Gary Grigg | Agronomist/Grigg Brothers
I can sum up my response with one word: “efficiency.” Plant absorption of nutrients from any granular, soluble or liquid fertilizer source – when watered into the root zone – is largely a biological process subject to many environmental conditions. Conversely, absorption of nutrients from a foliar fertilizer that has been properly formulated is a physical and chemical process and much more efficient. With a better understanding of plant nutrient needs – and as costs for raw source materials increase – formulators now place more emphasis on designing the most efficient and high-performance nutrient sources.

Mike Cavanaugh
| Co-Owner and Executive Vice President, Floratine Products Group
It would be that not all liquid applications can be classified as “foliar.” A real foliar application requires products designed specifically for the task. A plant under environmental, biological and mechanical duress can be “fickle” and getting much-needed nutrients, antioxidants and amino acids into the plant efficiently is very challenging from a technical perspective. Only products formulated with those challenges in mind can qualify as a foliar application. When using products that are designed accordingly, superintendents can spray at low volumes at label rates with the confidence that the inputs are being taken up by the plant.

Joel Simmons
| President, EarthWorks
I remember the days when superintendents only had water-soluble products to spray. They were tough to get into solution and often clogged screens, causing frustration. In the early 1990s, a number of companies came out with wonderful, clean and easy-to-use liquid fertilizers that made the life of the superintendent much easier, and the marketing term “foliar feeding” was created. I love the idea of liquid fertility; it takes the highs and lows out of any nutrient program and allows superintendents great versatility to apply exactly what the soil tests tells them is missing. What I struggle with is the marketing concepts that state, “All you need is foliar feeding,” because that can be very dangerous in any program. As good as the liquids can be, you can’t ignore the soil, and, in fact, the soil still has to be first in the fertility equation.

John Perry
| President, Bio Green USA
Efficacy, flexibility and customization. In the professional turf industry, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method of fertility. Liquid fertility has made significant advances in the past few years with controlled-release nitrogen and stretching the amounts of all nutrients further per pound than granular. Using liquids as the cornerstone method of a turf fertility program allows superintendents to be very flexible in their applications. For example, there are many times where the needs of turf under stress require immediate action to resolve what could quickly become an out-of-control problem. The limitations of nutrients through granular form can take either too long or increase the issue further by having too many salts load into the system.

Christopher S. Gray Sr.
| Professional Product Manager, LebanonTurf
That all foliar fertilizers are not the same. Many products use the term “foliar” only because they’re sprayed on, but that doesn’t mean they’re formulated for foliar absorption. The nutrients in true foliar products should be specifically designed small enough to be taken into the smaller transcuticular pores of the leaf blades, rather than the larger stomatal openings, because they are primarily responsible for foliar uptake of nutrients. Just because you’re spraying it on the grass plant doesn’t mean you’re spraying it in the grass plant.

Sam Carruth
| Development Manager/Specialty Plant Nutrition
Superintendents can turn to foliar applications of stabilized nitrogen water-soluble fertilizers when they need to green up turf. With stabilized nitrogen qualities and a properly balanced mix of all other essential plant nutrients, quick green-up can be achieved as well as long-lasting performance for superior turf color and quality. They can deliver the same desired results at lower rates and less frequent applications.

Jim Spindler
| President, BioProTechnologies LLC
Foliar fertilizers and fertilization is often misunderstood. Many consider all liquid fertilizers as foliar and the application of liquids as foliar fertilization. This isn’t correct. The United States Golf Association defines foliar fertilizers as “soluble plant nutrient materials applied to the leaf surface and capable of being absorbed through leaves.” Fertilizers designed for absorption through the plant leaf are foliar. Application of foliar fertilizers so that the fertilizer remains on the leaf in a moist state long enough to allow absorption is foliar fertilization.

Steve Nichols
| Executive Vice President, Soil Tech Corp.
For purely environmental reasons, foliar feeding is a great idea. Small amounts of nutrient and/or biostimulants can be deployed through the leaf surface to enhance turfgrass health and physiology. This allows the plant to stay more balanced and not have to always be adapting to the extremes of too much or too little fertilizer, as is common with applications of granular materials.

We also asked representative from companies about their advice regarding granular fertilizers.  Read their responses here.