Getting the Most out of Your Fertilizer Applications
By now, you’re aware of the skyrocketing material costs we’re facing going into the upcoming year. While we can’t ignore the impact this will have on our day-to-day operations, these higher prices do open doors to opportunities we may not have considered before. In addition, we have had to deal with an unprecedented labor shortage and pay significantly more for labor than ever before. But what if there were a tool in the toolbox that could help us with both rising costs and labor shortages while alleviating some of the other headaches we typically face?
You’re probably familiar with controlled-release fertilizer technologies, such as Duration, but may not have considered them in the past because of their cost compared to traditional technologies. We’ve enjoyed some historically low material costs over the last few years, but we’re living in different times now that global demand for essential raw materials is increasing. With that in mind, let’s look at how this technology can increase nitrogen use efficiency and production efficiency.
Controlled-released fertilizer technologies were originally developed for the agricultural sector, but they’ve been a valuable tool in certain segments of the turf sector for more than a decade. Extended-release technology slowly and consistently meters out nitrogen over as much as a six-month period.
The goal of any turf program is to deliver the required 1/10 of a pound of nitrogen per week. This can be challenging in conventional programs when temperatures and precipitation don’t always cooperate.
This graph illustrates what we typically see in a traditional four-application fertility program. We usually see green-up about a week after treatment once we’re in the middle region on the graph. When we rise above this region, surge growth occurs. Likewise, when we fall below it, dreaded color loss sets in. There is another problem that occurs in conventional programs. Anything above or below this region results in waste that we cannot afford with current costs. Depending on the type and amount of fertilizer you use, as much as 40% may go unused by the plant. Now, compare the conventional program to controlled-release technology.
As you can see, a single application of controlled-release fertilizer will consistently release nitrogen over a longer period of time while at the same time keeping nitrogen release in the optimal range. This results in up to 90% of applied nitrogen being usable for the plant. It also means that you won’t see the peaks and valleys that we often see in conventional programs.
Not only can this technology improve performance and results, but it can also save us in other ways as well. First, consistently healthy, thick turf is less prone to invasion by weeds, insects, and diseases. Consistently healthy turf is also more resistant to environmental stress, ultimately reducing headaches for the customer and for you.
This technology will also reduce the overall amount of material you need to purchase and apply. That’s huge, considering the amount of labor and time necessary to run conventional turf programs. It also means that we have more time for other activities that often go neglected.
You may be wondering how the upfront cost compares to what you’re currently doing. Given the state of our industry, it’s well worth a conversation with your local ATS representative. You may be surprised how controlled-release technologies compare to your current program and costs.