1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation about fertilization strategies for success with the experts at Koch Turf & Ornamental in the Fertilizer Application forum.

    Dismiss Notice

Organic Fertlizer ?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by Mowman, Sep 23, 2001.

  1. One of these days you are going to take my advice and come to the realization that organic fertilizer is snake oil.

    The plants don't give a rat's azz in what form its vitamins were derived from in the past tense.

    N is N if it comes from animal crap, oil, or a thunderstorm. The plants to look their best need regular high nitrogen feedings to sustain leaf growth and overall color.

    But if you guys want to haul, handle, and apply 100 lbs. vs.
    the 25 lbs. of material I would I apply be my guest.

    You may be able to sell that organic sales pitch in some of the metropolitan high-end areas but where I live people buy the best service at the lowest cost.

    If you want to build up the organic content you should just apply compost.
  2. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Many soil micro biologists have spun the wheels off their careers trying to isolate, culture, and package soil micro-organisms. We can't buy the stuff in a bag, not today at least. Soil microbes (bacteria) are just too short lived & dynamic. A good drought will kill them off real quick. So did some of the less desirable fungicides. Interestingly, some pesticides increase certain microorganisms. Oftanol lost the game due to enhanced microbial degradation. After the first year that oftanol was used on a lawn, these particular microbes would increase in numbers. After 3 years of repeated oftanol treatment, the microbial population would be high enough to scrub the soil clean of the oftanol long before the grubs were dead. Other experiments with herbicides have yielded similar results with some chemistries. It has been hard to predict with accuaracy which chemicals would enhance or ****** microbes in the field. Even in the greenhouse & laboratory, results often have varied. But the same scientists have develpoed cultured microbes that can & are used to clean up after marine oil spills. Their not real quick, so men still have to physically remove as much crude as possible. But when the majority has been cleaned up, the microbes finish the job. Pretty cool stuff. All from soil microbiologists too.

    The microbes that benefit turf & other plants via the liberation of essential mineral & organic compounds have not been successfully cultured for mass production. An exception is the Michorhyzae that is being marketed to arborists. Thes guys don't cause or affect soil mineralization, but their presance helps some tree roots to function. But thats not the stuff we've progressed to in this thread, and it doesn't work on turf so don't get excited. When the turf manager wants to utilize microbes to the benefit of the turf, he is better off feeding the microbes that are allready present in the soil.

    If a soil is truly devoid of microobes,(highly unlikely) the conditions which caused the situation should first be discovered and prevented from happening again. Lack of irrigation is probably the most common culprit. Microbes don't perform well in a desert. Microbes are very temperature dependant too. Low temps slow them down considerably. Higher temps speed them up.
    If microbial populations are limited due to a lack of humus - add some. Microbes aren't fussy about what they eat, any partially decayed organic matter will due. Manure, leaf compost, even grass clippings will all feed the microbes.
    Then it's a matter of avoiding those conditions which supress the microbes. Improper Ph, certain fungicides, (I don't have time to list which ones), drought, unusually high salt fertilizers, etc. Notice I said unusually high salt ferts; the common commercial fertilizers most LCO's use in this part of the country don't pose a risk when used properly. But they also don't often do very much to stimulate activity. Don't misread this. Without microorganisms working on both synthetics & organics, plants don't eat at all. Nitrogen has to be converted to forms that plants can utilize.

    A prior post mentioned the effects of aeration. Aerating adds oxygen to the chemistry experiment here, and oxydation is how many elements are made available to plants. All soils benefit from air. Heavier clay soils need more air than sand, but no plant roots can live without oxygen and no plant can truly perform in a deficit situation.
    It's funny how the most commonly deficient soil element (Oxygen) cannot be detected by a soil test. Aerating or adding organic matter & sand will revive many stagnant plants if it can be done in a nondestructive way. Turf is easier than most other plants because you can beat the heck out of it with equipment and it will come back. Try doing that with a one of a kind rare plant in a conservatory. I've got a client doing it right now & it aint easy.

    Commercial (synthetic) fertilizers release via only 2 mechanisms. Water or Microbial.

    Water release ferts can be soluble or slow release. Confusing? Not really. Water will release quickies like Urea, Ammonium Sulphate, Ammonium Nitrate, etc. Water also releases slow sources such as SCU, Poly Coated SCU, Resin Coated SCU, and IBDU. The slow water release ferts are usually coated to inhibit the water from getting at the soluble N thats inside. Release rates are usually determined by coating thickness and can last as long as 8 months at coolers temps depending on the way the coating is made. Warmer weather can speed these guys up a little, but not much. These N sources are favorable when you want a predictable release during cool or colder weather. Unlike reacted or microbial release sources of N, early spring or late fall can't shut them down on you. IBDU is different, it's a reacted nitrogen source that is still a water release. IBDU is still no silver bullet, as particle size has a big influence on release rate. Small particles are fast, big ones are slow. This isn't a big deal if all your fertilizer is soil incorporated, but it is an issue when it's broadcast over turf. Mowers come to mind.

    Microbial release nitrogen sources are nearly all reacted forms and we include the natural organics here. Urea is still the base source of the Nitrogen, but it is reacted (preserved) usually with formaldehyde. It's really not possible to get into the complexities of short & long chained molecules in this forum but to keep it simple: Urea Formaldehyde, Methylene Urea, Organics, & Our cool new stuff are all examples of N sources that need microbial activity to unlock nitrogen. Water plays a role in release as it's needed to keep the microbes alive, but UF & MU can do funny things when it's warm & humid but soil moisture is low. They can & sometimes do release, which is not good. UF & MU both do stimulate some microbial activity, just not to the extent that organics do. They also don't add humates, which is part of the puzzle. Until a few years ago, it was thought that UF, MU, & Organics couldn't release at all when it is cold. While microbes slow down in the cold, scientists have confirmed that some keep working. So while your N slows way down in the cold, it never really shuts off entirely. This slowdown is very desirable when dormant feeding on some programs that call for this sort of release. UF is really too slow. The Hot Water Insoluble (HWIN) faction is too big to make it very economical. Part of every prill is plastic, and won't ever become available to plants, so that portion is just money thrown away. UF is also the stuff they made radio cabinets & telephones out of. After Bakelite but before modern plastic. MU is better but still a little too quick on the front end for some of my customers.

    The new stuff I have eluded to really has to wait until I have the time to do it justice, but it too stimulates microbes. Probably even more than the organics. Time will tell.

    Does this help?
  3. Mowingman

    Mowingman LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 4,717

    I'm with you on this one!!:D
  4. Mowman

    Mowman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 553

    Thanks for all the quality information on this subject. The only organic fertilzer in my area is a product called Milorganic. It's priced at $9.97 a 40# bag at my local Lowe's Home Store. Is this a brand that is worth buying or could this be the company that was in trouble at one time because of some problems with their way of producing the product. Or could you suggest another brand. I'm tired of burn spots in my own lawn from Scott's. If I apply and don't get rain to water it in I'm screwed as my lawn is not feasible to water, as the city charges sewage charge if you water your lawn or flush the stool. It's not right but that's the way they do things in my town, so I don't ever water my lawn as it is way to expensive. All your info has been GREATLY APPRECIATED. Any other suggestion will also be appreciated.
    AKA Mowman
  5. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Yeah, Milorganite was the one. They voluntarily cleaned up at the threat of legal action. It's just municipal sewage sludge. To what extent it's been cleaned up, I don't know. But they've been at this for years, own a good part of the market, & have more to lose than most so they probably are a lot better than before. In my opinion, ALL organic manure based products should be tested for contanimants, bird, animal, & Human. But don't hold your breath. There's much more pressing issues in the world today. Hit a search engine & check out the web for the standards set by the California Organic Produce associations. They won't allow for sludges of any kind in most cases.
    We sell Sustane & Harmony. Both are derived from poultry manure. Some are bridged with synthetics to add Iron, potash, or N. Sustane's 5-2-4 without Iron is certified by the Organic Mineral Review Board as 100% natural organic. Many others are too. LESCO & most of our competitors will ship these products at no charge if you meet a pre-set total $ spent threshold ($800-$1200).
    Molorginite is sold for $8-14 around here so you're not getting hosed too bad, especially for a retail store. You're paying $.25/Lb.
    You can expect to pay a little more (about $.30/Lb) for any of the good aerobically composted poultry manures. They cost more to produce, but they work a little better too.
    If conventional fertilizers are burning the turf, I'd look to applicator error.
  6. morturf

    morturf LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 476

    I think you are bashing Milorganite a little too much. If you did more research you would find that they had one contaminate that they traced to one sewage user and addressed this problem on thier own. They were not "forced." All other components fall far below EPA guidelines.

    The rest of you. Have a look at this site. Nope they help.


    I am a regular user of milorganite, and I use a great deal of it. This year I will use over 100 tons of it, yes 100 TONS. There is not a fertilizer like it, say what you want. If you look at the phyisiology of a grass plant you will see that it was made to be consumed by animals and then crapped on to replenish the nutrients. This is crap and it works that way. I have seen miraculous results from this fertilizer. I do not sell this product in and of itself, I use in a lawn care program that I taylor. I use what I want. I use it because it works. There are cost factors involved and it is labor intensive to apply. It is worth those considerations to me.

    If you have any more questions I can get a little more into reasearch. One more thing, if you buy this by the ton from a distributor it is much cheaper. I get 50 lbs. bags for less than $5 but I do buy 22 ton truckloads. Good Luck.
  7. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476


    I'll reiterate what I said word for word " to what extent they've cleaned it up, I don't know".

    What part of the statement didn't you understand?

    All sludges absolutely contain byproducts of urban living and industrial wastes that are either inadvertantly or intentionally flushed. That's all there is too it. To what extent the polutants can be removed cost effectively, I can't imagine. I certainly wouldn't blame the company that has been established to sell the stuff, since they don't really produce it. The citizens of Milwaukee do. They're sewage treatment authority would probably be responsible for the metals content (?). It's an interesting question. Does anyone out there know who & how municipal sludge is cleaned?

    I do know that the various companies that dry, bag & ship the finished sludge are not required to label the stuff for metals. That's why the liberal "wackos" have a problem with it. So that is why I'd like our industry to push for labling. So we can either prove we are right, or demonstrate that we are big enough to change. We win either way. And the "wackos" go home & leave us alone.

    Since sludge is often times hauled away at a cost, then burned or buried we might conclude that it's cost to produce is as close to zero as it can be. That said, when it's purchased, the bulk of the price paid is for packaging, marketing, handling, and freight. I'm sure that quantities ordered and proximity to origin play a hugh role in cost.

    Humans eat meat. Birds don't. This is where some of the health concerns and odors come from. However, as I said in the post, Milorginite has been at this longer than most & has the greatest market share, so one would expect them to keep the product clean. I imagine they probably do. If I have time, I will also research and compare the metals content of human & poultry manures & see what we come up with in print. I've allready seen this data before,& you won't be pleased if you see it. While we are exposed to worse regulated & unregulated polutants every day & survive, there are plenty of people running around out there that will hit you with a stick if you hand it to them.

    A lot of Milorginite is sold in this area as a darn good Deer repellant to guys who can't or won't spray liquid Deer repellants. It works pretty good for low growing plants and ground covers.

    My only real gripe is the analysis. Turf grasses utilize the macro-nutrients (N,P,&K) in a 4-1-2 ratio. Therefore turf managers should attempt to apply fertilizer in a 4-1-2 ratio (let's not forget to convert the P). So unless the turf manager is in an area with consistantly high potash levels, then you must APPLY potash with some regularity. 6-2-0 doesn't have any potash in it. That would save some money too wouldn't it? If you're in such a potash rich area, great. But here in the Northeast, I have all my customers who are serious about wear, drought, & disease resistance using analysis like 21-3-21, 19-2-19, & 18-0-18 just prior to & during high wear & stress periods. To that program, many add the 5-2-4 Sustane. (Our Phosphorous levels are way high and it's available enough to keep established turf happy.) I could not, in good conscience, sell them a zero potash fertilizer, even if they would buy it. But the agronomic program that I provide is correct for the local conditions.

    I work with all of this areas major league pro ball parks, college field, private schools & the like. 50% of them are now sand based or sand modified. The only sand based field that has failed around here in the past 5 or so years, was installed & maintained by an out of state contractor that used 6-2-0 all summer the year of grow in. Subsequent tissue & soil test analysis revealed a severe potassium dificiency. Now on sand based soils, we might expect this. On native soils, the condition is not so severe. But since toxic level of potash are allmost never encountered, and dificiencies are, there is certainly no reason, other than cost, to omit it.

    That said, anyone who is contemplating the issue for themself should contact their county extension agent or a reliable soil testing lab and find out for themselves if their service area requires somewhat more or less of the "big 3".

    Turf also has need of the middle & micro nutrients which often have very specific regional needs. Find out whats right for your area before comitting to any plan. What works for my customers and Morturf's, may not be appropriate for everyone else who reads these posts.

    And remember, you usually get what you pay for.

    I hope this helps
  8. edward hedrick

    edward hedrick LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 871

    sTEVE: glad to see you on Lawnsite, Lesco made a 15-3-7
    combo product I thought it was a excellent product. On 1 property I used organics. had good results, slow steady growth
    good in dry times.
  9. morturf

    morturf LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 476

    I did not say that Milorganite was the only thing i applied. It is just one round of my program. As you said, what works for me and you may not work for everyone. I am blest with great soil here (never have to lime anything). I have yards that have been on the program I use with very minor modifications for over 50 years. My father started this business before WWII and I have over 25 years in it myself(all my life really, but that is another story). The soil analysis of these yards is virtually perfect year in and year out.
    Have a look and see what we accomplish. Check out the before and after. That is 2 months apart in a zone 3-4 climate. Milorganite helped do this.......


    Anyway......I am done on my stump...getting off now. Won't bother you again with this.:D
  10. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Good Morning,

    Morturf: Nice job on the football stadium. How were you able to keep them off long enough to get these results? Surface looks great!
    Anyone who can keep a client for 50 years is certainly doing things well. Don't feel bad, I'm a lifer too. I think we could do a lot worse than this.

    Ed: Small world huh? 15-3-7 organic bridge (alone & with Pre-m) will be back in 2002. We stopped making it because of volatility. The dust from the sludge is flamable & we had a little issue. This time it will be made with a poultry manure base from the folks at Hermony. Pete's working for them now in case you had'nt heard. Hope all is well!

    Have a great day

Share This Page