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How Fertilizer Feeds Turf

If you’re a 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 16, 2024

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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.

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 Overview
The nutrients in the fertilizer are made accessible to the plant through several 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.

  • Microbial Action: Naturally occurring microorganisms 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.
  • 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.
  • Hydrolysis: Water interacts with the fertilizer breaking down the compounds and releasing the nutrients into the soil.
  • 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.

Depending on the type of fertilizer, these natural releases can occur at varying rates of speed.

Micronutrients in Fertilizer
Plant nutrients are divided into primary, secondary, and micronutrients. Basic nutrients like carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen aren’t considered fertilizers because these are readily available to plants in the atmosphere. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium generally needed in the largest quantities, so they are considered the primary macronutrients. Secondary macronutrients and micronutrients are often grouped together for classification. Some secondary macronutrients are calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. Some micronutrients include iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, chlorine, and molybdenum.

Organic materials can also be sources of macro and micronutrients. These include manure, compost clippings, biosolids, feather meal, bloodmeal, humic substances, and kelp extract, which all contain carbon. While they play more of a supporting role in the overall fertilizer recipe, these micronutrients promote essential plant growth and are typically harder for plants to find naturally. They are as important as the primary macronutrients, but you need a smaller amount within the recipe.

Let’s break down some of the more common micronutrients.

  • Iron: promotes root function and helps create chlorophyll.
  • Zinc: helps plants create proteins and growth hormones.
  • Copper: promotes chemical reactions.
  • Manganese: regulates plant enzymes and helps create chlorophyll.
  • Boron: helps form pollen and preserves healthy cell growth.
  • Chlorine: helps plants resist disease and water stress.
  • Molybdenum: boosts nitrogen and phosphorus use in plants and makes fertilizer more efficient. 

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LESCO fertilizers use micronutrients efficiently for better turf growth and health. If you have any questions or need help choosing the right product for the job, visit your local branch. You can also shop at For educational opportunities, visit our events page

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