A Look at Biologicals


At the end of September, I attended a media event in Cooperstown, N.Y., sponsored by LebanonTurf. The seminar was titled, “Bionutrition: From Bugs in Jugs to Mainstream Fertility,” and it was put together to bring our attention to the growing push towards biological products, which include microbes, bacteria, mycorrhizae, seaplant extracts and hormones. The speakers included Dr. Bob Ames of Advanced Microbial Solutions, Dr. Mike Amaranthus of Mycorrhizal Applications, Dr. Roch Gaussoin of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Robin Ross of Acadian Seaplants Limited. The location of the event was the Otesego Resort, located right on Lake Otsego, which was the reason for holding it at this location. Since the resort is right on the lake, the groundskeeper and his crew have been trying different biological products over the years in order to put together a program that gives the property aesthetically-pleasing turf without runoff issues. After about 12 years of trying different products, the groundskeeper and superintendent have found a program that includes biologicals and traditional fertilizers, and has made the turf at the resort (including the Leatherstocking Golf Course) not only greener and easier to maintain, but it was one of the only places this summer that had green, lush turf where most places had brown, stressed-out grass.

The agenda consisted of each of the speakers explaining the role that biologicals play in turf health and how they can be used to complement traditional fertilizer products, along with a panel discussion on the future of biologicals and how they will affect turf professionals. The overall message of the panel discussion was simply that in this day and age, with all the regulations and federal bans coming about on traditional fertilizer products, turf professionals are going to have to start incorporating bionutritional products in their maintenance routines. Period. And, it’s going to be a lot easier to look for and try out products now than to wait until it becomes mandatory that you use them. New York, Florida and Michigan are just some of the states that have already passed through legislation banning applications of fertilizer with phosphorus and/or nitrogen during certain times of the year to prevent runoff problems, and more states will most likely be joining them in the near future. If you haven’t thought about incorporating these products into your maintenance program, now is the time to look at how these can benefit the turf you care for so you can be prepared if—when—a ban hits your area.

The most interesting part to me was that everyone at the meeting seemed to agree that in order to have a successful turf maintenance program, whether it be a residential lawn, a golf course, a sports field, etc., it needs to include biologicals as well as traditional products. It wasn’t a push to stop using traditional fertilizers altogether or to move to an all-organic program cold-turkey, it was a great informational seminar on how biological products can help the soil become a healthy growing environment for turf, so it has a better root system, a brighter color and better disease and drought-resistant capabilities. A great fertility program has a combination of the two: biologicals to set up a healthy environment to bolster the turf’s own natural defenses and traditional fertilizer for an added boost when needed. According to a survey conducted on behalf of LebanonTurf, 51 percent of survey respondents currently use biological products as part of their normal turf fertility program; less than 1 percent use biological products exclusively. Have you thought about how they can fit into your program?

Amy K. Hill