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How enhanced-efficiency and controlled-release fertilizers can save time and money

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(Photo: Liudmila Chernetska / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)
(Photo: Liudmila Chernetska / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)
Rick Blasi
Rick Blasi

Controlled-release and enhanced-efficiency fertilizers aren’t new to the turfgrass industry. Even with 40-plus years of exposure, according to Rick Blasi, strategic account manager for Helena Products Group, lawn care operators (LCOs) still have plenty of questions about these products.

“‘How much does it cost? ‘How long will it last?’ ‘Will it give me a flush of growth?’” are just a few questions that Blasi hears from LCOs often.

Most LCOs will be at least somewhat familiar with controlled-, or slow-, release fertilizers, which commonly have a polymer coating, which aids in slowing the release of available nitrogen to the turfgrass plant.

Blasi and Product Manager Jason Gregory from Helena share what LCOs need to know to make controlled-release and enhanced-efficiency fertilizers a valuable tool in their toolbox.

What they do

The most obvious advantage that these types of fertilizers offer, Blasi says, is controlled turfgrass growth, as the name “controlled release” might suggest.

“We’re not trying to make hay,” he says. “We’re trying to avoid big flushes of growth. We want to even that out. A healthy turf is going to be fed more consistently. You don’t want to see large jumps in growth, because then you’ll be cutting off a lot of the turf when it’s mowed.”

In addition to slowed growth, leading to fewer mows, these fertilizers will promote healthy green turf or, in other words, enhanced efficiency.

“If (an LCO) gets a controlled-release fertilizer that is going to last through a six-to-eight-week period, you won’t see a drop off in color between applications,” Blasi says. “In the lawn care industry, obviously color is a big deal, so there are definite advantages in using a long-term slow-release fertilizer.”

Other advantages

Blasi says that another major reason for LCOs to utilize longer-term slow-release fertilizers is to save time. He explains that an LCO can apply the granular product in their first application of the year, and then not need to fertilize on their next stop at the property.

“They’ll go out in their second round and do a tickle of liquid nitrogen, it won’t be a big application, and then they can add in their broadleaf weed control and whatever else they need,” he says. “It gives you a lot of flexibility, whereas if it was all quick release, you’d probably be fertilizing again because it’s not going to last longer than two or three weeks.”

This, Gregory adds, can be a major time and money saver for an LCO versus a traditional quick-release fertilizer.

“When you look at how much it costs you, what you’re really getting out of it is a cost-per-unit (of nutrients) that is cheaper. And, to Rick’s point, you’re going to make one application instead of two, which will reduce costs associated with labor,” he says.

Other advantages that might not be apparent on the surface, according to Blasi and Gregory, include enhanced herbicide and pesticide uptake, plant safety.

“We’ve known for some time that traditional fertilizers have weaknesses within our application environments, whether that is nutrient loss, the potential to burn or, more recently, sustainability concerns,” Blasi says. “We’ve found that these enhanced efficiency/controlled release nitrogen technologies can be very valuable tools in an LCO’s toolbox when used correctly.”

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Rob DiFranco

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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