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.