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.