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.