Golf Goes "Green" with New Natural-Derived Fertilizer
Published: Oct. 30, 2007
Source: Tom Fermanian (217-244-5147; firstname.lastname@example.org)
URBANA - Some communities have requested and even mandated that golf courses utilize natural fertilizers in order to minimize the possibility of a downstream threat to surface and groundwater.
Currently used fertilizers are made from urea, ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate. "These are synthesized from natural gas and each is acidifying in nature and can impact the soil pH with overuse," said University of Illinois researcher Tom Fermanian.
"The fertilizers available to golf course managers have similar properties," said Fermanian. To develop a natural fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content, the U of I worked with Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) to test a series of natural-derived fertilizer products.
The result of the testing is a line of products marketed under the name NaturStim. They contain lysine, a bio-product from fermented corn.
"One advantage of these lysine-based products is that they dissolve quickly in water and can be mixed with other turf products that are normally applied as a spray," said Fermanian. "Lysine in its granular form is 15 percent nitrogen and soluble in water so it is quickly available for turf use, similar to most synthetic fertilizers."
In the study, ammonium sulfate (the current fertilizer industry standard used by most golf courses) as well as two forms of lysine were dissolved in water and applied in a liquid spray. Sustane, a natural fertilizer product, and the NaturStim L-Soy 9 materials were applied dry as granules.
There were five materials tested in all: ammonium sulfate, Soy-Lysine, dry lysine, liquid lysine and two fertilizer rates for a total of 10 treatments. There was also an untreated control plot as the 11th treatment.
All treatments were applied weekly at rate of one eighth or one sixteenth pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet and later in the summer every two weeks.
The results of the study showed that the three lysine-based formulations were generally rated equal in quality to the ammonium sulfate or Sustane controls applied at the same rate. "In a previous evaluation, urea was used as a commercial control and the lysine formulations were also similar in response," said Fermanian.
All of the plots that received fertilizer materials generally had better quality than the unfertilized control. And the three newly formulated NaturStim fertilizers made from lysine were rated as well as the ammonium sulfate and Sustane controls applied at the same rate.
"Research shows that the NaturStim products perform as well as synthetic fertilizers, but have the added benefit of providing golf course managers with a more natural alternative to traditional fertilizers," said Fermanian.
The experiment was also evaluated for any signs of injury or "leaf burn" that might have resulted from the application of one of the fertilizer sources. Since light rates of application were applied, signs of injury were not expected and were not observed from any materials.
ADM intends to have NaturStim available for residential use as well as commercial applications. Fermanian said that long-term studies are needed to observe any additional positive effects with the routine use of lysine as a fertilizer.
Funding for the study was provided in part by Archer Daniels Midland.