We asked experts from granular fertilizer companies: We’ve heard superintendents talk about skipping a granular fertilizer application or cutting back on fertilization to reduce their budgets. What problems might they encounter by doing this? Here’s what they had to say:

Christopher S. Gray Sr. | Golf Marketing Manager-Professional Fertilizers/Lebanon Turf
Skipping applications or cutting back on overall fertilization is always challenging to successfully pull off. Because golf course turf requires optimal nutrients provided at the proper time in order to maintain the necessary high level course playability, superintendents will be relying on a longer residual effect from the fertilizer that is still applied. To be successful, the adjusted application timing must be perfectly matched with the fertilizer performance, or else the turfgrass plant will begin to suffer and the golf course quality will quickly erode. It’s simply not worth the risk.

 

Gordon Kauffman III | Technical Manager- Turf & Ornamental/Grigg Brothers
Fertilization remains a key cultural practice used to optimize turf performance and maintain vigor. Reducing granular fertilizer inputs may not pose a big risk, particularly if the difference is made up with another source(s). However, reducing overall nutrient inputs, specifically nitrogen (N), to save money is not advised. Soil test routinely and apply nutrients in dry or liquid form that are limiting. Balance a soil targeted approach by supplying adequate soluble nutrition as foliar source, which targets the leaf tissue. Reducing nutrient inputs to save money, particularly on sandy soils, may lead to unintended consequences such as reduced tolerance to abiotic stress, increased weed and disease pressure, limited rooting and poor turf quality.

Eric Miltner | Agronomist/Koch Turf & Ornamental
Carefully consider the possible risks when reducing fertilizer inputs to conserve your budget. Balanced nutrition is critical to maintaining healthy plants that are prepared to tolerate the stresses of traffic, pests, heat, drought, etc. Stressed or unhealthy turf can result in unanticipated costs down the road, including labor, water and pesticides. Necessary nutrients can be supplied with as little as one application per season using slow or controlled-release enhanced efficiency fertilizers. By using these fertilizers, superintendents can reduce their applications and associated costs — labor, fuel, equipment use and maintenance, employee fatigue or injury — without sacrificing turf health.

Dave Wacker | Sales Representative/Crystal Green
If we presume that the current fertilizer program isn’t excessive, there are several problems that could occur from under-fertilization, from cosmetic to physical. While the specific “damage” would depend on a number of factors, including weather and specific nutrient deficiency, the overall view would most likely start with off-color turf with compromised durability. One could begin to notice thinner turf in high traffic areas that may not recover under extreme weather conditions. As well, this weakened turf could become more susceptible to disease, again dependent on the time of the year. Some of this damage might not occur right away, but might pop up after repeated decisions to skip or reduce fertilizer. The good news is that many new, high-efficiency products in turf nutrition are now on the market that make it possible to reduce both fertilizer and costs.