reduce the bacterial populations. With reduced numbers of fungi and bacteria, the cycling of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, etc. drops. Traditionally, these nutrients are replaced by manures, organic fertilizers, and compost.

Once synthetic fertilizers became available, they were easier to spread and had more concentrated nitrogen. The response was reliable and everything seemed to go well for the plants and the microorganisms. However, we assumed that “if a little is good, more is better.” Fertilizers in high concentrations started killing the beneficial microorganisms due to salt content. Salt removes water from a microorganism causing death. Once synthetics were increased and natural fertilizers were decreased, there was a downward spiral in soil health. Organic matter decreased and all populations of all beneficial organisms began to decline. Our dependency on synthetics increased. The more fertilizer used, the more beneficial, pest suppressive organisms died and damage to plants increased.

Next came quick fix petroleum-based pesticides. These helped control insect pests, fungal diseases and weeds. However, we don’t know what the long term effects of these products are on the soil. We do know these products stay in the soil, so pesticide resistance can develop in the pathogens. Natural biological control was lost due to these applications. Beneficials were killed off along with pathogens. Next, methyl bromide came along. Through continued applications of methyl bromide on crops and plants, there are now resistant strains of fungal diseases, nematodes and insects. Methyl bromide totally wipes out the soil foodweb. There are no beneficial organisms left in the soil to retain nutrients. Excess fertilizer cannot be retained in the soil causing yet another problem with leaching into the groundwater.

How can we get soil health back and reestablish the soil foodweb? Diversity in the food resources provides for a diversity in beneficial organisms. Use of organic materials is the easiest way to build up a population of beneficial organisms and to strengthen them. They naturally will compete with pathogens, and in most cases, will win. There may be times a chemical pesticide or fungicide may need to be used in moderation. We need to pay more attention to beneficial organisms in the soil and reduce our dependence on synthetic, short-lived solutions to turf health. When the foodweb is in balance, the plants will fully utilize nutrients available in the soil and ultimately, the plant will become the best it can be.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |

Nature Safe – Perfect for Summer Stress & Overseed

by Natural Choice Editor

In the United States this year, golf course superintendents have been put to the test with all kinds of weather extremes. Mother Nature has reeked havoc in Florida and Texas with unbelievable heat and drought, tremendous flooding in parts of the Midwest and warmer than normal temperatures throughout the country. Nature Safe products can help turfgrass through all these extremes.

Nature Safe will not leach or runoff and, with a low salt index, Nature Safe has an extremely low burn potential and is ideal for improving the turf quality, appearance and health of these areas. Nature Safe will put energy back into the turf and improve turf density, health and soil water retention as well as encouraging aggressive root development. These areas will be better equipped to deal with the conditions inherent to these problem areas.

This is also an excellent way to introduce your superintendent to using Nature Safe on fairways. Where Nature Safe is used on fairways, you will see improved appearance, improved health and less need for iron and other applications.

Nature Safe is also a natural for overseed, providing excellent seed establishment and a vigorous start to your overseed application. Nature Safe will also take care of your primary turf that is being stressed by the presence of the overseed. The overseed will use up much of the available energies and plant food in the soil that the primary turf would otherwise have access to. Nature Safe will enhance the health of your dominant turf during this stressful time and will not keep it from going dormant. This will become more evident in the spring when you transition from your overseed. Your dominant turf will have greater concentrations of energy and plant food that will allow it to aggressively put down roots and grow in the spring.

Applications
For bunker faces, steep slopes and mounds typically found in the fairway, use Nature Safe 10-2-8 at 3/4 lb. of N per application. Apply Nature Safe to these target areas as soon as possible. The turf in these areas is typically thin. Getting Nature Safe in the system now, will help halt the thinning and will encourage new rooting and improved turf density and appearance. Make another application in late fall or early winter as a dormant feed. Your next application would be in early summer after transition.

When overseeding, apply Nature Safe one week prior to overseed application. Use Nature Safe 10-2-8 or 8-3-5 at 1/2 lb.- 3/4 lb. of N per 1,000 sq. ft. This will help your overseed get established and provide the dominant turf with adequate energy and plant food as it deals with the stress of overseed. This will also allow it to go dormant with increased reserves that will aid in transition in the spring.

Posted in All, Dormant Feed & Overseed, Summer Stress |

How Green is Your Golf Course?

Reprinted from Cincinnati GCSA, by James T. Snow, National Director, USGA Green Section

The answer to the question depends on how you define the word “green,” but first, let me tell you what today’s politically correct answer should be. Today’s courses ought to be very green, yet not so very green, both at the same time! Confused? Let’s look at a couple of definitions of the word green, and perhaps the previous statements will become more clear.

First of all, environmentalists use the word green to identify organizations, people, corporations, policies, etc., as being environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, few of these environmental people or groups use the word green when referring to golf courses.

On the other hand, golfers and others refer to the color of their golf courses as being green. Sometimes they refer to their courses as being lush green, a comment that suggests turf of a very green color and density, and one that requires a high degree of pampering.

Actually, the term lush green makes me cringe. It makes me think of turf that receives too much water and fertilizer, primarily for the sake of appearance. It suggests turf that is pretty to look at but that is weak , poorly rooted, susceptible to diseases and insects, and likely to keel over at the first sign of hot weather.

It also suggests turf that is of poor playing quality, characterized by lack of firmness and susceptibility to plugging and large divots. This type of turf requires frequent watering and regular applications of fertilizer and pesticides to keep it going. It’s bad for the playing of the game of golf, and it’s bad for the environment. Having seen the two perspectives on the word green, can you see how it is advantageous to have a golf course that is both very green (environmentally) and not so very green (lush)?

There are very few people who keep track of what’s going on in the world of golf who don’t realize the importance of environmental issues as they relate to the future of the game of golf. Simply put, issues relating to water use, potential pollution from fertilizer and pesticide use, loss of threatened species and natural habitat, and effects of golf course on wildlife all threaten to stall the development of new golf facilities and severely affect the quality of existing facilities.

Many people also realize that the game of golf has responded to these important issues in many different ways. For example, the USGA has spent more than $16 million over the past 15 years on research to develop new grasses for golf that use less water and require less pesticide use, and to investigate the effects of golf course activities on the environment.

The Golf Course Superintendent Association of America has instituted a variety of environmental educational programs for its members, and other organizations have responded with educational publications and programs. Not enough people realize, however, that everyone needs to play a part in resolving golf’s environmental issues if the game is to continue to flourish. Golf Course Superintendents are the most important people in the game of golf when it comes to putting the environmental green into the game, and whereas many superintendents have responded in an admirable fashion, too many others have not.

In my opinion, an ideal program has been established to assist every golf course to do good things for the environment and, in the process, to do good things for the game of golf – the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Administered by Audubon International and funded by the USGA, the program can help educate superintendents, course officials, and golfers about the issues, and at the same time can make the public more aware of the environmentally responsible activities of golf courses.

I’m pleased to say that over 2600 golf courses have signed up to be on the program. It’s exciting to see how hundreds of these courses have enthusiastically developed and implemented conservation programs, and that many have become certified in one or more of six different categories established by Audubon International.

Yet I’m concerned about the many courses that are not doing their share for golf and environment. Too many courses maintain the lush green look that compromises turf playing and suggest to those outside the game of golf that golf courses are environmentally irresponsible.

Superintendents must work to take the lush out of the game, and course officials must lend their support by rejecting the heavy-handed use of water, fertilizer and pesticides required to obtain that extra degree of dark green color.

So what can you do? Begin by committing your golf course to an environmentally green maintenance program. Participate in environmental education programs to begin to think with an environmental mindset. Develop a written set of Best Management Practices, and establish an IPM program for your course.

If you have not done so already, join the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, and follow through with their advice and recommendations. Convince neighboring courses to participate as well. For information about the program, call Audubon International at (518) 767-9051.

Do your part. Let’s make sure golf is (environmentally) GREEN.

Posted in All, Environmental |

Educated Buyers Will Make Educated Purchases

by Jon V. Knorr, Executive Director, Audubon International

Anytime you establish a goal, it is important to think about the journey toward reaching that goal. When the goal is to sell a product or service, it is important to learn why your prospective buyers need that product or service. This is the journey toward that sale. Buyers of products and services must be educated so they make good purchasing decisions. When it comes to selling an organic fertilizer, your buyers must be well educated about the environment and what being a good steward really means to them and their respective customers. Learning about the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program is a good start. However, before you can teach others about this topic you must first be willing to learn about yourself.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program has three sections that members can participate in. First, as a member, you receive twelve publications per year that will educate you in topics such as wildlife conservation and water quality management. There are case studies about members who have done outstanding projects for the environment. the program addresses problems that may arise with either golfers or wildlife. The point is that as a member, you receive a lot of good information.

Second, you have access to the professional staff at Audubon’s office anytime you have a question or comment regarding environmental, programmatic or conservation issues. The staff will do their best to have an answer for you right on the spot. If they do not have one immediately, they will research to get you an answer as soon as possible.

Finally, you can take all this information and turn it into action by participating in the certification process. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program is a volunteer membership program which is truly the essence of what we do. The program is a five-step process that takes most golf courses one to three years to complete. It includes categories in resource inventory and environmental planning, water quality, wildlife habitat management, water conservation and out reach and education. When a course completes all five categories, they are granted the title of “A Fully Certified Golf Course.”

Knowing a lot of information is exchanged with members who participate within this program, it is a safe bet they are highly educated on the topic of environmental conservation and stewardship. The result will be people making good buying decisions as they relate to the environment. This will customers who want their businesses to stand head and shoulders above the rest as they relate to environmental conservation and community perception. They will think very seriously about purchasing products such as Nature Safe. Remember that an educated buyer will make more educated purchases.

Posted in All, Environmental |

The Relationship Between Carbon and Microorganisms

by Steve Thomas, Specialty Products Manager

Carbon is the element essential for all living organisms. Plants require Carbon for life processes (such as photosynthesis), for cell generation and for structure. Where does this Carbon come from? Our atmosphere is made up of 0.03% CO2, a compound needed for photosynthesis to occur.The rest of the Carbon comes through the help of microorganisms.

Microorganisms breakdown organic compounds into Carbon and other compounds in a process called biodegration. Plant parts, grass roots, rhizomes, stolons, organic fertilizer, animal tissues and excreta, organic soil amendments and other microbial cells are all broken down by microorganisms to form humus. The major function of microorganisms is to degrade organic matter and transform Carbon to form CO2 for photosynthesis. During biodegration, microorganisms obtain energy for growth and supply Carbon for generation of new cells. Microorganisms contain over 50% Carbon. Anywhere from 20-40% of this decomposed Carbon is used by the microbe itself, while the rest is released as CO2 into the atmosphere.

Microorganisms assimilate Carbon into their cells along with other nutrients.These mineral nutrients are held unavailable to the plant until the microbe dies. This is called immobilization. Once a microbe dies, these nutrients, including Carbon, are made available throughmineralization. In this step the conversion of inorganic to organic is made. To utilize this Carbon, Nitrogen is required. Nitrogen is essential for microbial growth and for organic matter decomposition. This is why it is so important to know how the amount of Carbon compares to the amount of Nitrogen (C:N ration). All types of organic matter have C:N ratio. For microorganisms, this ratio is 10:1. When the ratio is this low, Nitrogen is readily available and will result in rapid decomposition. For matter such as straw, which has a 100:1 ratio, Nitrogen is very low. Decomposition will take a long time and additional fertilizer may be needed to be added to help facilitate microbial activity. Nitrogen can come from organic fertilizer, nitrogen fixing bacteria and Nitrogen reserves in the soil. If Nitrogen is not available, Carbon cannot be utilized and the organic matter will remain undecomposed. In humus, although the C:N ratio is low, there is a resistance toward rapid decomposition. The movement is slower and will take place over a longer period of time. This ultimately means that Nitrogen is stored for future use.

How does a microorganism utilize organic matter? Since microorganisms are made up of 50% Carbon, they require a continuing supply of this element to survive. Microorganisms can be classified into two group according to how they obtain energy: Autotrophs or heterotrophs. Autotrophic organisms derive energy from sunlight or from oxidation of inorganic compounds to convert CO2 to Carbon for use. This is the premise behind photosynthesis in plants. Photosynthesis is the conversion of CO2 to Carbon in the presence of light to form O2 and glucose. O2 is a by-product released into the atmosphere and glucose is the plant’s energy source. Heterotrophic organisms require pre-existing sources of organic nutrients to provide Carbon and energy. Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and Actinomyces are all heterotrophic. They use energy sources such as cellulose, starch and sugars found in plant and animal tissues to obtain Carbon. Cellulose is a polymer of glucose which is made up of many long molecular strands joined together. Proteins are built by joining amino acid units together. Microorganisms attack the links until they are broken down. This will liberate large amounts of soluble amino acids and glucose. Microorganisms are unable to digest cellulose and proteins, but thrive on glucose and amino acids. Some proteins are harder to break the links than others. They are known as Water Insoluble Organic Nitrogen (WION). These least digestible parts of plant and animal tissues undergoing slow decomposition accumulate in the soil. This mixture of wood, stem, leaves, animal remains make up a soft spongy brownish residue material called humus. Humus is important for improving soil texture, holding moisture and provides reserve storage for nutrients. Humus acts like a reservoir for soil microorganisms by storing water and nutrients until the microorganism needs it. Nature Safe uses humus as one of its fertilizer ingredients. Nature Safe promotes microbial activity to help facilitate biodegration within the rhizosphere of the plant and establishes the Carbon cycle. Nature Safe is like having the living and dying activity found in forest soils, in a bag.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, General |

How to Offset EPA Panic with Nature Safe Products

By Rick Geise, Nature Safe Brand Manager

The turf industry continues to raise the standards of environmental stewardship through the foresight of industry groups and leaders and through the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency. The GCSAA, Audubon International and the USGA all emphasize the role of turf managers in environmental stewardship. The EPA mandates changes in what products can be used in our industry both on a national and local level. The newest change nationally is the reduction of older chemical products with high toxicity levels. As these products come up for re-registration, the EPA is, often times, eliminating them. On local levels, the EPA is restricting use of certain products (i.e. nematode control products in Florida, chicken manure products around the Chesapeake Bay). However, the EPA is speeding up the registration process with environmentally friendly products. These products have low toxicity levels, are safe to the applicator and offer excellent control. What are these products? Extracts from soil borne microbes (biologicals) and Nature Safe. The EPA has based its decisions on newer testing standards that keep environmental stewardship as their main concern. Because of product elimination or restrictions, many turf managers are panicking. For most of these managers, these older chemical products have been the foundation for their spray programs. This is where your education and knowledge play a key role.

Nature Safe along with a strong IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program offers a great solution for the problems turf managers face. To understand this, it is important to keep in mind that the soil and turf grass are truly dependent on each other. The soil in itself is a biosphere, maintaining microbial populations and supporting the growth of plant life through nutrients andminerals found there. The theory behind most chemical applications is to “wipe” out problems, whether it be disease or insects. In essence, you break down the soil biosphere. Once chemicals are applied, the microbial populations in the soil are weakened in health and in numbers. Since some microbes have been eliminated, diseases and pests are not challenged. The turf’s health and natural resistance to pests and disease is impeded. We fertilize over and over to compensatefor this void. Suddenly one problem is fixed, but several others may surface. A viscous cycle is started. With Nature Safe, soil health is most important. Soil health correlates directly with plant health. Nature Safe builds up the soil and in turn builds up the turf. Microorganisms that flourish in the soil have defense mechanisms that can help inhibit growth of certain pests. By increasing microbial populations, Nature Safe creates its own fertilizer factory in the soil for turf. A healthy, stronger turf will handle stress conditions better and will build up resistance to disease and pests.

Listed below are some simple concepts that need to be communicated to your customers. By understanding the importance of these concepts, you will be successful in selling Nature Safe:

Nature Safe improves soil health which ultimately improves plant health. As Nature Safe is released in the soil, the product provides both the NPK the turf needs and the food energy the soil microbes need. As you feed the microbes, they provide the biological formula for reducing pest pressures. The more microbes in the soil, the better. University research has shown that Nature Safe has increased bacterial populations from 30 million cfu/g soil to 1 billion cfu/g soil.

Nature Safe requires a program selling approach. Nature Safe needs to be applied monthly during the growing season to maintain the food energy needs of the microbial population. The key benefits again will be stress and pest reduction.

Nature Safe is the foundation to good IPM. Nature Safe offers the biological benefits void in many turf programs. Nature Safe combined with sound cultural practices and wise spray programs offers the formula for success.

As Nature Safe distributors, we need to recognize that the EPA has created excellent sales opportunities for Nature Safe. The EPA surely has other products they will eliminate in the coming months. As a sales professional, you play the key role in keeping these turf managers aware of the solutions that are out there to counter this growing problem. Understanding the benefits and programs for biological based products like Nature Safe is vital.

Posted in All, Environmental |

Soil Microbiology & Plant Health: Is Carbon The Missing Link In Plant Nutrition?

by Natural Choice Editor

From the microbial point of view, soil is a nutritional desert. In contrast, soil adjacent to roots (the rhizosphere) is relatively nutrient rich because, depending on plant species, age and environmental conditions, as much as 40% of the carbon that is fixed in the leaves and moves into roots, is lost to the soil in the form of exuded materials, mucilage, shed cells or cell-wall material. It is not surprising, therefore, that the root zone harbors great microbial activity. Populations of bacteria and fungi in the rhizosphere are enormous, ranging from 106 – 1012 cells per gram of soil. These rhizosphere residents, once considered as passive bystanders of the root environment, are now known to affect plant health, development and environmental adaptation, both beneficially and detrimentally. Biological and metabolic activities in the root-soil interface are one of the most important factors controlling plant health and productivity.

The interactions between microorganisms and plants can be categorized into fourteen activities that impact on plant growth (Lynch, 1990). Of these, seven are beneficial to plant growth, five are neutral or variable depending on environmental or physical conditions, and only two (infection and phytotoxicity) are harmful. The loss of carbon to the root therefore is the manner by which plants lure beneficial agents. What is a beneficial organism? This is not that easy to determine but organisms such as Rhizobia, which fix nitrogen and mycorrhizae, which facilitate nutrient uptake, are clearly recognized. Less well known associations also illustrate the potential impact of plant-microbe associations on plant performance. Pasture grasses are colonized by endophytic fungi of the Acremonium spp. Plants colonized by the endophyte grow taller and faster, have higher levels of resistance to microbial pests, insects and herbivore foragers, and have much higher tolerance to drought and other environmental stresses. As a result, infected plants displace non-infected plants in natural settings. As the fungus is seed-borne, even the seeds are protected from predation. Unfortunately for grazing animals, the endophyte produces several toxins which when ingested cause disease known as ryegrass staggers. The fungus has become commercially utilized for improving the resistance of turf grasses to attack by soil insects as well as for enhancing survival of turf during drought-like conditions.

Increases in agricultural productivity in the coming decades will be derived mostly from a greater understanding of soil and its ecology. One can provide to soil all the nutrition needs of a plant but if the root system is diseased, the plant cannot take advantage of it. Soils which are depleted in their organic matter, also lose the diversity of microorganisms. Conventional fertilizers replenish NPK, but they fail to deliver carbon, the energy source needed to maintain a healthy and diverse soil microbial population. Plant pathogens are not great competitors in soil, but they are very good survivors, particularly in soils with low levels of microbial activity. Increases in disease pressure forces managers to use chemicals to control disease. This often brings about further reductions in populations of soil microorganisms. Such microbial “vacuums” can lead to a rebound in the pest population and greater losses than those originally targeted. Managers then become locked into a perpetual cycle of chemical usage. Chemicals will continue to be an indispensable component of plant protection but organic amendments offer a viable strategy that will reduce the frequency of, or perhaps even the need for, such crisis intervention.

Organic amendments, such as animal and green manures, were used traditionally by growers toenhance soil fertility and to manage soilborne pathogens. The use of organic products however, was forgotten in the chemical era. We have been studying how such products impact on the population of soil microorganisms, specifically those of indicator soilborne plant pathogens. Of the numerous products tested proteinaceous products derived from the animal processing industries such as Nature Safe, were found to be the most consistent in their effects for increasing soil microorganism populations while at the same time reducing the populations of a spectrum of plant pathogens including bacteria, fungi and nematode species. These products have excellent batch to batch consistency and quality. We have found that 1) organic amendments control a spectrum of diseases and pests in all kinds of cultivated settings, 2) organic amendments increase soil microorganism populations; these organism are a reservoir of nutrients, 3) reduced populations of disease causing organisms persists for several years following application and 4) microorganisms and soil characteristics are critical for reducing pathogen viability and make the effects soil specific.

We are currently testing how Nature Safe products impact the health of turf and agricultural ecosystems. An experiment utilizing a randomized block design with seven treatments replicated three times was set up at the Ohio State University in collaboration with Dr. Mike Boehm. Dr. Boehm monitored the turf diseases and vigor while we examined soil nutrient composition and microorganism populations. The results from these experiments are preliminary. Nature Safe provided excellent turf vigor. Microorganism populations in the rhizosphere were marginally higher than with other treatments, but the type of organisms recovered were very different than that found with other treatments. A large number of distinct bacteria and fungal species were found to become established in and on the root system of turf from organically treated plots. These organisms will be characterized as to biological activity in the coming months. Adding Nature Safe to a fine sandy loam soil from a potato farm at 1% (w/w) caused bacteria to increase by 24 fold within 48 hours after incorporation and by 76 hours, the increase was over 40 fold (from 50 million to 2.1 billion per g soil). At 0.1% w/w (8 lbs./per 1000 sq. ft.) bacteria levels increased by 6 fold by 48 hours. NPK fertilizer (15-15-18) at the equivalent rate slightly decreased bacteria numbers. the higher populations of bacteria in organically treated soils were maintained over a 40 day time period. The energy tied up in these microorganisms should beconsidered as a slow release fertilizer and as a biological buffer against attack by plant parasites.

Bacteria is isolated from the turf rhizosphere were tested for their effect on plant growth using a potato nodal explant bioassay. In this assay a bacterium species is applied to potato cuttings which are then grown in tissue culture (Lazarovits and Nowak, 1997). The assay identified both detrimental and beneficial organisms exist in the root zone. These organisms will be identified so that their populations can be tracked in soils following different treatments. Our objectives are to ensure that formulations produced by Nature Safe lead to optimal increases in population of beneficial microorganisms while decreasing those deemed inhibitory. We envision that one day custom organic amendments will be the primary method used by managers to sustain plant health in a multitude of diverse agroecosystems.

References:
Lynch, J.M. (Ed). 1990 The rhizosphere. John Wiley, Chichester U.K.
Lazarovits, G. and Nowak, J. 1997. Rhizobacteria for Improvement of plant growth and establishment. HortSci. 32:188-192.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |

Understanding the Rhizosphere

by Natural Choice Editor

Turfgrass management has traditionally focused on the quality and characteristics of the green plant shoot. In the several years, this focus has shifted to the root system. According to Dr. F. B Holl, a plant ecosystem can be compared to an iceberg, with the foundation composed of the root system. To avoid subsequent collapse of the ecosystem, the root system must remain strong. To do this, turfgrass managers need to understand the characteristics and benefits of the root zone, otherwise known as the rhizosphere.

What is the rhizosphere? The word rhizosphere is derived from Greek – rhiza meaning “root” and shaira meaning “world” or “globe” – thus, “root world.” The German scientist Hiltner is credited with first using the word to describe the volume of soil surrounding roots in which bacterial growth is stimulated. Rhizoshpere is now seen as the soil under the influence of plant roots. Rhizosphere is not used to refer to soil without vegetation of with soil that is outside the influence of a plant’s root system.

The rhizosphere is made up of plants, animals and microbes. The plant portion of the rhizosphererefers to the root system of a the plant. Roots provide several functions for the plant. Rootsanchor the turfgrass providing stability; they are the primary source for water and nutrientabsorption; a well-developed root system can reduce plant stress (especially in droughtconditions) and roots add to the organic matter found in the soil.

Animals found in the rhizosphere range from nematodes and protozoans to insects, earthworms and mammals, such as moles, mice or even squirrels. Microbes are represented by algae, fungi, Actinomycetes and bacteria. Animals and microbes either contribute to the vitality of the rhizosphere or to the detriment of the rhizosphere. Most fungi and bacteria are associated with different turfgrass diseases. But, there are always exceptions.

Mycorrhizal fungi are fungi which can penetrate into the root and develop a symbioticrelationship with the plant. The plant supplies the mycorrhizal fungi with Carbon and the fungi,with their massive network of mycelia, will extend the plant’s root system. Since surface area isincreased considerably, the fungi enable the plant to increase its water and nutrient uptake.According to Dr. Holl, this increase can be as much as ten fold.

Actinomycetes are bacteria which exhibit characteristics of both fungus and bacteria. Actinomycetes are important to the rhizosphere for their ability to degrade complex organic compounds such as cellulose and chitin. Actinomycetes also produce their own antibiotic which will inhibit or kill other microbes. This is significant to keeping the populations of the “bad”microbes down.

Bacteria are essential in the breakdown of organic matter into usable nutrients for the plant. Increased amounts of organic matter lead to increased bacterial populations which ultimately lead to more plant nutrients. All microbial populations require and energy source to thrive. Research done by Parent showed that supplementing with a fertilizer containing a carbohydrate (such as Nature Safe) will vastly improve the microbial populations with no apparent disproportionate stimulation of plant pathogens. Bacteria prefer simple sugar compounds for energy, such as what was used in this study, while pathogenic fungi prefer complex organic compounds for energy. Thus, bacterial populations thrive and through their ability to decompose organic matter and then later, through their demise, a beneficial nutrient cycle is implemented for the plant.

Posted in All, General |

The Nature Safe Philosophy

by Steve Thomas, Nature Safe Specialty Products Manager

Nothing is more important in turfgrass management than maintaining soil fertility. When the soil is in proper nutritional balance, we can greatly reduce the need to use synthetic products to correct our turfgrass problems. This was the basic concept used in creating Nature Safe’s Natural & Organic Fertilizer. Truly it is very important to maintain the correct ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. However, it is equally important to provide the other essential nutrients to the soil ecosystem. It is understood that all soils are not the same and have somewhat differing needs. One thing remains constant, the need to provide the soil microorganisms food sources to reproduce and thrive in a soil ecosystem. Nature Safe was developed to provide an ideal food source for the soil microorganisms. A soil microorganism is a living being very similar to you and I, which requires a balanced nutritional diet to thrive. The basic nutrients essential to the support of life are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and air. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium only fall into two of these seven categories – not quite a balanced diet.

In addition to providing a balanced diet for soil fertility, it is also important to be concerned with the delivery system. A banquet meal is very fulfilling for one setting. A banquet meal plus a refrigerator can mean food for a week. Most living organisms must consume food in regulated amounts. Excessive intake can cause stress and an unhealthy environment. This concept is true in human nutrition as well as soil nutrition. Organic fertilizers such as Nature Safe have a time release delivery system. As the microorganisms have needs for food they consume the organic materials and render it available for plant uptake. This is a very natural process which does not stress the plant or put the plant in an imbalance. In addition, it is also a very efficient delivery system. Food is not wasted; it is used only as the consumer needs it.

One might say synthetic products can provide a balanced diet and a controlled delivery system. This is only partially true. Try as we might even the greatest scientists cannot replicate Mother Nature. Natural and organic products work in balance with Nature. The main difference between synthetic and organic fertilizers is carbon. Carbon is the main microbial food source. Carbon comes from organic matter such as decaying roots, plant and animal tissue, other decaying microorganisms and organic fertilizers. Nature Safe is composed of animal and plant tissue which have been processed under controlled conditions to be available for microorganism availability. Processing these animal and plant tissues is very important. These materials have natural levels of resilience. Some take very long to breakdown, others become readily available. In order to manufacture an organic fertilizer which can be predictable and managed by a golf course superintendent, processing these organic tissues to a level which can be readily used by the microorganism is essential. Take for instance a feather. A feather as it comes from a chicken is made up of keratin, a type of protein. Keratin is very difficult to breakdown. Keratin would remain in the soil for months, maybe even years, before microorganisms could break it down into amino acids. Griffin Industries, Inc., the parent company of Nature Safe, is in the business of taking these types of animal proteins from the meat industry and processing them into highly digestible and available animal feeds. Using this technology, Nature Safe is able to process their raw materials to control the solubility of the end product; thus, creating an organic fertilizer with a predictable release. Griffin Industries’ quality assurance program guarantees all Nature Safe products using in-house facilities. Enzymes are added to the ingredients to measure digestibilities. In the laboratory, they can simulate how much a microorganism will attack the food sources in Nature Safe.

Organic fertilizers have historically been thought of as inconsistent and unpredictable. They are often in a form which is difficult to spread and hard to incorporate into the turf canopy. Nature Safe is not a by-product of an industrial or agricultural manufacturing process. In formulating our product, unique ingredients are selected which specifically contribute to the features and benefits. It is manufactured to be easy to spread and to incorporate into the turf. It is a product constructed with the golf course superintendent in mind. Using Nature Safe, the superintendent can be assured he is using a product which can put him in total control of his soil fertility and turfgrass management programs.

Posted in About Nutrients, All, General |

Did Somebody Say Audubon?

by Rick Geise, Nature Safe Brand Manager

Nature Safe is proud to announce our partnership with Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP). Audubon International (AI) is a non-profit environmental organization that promotes sustainability and biological diversity through natural resource management and wildlife habitat enhancement. ACSP educates turf managers to become actively involved in environmental stewardship by incorporating their principles into practice.

Nature Safe approached Audubon International to see how we can market Nature Safe to ACSP members. With over 2,200 golf courses currently AI approved, we saw a great sales opportunity. Audubon was very interested in Nature Safe for many reasons. Nature Safe is natural and organic, it improves soil and plant health, is disease suppressive, reduces water usage and does not leach.

To truly create a win/win situation with AI, Griffin Industries, manufacturer of Nature Safe, is now in the process of certifying all 23 of its plants with ACSP as “Cooperative Sanctuaries.” This task normally takes a golf course several years to accomplish, however, since we are a recycling company we will be able to do this much faster. By processing inedible animal products into high quality animal feeds and ingredients to formulate Nature Safe, Griffin Industries is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship.

Posted in All, Environmental |

Why Do Microbes Love Nature Safe?

by Natural Choice Editor

It is sometimes hard to understand why a product such as Nature Safe is so effective. Some turf products rely on chemicals, others use manures and some try to incorporate biologicals. None of these products provide your turf better results than Nature Safe. Nature Safe fertilizer is a product that builds a strong foundation of nutrients in your soil. Our fertilizers are based on nature. All the ingredients in our fertilizer are natural and organic. Our fertilizers contain a variety of organic meals, minerals, carbohydrates, humates and microorganisms to stimulate your soil and strengthen your turf. Of most importance, Nature Safe feeds the microbes in your soil.

On a golf course, our only view of a turf’s condition is through a plant’s features. Is it exhibiting good color, dying off, disease infested? Below the surface is a completely different picture. Billions of microorganisms live in the soil. There are bacteria, fungi, protozoan and a specialized group of bacteria called Actinomyces (exhibit characteristics of both bacteria and fungi). In a 1000 sq. ft area of soil, there are over 70 lbs. of microbes or 930+ billion microbes living. 1There are good bacteria such as Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Actinomyces, Flavobacterium, Azotobachter, Burkholderia and Azospirillium. These help in disease management, nitrogen fixation, sodium reduction, soil porosity and nematode suppression. Of course there are also bad microbes. Good soil condition is dependent on how well the good microbes can fend off the bad. Microorganisms which are healthy and strong, have defense mechanisms which can inhibit or kill off other microorganisms. To accelerate this process, soil nutrition is of utmost importance. Nature Safe provides the balanced nutrition microorganisms need.

If you are skeptical, you could say great, my microbes are happy, but what about my turf? Microbes are the key to improving your turf. The biggest contribution that microbes offer to your plants is through their demise! As microbes die off, they decay into the soil to provide the plant with a continuous reserve of nutrients. 100 lbs. of dead microorganisms will provide the soil with over 10 lbs. of nitrogen, 5 lbs. of phosphorus, 2 lbs. of potassium, .5 lb. of calcium, .5 lb. of magnesium and .3 lb. of sulfur. A biologically active soil is like having a mini fertilizer plant making 10-5-2 continually. Your soil condition directly correlates to your microbial condition. The more microbial activity in your soil, the more benefits your turf receives and the better it will be. Microbes and plants have other requirements than just carbohydrates. Water is essential for all life activities. Temperature is also important. In the winter, there is little or no microbial activity, your plants go dormant. As soon as the temperature warms up in spring, microbes will come to life. As soon as the microbes begin to die off, your turf comes to life.

In an industry where quick fixes have dominated the marketplace for years, Nature Safe’s philosophy is simple. Mother Nature knew what she was doing. So why not go back to the basics. Strengthen the foundation of your soil. In doing this, not only will your soil microbes be happy, you will see that your turf is happy and healthier, too!

1 Soil Conditions & Plant Health, Sir E. John Russell, 1950.

Posted in About Nutrients, All |
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