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