Whether it’s an insect infestation, the occasional weed problem or just part of an overall maintenance program, every sports field can benefit from one of the many treatment options on the market. New technology and an increased emphasis on going green have led to the development of a new breed of fertilizers, control products and soil amendments engineered to be more environmentally friendly than their predecessors. Here’s a look at some of the next generation of turf treatments available to field managers.

Soil Amendments and Fertilizers

The foundation for a healthy stand of turf starts with the soil. Lay the groundwork with soil amendments and fertilizers to create a growing medium that retains moisture and provides essential nutrients to the plant.

The key to establishing a healthy soil is to begin by focusing on biology, rather than chemistry, according to Barrett Ersek, CEO of Holganix (www.holganix.com).

“If we promote beneficial biology, that will go far in promoting turf health,” says Ersek, who explains that the company’s soil stimulant takes a “probiotic” approach to soil health by increasing beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil.

The Holganix bionutritional product is 100 percent organic and promotes plant health by naturally increasing resistance to disease and insect damage, and encouraging significant root and cell wall development. It also functions as a bio-stimulant by enabling plants to uptake beneficial nutrients and pesticides more efficiently.

Grigg Brothers (www.griggbros.com), a company that has been offering Proven Foliar fertilizer and GreenSpec fertilizers and soil amendments for over 18 years, has introduced Displace, a liquid formulation that involves the use of a new technology wetting agent that improves calcium (Ca) distribution to the rhizosphere. Displace can help increase water infiltration and improve soil structure, and, according to company President Mark Grigg, the chemistry may provide relief to a variety of other turf issues.

“The exciting thing is that this formulation has the potential to alleviate localized dry spots, salt stress, fairy ring symptoms and indirectly remediate excess bicarbonate accumulation,” he says.

Crystal Green, an enhanced efficiency fertilizer from Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Inc., (www.ostara.com) is the first plant-activated nutrient technology to offer sustainable, plant-available, slow-release phosphorus with nitrogen and magnesium in one granule. It is sustainably produced by recovering phosphorus from renewable resources.

According to Dan Froehlich, vice president of agronomy for the company, budget constraints and environmental concerns are determining factors in fertilizer selection. He suggests field managers get back to basics with granular, controlled-release products that provide higher nutrient efficiency while protecting the environment.

Following the green trend, biostimulants have become an increasingly popular turf treatment option. Biostimulants include a broad range of products that are derived from a variety of sources and enhance plant growth and development.

Jim Spindler, agronomist and president of BioPro Technologies (a subsidiary of Ecologel Solutions, www.ecologel.com) says, “Over the years, the research has provided the industry with a better understanding of how various biostimulant sources function within plants. With this knowledge, manufacturers have been able to fine-tune the materials used to create a biostimulant effect, and manufacturing techniques have improved to assure quality and consistency.”

BioPro Technologies’ CytoGro is an EPA-registered liquid root hormone biostimulant derived from seaweed extracts. The primary ingredients are cytokinins and auxins, which promote deep, dense root development. In high-traffic areas, such as athletic fields, CytoGro produces rapid root repair and recovery of damaged turf.

Dimension 2EW, from Dow AgroSci- ences (www.dowagro.com), is a specialty herbicide that provides preemergence and early postemergence control of crabgrass, and season-long control of crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail, spurge and Poa.

Insect and Weed Control

New product development in pest and weed treatment products is being led by consumer demand for “green” options. Low-use products with limited environmental impacts are popular options in the insect and weed control markets.

Jim Goodrich, product sales specialist, professional products, for PBI Gordon (www.pbigordon.com) says, “One of the trends we are seeing in the industry is the move toward low-impact, reduced use-rate active ingredients. … With the industry as a whole being more environmentally aware, especially in sports turf with participation levels so high in competitive and recreational youth athletics, it is expected that companies move toward active ingredients that offer effective control and are not harmful.”

PBI Gordon’s Katana herbicide meets these expectations with low-use rates of 1 to 3 ounces per acre. Katana controls cool-season grassy weeds, broadleaf weeds and sedges in warm-season turf, and it recently received approval for use on all sports turf.

For insect control, Zylam 20SG systemic insecticide is safe to use on all turf areas and offers control of chinch bugs, crane flies, billbugs, weevils, fall armyworms, cutworms and many others.

Talstar XTRA, from FMC Professional Solutions (www.fmc.com), is a granular insecticide that features Verge granule technology for uniform distribution and less dust. It is labeled for a broad spectrum of surface-feeding pests, including fire ants, Caribbean crazy ants, billbugs, chinch bugs, fleas and ticks.

According to Adam Manwarren, turf and ornamental brand marketing manager for FMC, advancements in turf treatments have led to improved levels of control with less product, and combination products are becoming popular introductions.

“Products with multiple modes of action in proprietary combinations can provide synergy to each other within the premix formulation,” he says.

Reduced budgets and the desire to do more with less have strengthened the demand for combination products.

Christopher Gray, marketing manager of specialty products for Lebanon Turf (www.lebanonturf.com), says, “Being able to more economically manage multiple pests with the same amount of labor has become instrumental in the manager’s success of operating their facility.”

Lebanon Turf’s ProScape line offers fertilizer combination products that marry granular fertilizer with weed and insect controls. ProScape products feature exclusive technologies such as MESA, a specially formulated nitrogen shown to deliver brilliant color response.

“The chemical manufacturing companies have done an outstanding job of developing more advanced technologies that achieve better pest control, and all with the added benefit by using less of the actual chemical that is applied. This improvement has expanded the availability of control chemicals that can be put on fertilizer as a combination product for facility managers,” Gray says.

Doug Houseworth, turf and ornamental technical manager for Arysta LifeScience (www.arysta-na.com) is also seeing a demand for products that solve multiple maladies.

“Many turf managers want a single product that takes care of a number of pest problems. I think this is a throwback to the old days, when one or two pesticides were all a turf professional needed to use to control his/her pest problems. In the last five years, there has been a huge increase in the number of products that contain multiple active ingredients,” he explains.

Arysta’s Aloft insecticide contains two active ingredients for treatment of multiple insect pests. The formulation provides season-long control of all major turfgrass insects and surface-feeding pests, including white grubs, sod webworms, fire ants and armyworms.

Houseworth stresses that thorough knowledge of turf pests and proper diagnosis are key to successfully treating infestations.

“First, facility managers need to know their pest problems at their particular facilities. Then, they need to be knowledgeable on the life cycles of the pests and the environmental conditions that favor them. Once they know what they are dealing with, it makes the decision on how to control, or what products to use, much easier,” he says.

Jerry Corbett, technical services manager for Quali-Pro (www.quali-pro.com), says that advancements in pest control have led to second-generation products that are safer and more effective than the original formulation.

“The technology used today is 10 to 15 years advanced from what it was when the original formulation was created, which includes new and safer inerts and formulation additives,” he says.

Quali-Pro offers a range of insect control options, including Lambda, a broad-spectrum insecticide that provides control of chinch bugs, sod webworms, cutworms and bluegrass billbugs.

As always, carefully read all product labels and observe precautions before applying turf treatment products.

Katie Meyers is the editor of SportsField Management and can be reached at kmeyers@mooserivermedia.com.