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.