As the art of greenskeeping has evolved into a science, professional turf managers are increasingly aware of what plants require for optimum health. This has led to attempts to tweak the system in order to get the maximum performance from the turf. Initially, we added certain amounts of the chemical elements that a plant requires. In recent years, this tweaking has moved into the realm of applying biological supplements to the turf for a myriad of reasons. Our industry has been all too happy to produce a bewildering array of these biological supplements that promise great things for the user’s turf. Some of the supplements include the following.
Amino acid supplements that apply a few ounces of a material containing 10% amino acids or less. One particular product claims to have only L-form amino acids instead of D-form amino acids. Once you get past the hype, you find out that almost all amino acids that are derived from plants or animals are the L- form and are very available to the plant. It then becomes apparent that their amino acids are not unusual, only expensive when you figure out how little amino acids is being applied. These supplements are supposed to be applied every two to three weeks.
Carbohydrate supplements such as molasses that are supposed to feed the microbial substrate. I have seen molasses applied through sprayers, injected into irrigation systems, and spread through a rotary spreader as dry sugar-like material. (A real mess!)
Humic acid supplements to increase nutrient and water holding capacity.
Biostimulant supplements containing vitamins and enzymes to stimulate growth and development in the plant.
Calcium and magnesium supplements that are supposed to be applied at the rate of two or three ounces per thousand square feet and contain less than 10% calcium. At that rate, they provide very little actual calcium to the plant.
There are many other products too numerous to mention. Most of these supplements do have some value. The problem is that the soil biological system is incredibly complex and when you alter one phase of it by adding a supplement, you may cause an imbalance that can throw the entire system out of whack.
Another factor to consider is the inconvenience and expense involved with adding all of these supplements. Most have to be sprayed every two to four weeks and they can be very costly. One company estimates that using its products on three acres of greens for five months will cost nearly $5,500. For that amount, the user will receive less than two pounds of actual Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf area. That means that some supplemental fertilizer will have to be purchased in order to meet the needs of the turf. This will increase the overall cost of the greens program beyond the original estimate of $5,500.
Now that we have examined the hype of some of the supplements on the market, lets look at the value of Nature Safe. Not only does Nature Safe provide a superior fertilizer; it also provides all of the same things found in the supplements, but in far greater amounts. If a turf manager were to apply 1/2 pound of Nitrogen per month from Nature Safe 8-3-5, he would be applying over 3 1/2 pounds of amino acids per 1,000 square feet per month (all in L-form). The amino acid supplement previously discussed is applied at roughly four ounces per month and contains 12% amino acids, for a grand total of less than 1/2 ounce of amino acids. Big difference, huh?
When using the 1/2 pound of Nitrogen per month in a Nature Safe 8-3-5 program, there is no need to add molasses and other carbohydrate supplements. We include simple sugars and starches to provide energy for the microorganisms during the initial stages of the degradation of the organic matter. Nature Safe also contains 3% calcium and 3% magnesium. That translates to three ounces of each element per 1,000 square feet as opposed to 1/3 ounce or less with the expensive supplement. Humic acid supplements are unnecessary when using Nature Safe because it contains humus to increase the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil and to enhance the uptake of phosphates and nutrients.
Biostimulants and microorganisms are in every bag of Nature Safe. It contains a microbial mixture of Bacillus, Flavobacterium, Saccharomyces, Penicillium, and a host of other beneficial microorganisms that are very beneficial in managing turfgrass diseases. Their main purpose is to stimulate the growth and development of the microbes that already exist in the soil. Biostimulants in the form of vitamins and enzymes round out the goodies that are found in Nature Safe. Again, they are part of the total package and do not need to be added as expensive supplements.
All of the individual components of Nature Safe are applied together at one time. That means that the chemical and biological systems in the soil are all kept in balance and healthy. It also means that the turf manager makes only one application per month rather than numerous applications of liquid supplements.
The most important thing to remember is the value of Nature Safe versus the supplements. If we go back to the example of three acres of greens used above, and substitute Nature Safe 8-3-5 Fine for all of the supplements, we find that our total cost for the year is about $3,000 as opposed to nearly $5,500 for the supplements (remember that the supplement program cost did not include all the fertilizer that would be required). It seems obvious that Nature Safe is the best value on the market when one compares apples to apples.