Question: If there’s one thing about which you could educate sports field managers regarding use of a foliar fertilizer, what would it be?

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.

Joel Simmons
President, EarthWorks

I love the idea of liquid fertility; it takes the highs and lows out of any nutrient program and allows for versatility to apply exactly what the soil tests say 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.

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.

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.

John Perry
President, Bio Green USA

Efficiency, flexibility and customization. In the professional turf industry, there isn’t a one-sizefits- 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 sports field managers to be very flexible in their applications.

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.

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.