Turf fertilisers - replenishing nutrients after heavy rain

Nutrient levels will need to be restored to maintain a healthy sward following high levels of rainfall over the winter, Sally Drury explains.

Sports turf: achieving and maintaining a healthy grass sward depends on a balance of several factors but nutrition is a main one
Sports turf: achieving and maintaining a healthy grass sward depends on a balance of several factors but nutrition is a main one

The healthier the grass plants, the better chance they have of standing up to wear and tear, as well as to threats such as disease, and the quicker they will recover from damage and actions such as mowing. Achieving and maintaining a healthy sward depends on a balance of several factors but nutrition is a main one and this year, after high levels of rainfall over the winter period have flushed elements out of the soil, nutrient levels will need restoring.

The starting point will be to analyse the soil and test it to measure the available nutrients. There is no point in planning applications of those that are in excess. It is the deficiencies that require correcting.

Complete feed

Where a complete feed is required, and particularly where little-and-often feeding is preferred, a new liquid fertiliser is available from Compo Expert. Basfoliar Turf Complete SL has an NPK content of 9-4-6 plus essential trace elements. It contains the full spectrum of turf grass nutrients and has been formulated to give rapid thatch and soil penetration as well as improved uptake, ensuring immediate absorption into the root system of greens, tees and pitches.

Developed in response to the current trend for spoon-feeding fine turf, the product is fortified with magnesium for improved sward colour. It also contains a range of EDTA chelated trace elements — copper, manganese, molybdenum and zinc — thereby providing a full and complete nutrient supply.

Convenient for use as a spring and summer fertiliser, Basfoliar Turf Compete SL can be applied from the onset of grass growth throughout the full season by spraying an at an application volume of 600-800 litres per hectare. It contains two forms of nitrogen for efficient utilisation, while using potassium in the sulphate form for low salt stress.

The liquid product contains five per cent cold-pressed Ascophyllum nodosum (seaweed) extract, adding a range of beneficial bioactive substances including oligosaccharides, plant hormones and trace elements to help combat abiotic stresses caused by excessive wear and unfavourable weather conditions.

The addition of block co-polymer technology enables the liquid fertiliser to rapidly penetrate thick layers of hydrophobic thatch material, so making nutrients readily and immediately available within the root zone below.

"Basfoliar Turf Complete SL enables greenkeepers, course managers and groundsmen to apply exactly the right balance of nutrients at precise timings," explains Compo Expert UK director Jerry McHoul. "The ability to spoon-feed fine-turf grasses on such a precise and timely basis ensures that nutrients are assimilated as efficiently as possible during the growing season, and has the added advantage of ensuring that no granular residues, speckling or colouration differences [as a result of uneven application] affect the playing surface."

Available in 20-litre containers, it can be applied to golf greens and tees, football pitches, bowling greens, tennis courts, cricket squares and anywhere a high-quality turf is of paramount important within a short space of time, but especially in the run-up to competitions.

Gradual nutrient release

Where grassed areas are suffering with poor root formation, high salt concentrations, potassium deficiency, moss problems or dry patch, a solution may be found in the new range of Viano TurfProf organic and organo-mineral fertilisers available in the UK from DJ Turfcare. The products are designed to release their nutrients gradually over two-to-three months, depending on their composition, ingredients and chemical analysis.

The Viano fertilisers are available in both MicroCrumb and RegularCrumb, in 25kg bags or as "big bags", and are enriched with bacteria, humic acids, extra iron or fulvic substances.

Products include Start 18-3-3 with fast-acting mineral nitrogen and partially organic nitrogen for slow release; Fairway 9-3-5 + MgO for balanced growth and improved soil structure; Green Boost 16-3-8 + 2MgO + 1Fe + bacteria for release over three months and resistance to drought; Autumn 5-5-20 + 3MgO for cold-season use with the added benefit of moss inhibition; Recovery 8-6-13 +3MgO + Humifirst for use after scarification or as a pre-seeder; and TurfProf Potash 0-0-32 organo-mineral fertiliser ideal for use on sand-based constructions and giving benefits over two months.

Soluble granules

New this year from Headland Amenity is Xtend Fine slow-release fertiliser. Xtend fertilisers offer a nitrogen source to feed turf for up to three months. A big benefit is that they are soluble granules that dissolve in soil water, eliminating pick-up by machinery or feet.

Xtend fertilisers also boast Uflexx stabilised nitrogen technology. This limits the amount of nitrogen lost to the atmosphere through volatisation. The formulation also features a nitrification inhibitor that slows down the conversion of nitrogen into unusable forms.

The latest addition, Xtend Fine, has a 26-3-3 analysis and is suitable for close-mown areas cut at 6mm or above. At 1.5mm the granule size is smaller than other Xtend products. It has
88 per cent stabilised nitrogen to work for two-to-three months. Applications rates can be as low as 15g/m2.

Also new from Headland Amenity is an addition to its C-Complex range of fertilisers. C-Complex Sport 14-2-5 +MgO is an outfield product for use on coarse turf areas such as sports pitches, golf tees and fairways, racecourses, lawns and general amenity turf. The homogeneous, regular granule is formulated to breakdown easily and give good growth, even at low soil temperatures. Like the fine turf range, C-Complex Sport contains Naturigor, a combination of aerobically-composted cow manure and high levels of humic acid.

New from ICL, Sportsmaster Liquid Fe is a cost-effective iron treatment added to the Sportsmaster range. It has been developed to provide a quick and long-lasting green-up to sports field and outfield turf. An ideal tank-mix partner for Primo Maxx, it features an instant colour response and has long-lasting results for up to four weeks.

Whether you are looking for granules or liquid, immediate action or slow release, there are certainly plenty of new products to try.

Case study: Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh

Michael Yan Hip (pictured below) is head groundsman at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. He has been in charge of 10 acres of natural sports surfaces in the 100-acre campus for four years, but only recently started using Nutri-Pro from Aitkens. He has been surprised by just how quickly it started taking effect, with clear improvements in colour and recovery.

"We used it for the first time as part of our rugby renovation and preseason rolling of the cricket squares, and the results have been very, very positive," he says. "First we treated the cricket square with a last granular feed prior to preseason preparations and then used it on the rugby pitches the following day. Because it is a micro-fine product, it broke down quickly and we saw evidence of the positive effects within a week of application."

He adds: "Here in the Colinton area of Edinburgh, the soil has extremely high clay content and it is relatively acidic. The magnesium and calcium in Nutri-Pro break down the acid in the clay and generally improve the soil structure to promote healthy growth.

"Running parallel with our chemical and biological approach are the mechanical procedures such as spiking and Verti-draining to aerate and decompact the soil. With the afore-mentioned treatment of the soil with sand, drainage and percolation rates have improved and enabled pitches to shed surface water more efficiently."

Yan Hip runs a fertiliser programme that targets seasonal activity using Nutri-Pro 8-0-12 applied in the summer with a higher nitrogen content to stimulate growth of sward and then Nutri Pro 4-0-24 later on in the year to combat stress from autumn and winter rain and frost.

ICL product guide

Over the years, customers of ICL (formerly Everris) have benefitted from using products such as Greenmaster, SeaMax, Sierrablen and ProTurf, the H2Pro range of wetting agents and Primo Maxx — the industry’s number one plant-growth regulator. All of these feature in the company’s 2016-17 brochure (below), along with advice on how to get the best results, including recommended period of use, directions for use and application rates.

Readers will also see some new additions including Sportsmaster Liquid Fe, H2Pro DewSmart, Enforcer, a range of new grass seed mixes, hard surface cleaner Ranger and sprayer aids (Colour Pro Indicator, pHixer and Sp0tless).

Also included in the product guide is information on the unique new ICL Custom Build fertilisers. The guide provides a wealth of technical information. Spreader setting guidelines will help readers with the accurate application of fertiliser, a tank-mix table provides guidance notes for compatibility of liquid formulations and a ready reckoner will assist with nutrient application for granular fertilisers.

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