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How Fertilizer Feeds Turf

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool turf care professional, you know what N-P-K is. But did you know that there’s an often overlooked, secondary group of micronutrients? Learn more about these secret powerhouses and how they keep turf healthy and growing.

February 19, 2021

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How Fertilizer Feeds Turf

Turf feeds mainly on fertilizer's nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) formula. However, there's also a variety of secondary micronutrients needed to keep turf healthy and growing calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and chlorine.

Granular fertilizers can contain a blend of nutrient particles, or each homogenous particle can be comprised of all the nutrients. Some products on the market use both approaches and contain a blend of different nutrient particles and individual homogenous particle nutrients.

Nutrient Release

The nutrients in the fertilizer are made accessible to the plant through a number of natural release mechanisms including microbial action and soil temperature, osmosis, hydrolysis, and physical breakdown. As the structure of the fertilizer pellet melts away, minerals are released into the soil and absorbed by the plant.

  1. Microbial Action: Naturally-occuring microogranisms act to break down the fertilizer elements into more basic compounds. Soil temperature affects the activity levels of microorganisms; cold temperatures mean less activity and less breakdown while warmer temperatures increase activity and breakdown.
  2. Osmosis: Chemical elements will naturally move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. For example the higher concentrations of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer granule will slowly migrate to the less nutrient-rich soil.
  3. Hydrolysis: Water interacts with the fertilizer breaking down the compounds and releasing the nutrients into the soil.
  4. Physical Breakdown: Mowing foot traffic and other physical handling of the fertilizer particles will cause nutrients to break down and be released into the soil for plant absorption.