The typical Nature Safe recommendation for golf greens and tees is to apply one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet at spring aeration, followed by a half pound per month during the season and then another pound of nitrogen at fall aeration. That amounts to four and a half pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet per season. When that type of program is presented to a golf course superintendent his response is, “That’s too much N. I don’t apply more than two pounds of N to my greens for the entire year.”
The problem is trying to correlate organic nitrogen to synthetic nitrogen. There just is no accurate and consistent way to cross reference the two types of nitrogen. The synthetic forms of nitrogen are directly usable by the plant even if they are in a slow release form. High amounts of synthetic nitrogen would undoubtedly over stimulate the turf and cause problems if it were applied at the same rate as organic nitrogen. There would be problems with thatch, surge growth, diseases, slow putting speeds, etc.
On the other hand, when a pure organic fertilizer like Nature Safe is applied, the nitrogen is not directly available to the plants. Instead, it is food for the broad spectrum of soil microbes. These microbes consume the energy that is contained in the organic fertilizer and use it to increase their populations. Each microbe’s life span is about twenty minutes. As they die off the decomposition of their bodies releases nutrients in forms that are usable by the plant. They also release extra amounts of carbon dioxide that seeps to the surface and is used by the plants to make extra food in their photosynthetic process.
While it is wonderful that these microbes die for us to feed our plants, the things they do while they are alive are much more important. Soil microbes reduce thatch, build soil structure, reduce localized dry spots and suppress pathogens, including nematodes. The result for the plant is a fibrous root system that produces a thicker, denser turf with limited shoot growth. The healthier root system helps the plant to make better use of the nutrients and water. The low salt index from Nature Safe reduces the plants need for water and makes it more drought tolerant.
All of the microbial activities require energy and that energy is derived from the amino acids in Nature Safe. The amount of nitrogen being applied from Nature Safe is being used to feed the soil microorganisms that provide a healthy environment for the plants to flourish.
If four and a half pounds of synthetic nitrogen were applied to the same turf, all of it would either go to the plant or leach and do nothing to feed the soil microbes. That would result in unbalanced soil microbe populations that could lead to problems for the turf and produce excessive and perhaps disastrous growth.
The most important thing here is that Nature Safe must be applied regularly to keep the soil microbes well supplied with a rich supply of amino acids. What Nature Safe does is build a little fertilizer factory in the soil. Once this factory is stoked up and running efficiently it is possible to slowly reduce the inputs of energy while maintaining quality turf. This process usually takes a year or two to accomplish, but after that it is not unusual for a Nature Safe user to be able to start reducing the amount of fertilizer they are using, but not the frequency of application.
Forget about trying to compare the amounts of organic nitrogen that is being applied to the amount of synthetic nitrogen that might be used. The two are very different and cannot be accurately compared. The important thing is the results that can be achieved with Nature Safe. The best way to demonstrate these results is to commit one green or one tee to using Nature Safe at the recommended rate for the entire year. You will see the improved turf, the reduction in disease pressure and the limited shoot growth from using Nature Safe. Look at what a complete Nature Safe program can do for all your turf!