How organic fertilizers and biostimulants extend root growth

Experts share the many benefits that organic fertilizers and biostimulants offer for root and overall plant health.

To help soil break down nutrients and bring root systems back to life, many professionals are taking an environmentally friendly approach to lawn care by incorporating organic fertilizers and biostimulants.

Increase application rate

These products enhance the nutrition-use efficiency, combat environmental stresses and promote root health, says Steve Fent, key account executive of turf and horticulture at Hello Nature in Ovid, Mich. The timing for applying these products isn’t as important as with conventional chemicals, and the benefits are broad for both plants and turf.

“Biological products make plants healthier to fight off insects, diseases, pests and drought,” Fent says. “The long-lasting effects that you get with the turf are night and day.”

Organic fertilizers are made with products like poultry, turkey, fish, vegetable extract and seaweed, Fent says. Since organic fertilizers have less nitrogen than traditional synthetic fertilizers, operators will need to increase their rate per acre to ensure they are applying enough.

“With most natural products, you can’t over-apply them,” Fent says. “The biggest mistake I see is guys end up not putting enough product out and then wonder why it didn’t green up. You can’t treat it like conventional fertilizer.”

Biostimulants are composed of materials like amino acids, peptides, biochars or humic substances and can supplement other fertilizers. These also can be used with herbicides, fungicides, biocontrols, insecticides and growth regulators. During about the first six months, all of the action from the biostimulant is going on below ground to build up the roots, Fent says. The next year of using these products is when operators will see the effect on the turf and plants, if not sooner.

“Biostimulants will help alleviate the stress to the plant because you have stronger roots,” Fent says. “The turf will be able to better handle floods, droughts and other stresses.”

Fent encourages lawn care operators to do their research on products before incorporating them into their lineup. They should check the labels to review the ingredients and find out if the manufacturer tests its products.

“Make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. There’s a difference in the quality and ingredients and how it performs,” Fent says. “The results are a direct correlation of the product and if it’s made correctly.”

Achieve turf’s potential

John Perry
John Perry

Once operators incorporate a good biostimulant product into their lineup, they’ll begin seeing a reduction in the amount of traditional nitrogen fertilizer that’s needed, says John Perry, president of Greene County Fertilizer Co. Biostimulants also help address the overall health of the lawn.

“It’s vitally important to expand the root zones,” Perry says. “Operators need to do anything they can to help drought-damaged lawns.”

Perry recommends a biostimulant product that combines humic acid, fulvic acid and sea kelp because of the combined bioactivity. This combo is applied with conventional fertilizer when the turf’s natural growth cycle is at its peak: spring for cool-season turf and summer for warm-season turf.

“The chemistry together gets a better plant response,” he says. “What we love about it is that it’s extremely low cost in any lawn care budget, and it can extend the length of green time with traditional nitrogen sources.”

It enhances the roots, especially in drought areas, extends nitrogen release rates, adds oxygen to the soil profile and makes the turf thicker and greener, Perry says.

“Customers will see that their turf looks healthier, and operators will see callbacks become less,” he adds. “You’re just making the most out of the turf’s potential.”

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