Pre-purchasing advice

Posted by ANTHONY ASQUITH on February 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

I am always amazed and intrigued at the amount of products out there that come with big claims in terms of their huge benefits to turf and soils alike. There is a plethora of such products around, from biological to some that provide simple forms of plant nutrient but are marketed as a wonder product. In my many years of independent turf research looking at products and materials, I have looked at and measured the effects of such products on turf grass. A lot of these generic products have shown results leading me to the conclusion I have come to many times before that cost by far out-ways results. Whether such products have a place in the turf industry is for each individual to decide but in my honest opinion there are no silver bullet solution in turf regardless of what people say. It's important to use reliable tried and tested materials that have been tested with time. We now live in a world where we are told what to buy, what to apply and what impressive thing's it can do but sometimes there is enough truth in it to widely exaggerate the product. Far too often, a lot of the information in brochures relies on the gullibility of the reader and unfortunately some believe everything they hear/read and are possibly too lazy or simply do not have the time to do their own research and trialing. Such information shows how many dodgy sales pitches there are and misleading ones at that.


My advice to anyone would be ask for independent supportive data from a source you can place utter faith in and it should not be classed as sceptical to question everything. Quite often, I am classed as a sceptic but it is a very easy way for the salesman or promoter of such products to get out of answering legitimate questions. The key area for me is how much does X product improve turf? a few percent is not worth the cost but we need to see significant improvement in many facets. Also, has there been any statistical verification that such products improve turf? The answer to a lot of these is in short - No! One such generic fertilizer product and biological product I looked at was so minute and tiny in what was been applied, the application rate equated to almost ZERO and at great expense. In the last 10 years the amount of imposters and merchants in the turf industry has increased 10 fold. We now live in a world where scaremongering is so rife people find it difficult to work out what is good information and what is poor information and what products work and which ones don't. It is important turf managers ask for quality literature to support and justify claims made and not just go by the sales hype in magazines or from company brochures or presentations. Most of the time people are spending a lot of time and money on products that are producing that elusive few percent of improvement but does this X% warrant the cost and timely application of such products?. It has to be said that the amount of Iron or Nitrogen contained within some products is really the only thing that shows signs of improvement (hence the colour response) yet this leads the buyer into believing the product as a whole is the reason for improvement when in fact in most cases it's the most expensive form of N or Fe they will ever buy.

One worrying aspect for me, is the publication of research work by persons who are being paid to research, measure and evaluate the product or products by the product company (where biased or influenced results can occur) so, again, it's important to get such information from reputable sources and one's you can place faith in. Far too often, I see research done by companies that are promoting and selling the products. Therefore I have to question the validity and the authenticity of the work been carried out and the results presented. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying dismiss for the sake of it, but ask for supportive data to justify claims made that warrants and justifies the expense.


Part of my work over the last few years has been trying to answer a lot of the above questions. A few that I have looked at during this time are, Wetting Agents, Bio-Stimulants, Amendments, Microbiology in turf grass systems and chemical soil testing (plus more). Another major problem occurs with chemical soil testing accuracy. The results from such tests allow companies to produce lists of recommendations of fertilizer programs that encourage the purchase of products by the end users. These recommendations are given without any correlation to field trial response or historical site data. For example the methodology needs to be calibrated against extensive fertilizer trials in that region. Sufficiency levels should be obtained and calculated so fertilizer requirements can be objectively and independently assessed in correlation with response data - without all this, recommendations may be totally worthless. Unfortunately, the majority of testing is through product supply companies to support sales. A lot of this type of information is not impartial and is based on a technically flawed system. If the testing is not done exactly as outlined above the results will show a snapshot of what is going on at the time of extraction but could quickly change as it often does with moisture, temperature etc. It is essential proper calibration is carried out. This is true for both tissue testing and soil testing – the results are guides only and like anything in turf, not to be used in isolation.


What has become very apparent is the simple fact that very little reliable work has been carried out with turf grasses. There has been very little research or trial work into just how much grasses require nutritionally. This is down to the virtual impossibility of being able to carry out such work due to the varied range of grasses, cultivars, soils etc and the wide range of conditions that they would need to be tested under. It is important that any product is trailed, tested and statistically verified as being of significant benefit before being purchased in any amounts. If one is interested in such a product but the company cannot provide real independent data then my advice to them would be to ask to trial the product at the companies expense not yours. Any company that has a real belief in their product should not have a problem with supplying a potential purchaser with a trial amount. If they refuse then I suppose that answers your question. If they do supply a trial amount make sure you carry out reliable trails under controlled conditions which are properly measured. I have found many times products are bought and trailed without proper testing and measuring plots and standard acceptable testing procedures. My advice is always trial it, trial it yourself and trial it properly to get meaningful results. I have done this over the years so I am happy to advise anyone wanting further information.


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