The following article was first published in the March 2010 issue of Colorado’s STMA newsletter and Rocky Mountain GCSA Spring Newsletter.

During a recent sales visit, Judd commented on the positive references in my sales presentation on the importance of the amino acid content in Nature Safe vs. “organic” competitors currently in the marketplace. Wanting to know more, he conducted some personal research. Take a few moments to read and understand Judd’s findings and how succinctly he shows the value of amino acids in his concluding paragraph.

It seems to be a hot topic that we need amino acids in the products that we apply to turf. I have even used the term amino acids to sell. This article explains the chain of life chronologically, where amino acids fit and why they are so important

First Link: Amino Acids

Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules that truly are the fundamental building blocks to all life. Think of amino acids as different shaped Lego’s® that when pieced together they form (miniature buildings) proteins.

There are over 100 amino acids that occur naturally; each of them differs in their side chain in chemistry. Twenty of them are involved in making up a protein in turfgrass, and are classified as whether they are non-essential or essential. Non-essential or dispensable amino acids are synthesized in the plant. They are alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, asparagine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Essential or indispensable amino acids cannot be synthesized in the plant and can only be obtained through soil nutrients. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Second Link: Proteins

A protein is a molecule composed of polymers of amino acids joined together by peptide bonds. It can be distinguished from fats and carbohydrates by containing nitrogen. Other components include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and sometimes phosphorus.

Proteins serve as building materials for growth and repair of tissues and also facilitate needed chemicals (enzymes) to regulate growth and life cycles. Proteins are like the mortar between the bricks of your home. Without protein molecules we would have a flaccid unconnected world. When a plant over produces Proteins one of its by-products are Glycogen, which is converted into a carbohydrate, and then used as an energy source.

Third Link: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are any of the group of organic compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually in the ratio of 1:2:1, hence the general formula: Cn (H2O) n. Examples include sugar, starch, cellulose and gums.

Carbohydrate molecules are essentially sugars used as food or fuel for the plant. We started with Amino Acids and have finally completed the chain which ends with carbohydrates that the plant actually consumes. There are varying forms of carbohydrates, but the importance is that they are the key element to all life as we know it!

Carbohydrates are produced in green plants by photosynthesis and serve as a major source of energy in animal diets. They also serve as structural components, such as cellulose in plants and chitin in some animals. Their derivatives play an essential role in the working process of the immune system, fertilization, pathogenesis, blood clotting and development.


Although the major importance of amino acids is in the formation of proteins, they can serve as a chelating agent for micro-nutrients. Amino Acids are also used as a base for certain herbicides. For example, the amino acid glycine with methyl phosphonate forms the herbicide glyphosate (Round-Up). Additionally, amino acids can be oxidized to urea and carbon dioxide as an energy source.

Since amino acids can be oxidized into urea, they are used as a nitrogen source in some turfgrass fertilizers. Amino acids can only be taken up by the plant as a single amino acid or peptide. Amino acids that are linked together like dipeptides (two amino acids) or larger peptides can’t be taken up by the plant directly. In organic fertilizers that contain sea kelp or other sources of protein that are not completely hydrolyzed, the plant depends on soil microbes to break down the protein for nitrogen utilization. The nitrogen is then mineralized and used by the turfgrass plant.

Since single amino acids can be taken up by the plant readily and partially hydrolyzed proteins (dipeptide or larger) are not available until microbial activity occurs, the analogies of “quick-release” and “slow-release” types of amino acids have been applied. On some fertilizer bags that contain amino acids, the terms “free” and “fixed” are used and are probably analogous to “quick” and “slow,” respectively. Amino acids are immobilized by coming in contact with surfaces with considerable electrical charge. In laboratory studies, amino acids are often fixed to charged membranes. In nature, amino acids can become fixed to soil particles like clay that have a charge.

Organic fertilizers like Nature Safe contain amino acids that are in the form of partially hydrolyzed proteins and have slow-release characteristics. A quick-release form of nitrogen may be needed or added to the product to get the initial nitrogen response. Single peptide amino acids can be applied and taken up by the turfgrass plant. However, their efficiency is still being studied.

I hope all this jargon didn’t bore you because all you really need to know is that Amino Acids are the (Lego’s) and they build Proteins, which acts like (Mortar) physically in the plant and nature, but when an over abundance of protein occurs we have a transition or creation of carbohydrates (food) that the plant consumes.

Amino Acids as a Sales Tool

During a sales presentation, Judd and I were able to convince our customer of these main differences when comparing Nature Safe to a 5-4-5 organic (chicken manure) fertilizer. Although, the competitor’s product is approximately $31 per bag compared to Nature Safe’s 10-2-8 at around $34 per bag!

Here’s the amino acid simple sales math: For this particular application, the customer would have to apply a total of 174 bags of 5-4-5 x $31 = $5,394 to deliver 1 lb of N per acre as compared to using Nature Safe 10-2-8 with 87 bags x $34 = $2,958 which means a Nature Safe savings of $2,436. Yes, those $avings are coupled with the fact that this customer will apply less salt and ash and have less odor in comparison to the competitor’s composted manure product. Research from Clemson University shows that Nature Safe’s 10-2-8 delivers double the 100% organic NPK value with about 11 times more than the com-

petitor’s amino acid content of 5.5% vs. 60.3% food value at half the cost.

Even more savings could be realized using Nature Safe’s 27-2-2 blended with UFLEXX™ which requires just three bags per acre to deliver the same 1 lb of N at less than $100.00 per acre application. The customer reported that “Nature Safe is a slam dunk winner” over composted manure product at approximately $3.00 less per bag but at 11 times less the nutrition value.

Sources Cited: Biology Online Dictionary. Web. 15 March 2010. Danneberger, Karl. “The Attributes of Amino Acids.” Golfdom. May 1, 2008