Growth Products, Ltd: Horticulture

Fertigation: Smart, Easy, & Cost Efficient

June 2018

Fertigation has been around for a long time, and I personally have set up and monitored fertigation systems for Growth Products clients for over 12 years. I’ve become convinced that fertigation is the smartest, easiest, and most cost-efficient way to manage golf courses, parks and athletic fields, as well as other landscaped areas.

Fertigation systems that inject just the right amount of nutrients or soil amendments into irrigation water were once expensive, complicated, and fairly rare. But with the cost of fertigation systems having come down in price and the cost of manpower soaring, fertigation systems are rapidly gaining popularity among golf course superintendents, ball field managers, and municipal park supervisors.

Multiple Benefits

Fertigation systems do not need to be run on a daily basis, as many people think, but can be turned off for weeks at a time when not needed – for instance, in periods of high rainfall. If a turf manager is using a slow-release fertilizer, the manager can run the system about once per week and get excellent results.

Operationally, fertigation gives managers maximum flexibility. Most managers use fertigation to apply all their plant nutrients and soil amendments, but a fertigation system does not preclude the use of dry granular products. Some superintendents like to use both liquid and dry technologies for turf care. Other flexibility and ease-of-use options include the ability to run surfactants through the system during periods of high heat and to run buffering agents that can counteract the high pH or bicarbonate levels often found in effluent water.

Any liquid or soluble can be run through a fertigation system, and the products used can be tailored to the specific needs of each location and to the goals of each manager. We typically recommend programs that include Nitro-28, Sodium Knock-Out, and Essential:

Nitro-28® Slow Release Nitrogen (28-0-0). Nitro-28 has 72% slow-release nitrogen and an ultra-low salt index of 6. It has an economical price-point— with N-28 you can fertilize turf at a cost of approximately $30 per acre per month. Its carbon content serves as an energy source for beneficial soil microorganisms, and because it is a foliar product, it resists leaching and volatilization.

• Sodium Knockout®. Sodium Knockout adds calcium to the soil and pulls salt off soil colloids. It improves plant health by reducing or eliminating salt build-ups in soil, which is a common concern wherever effluent water is used for irrigation.

Essential Plus™ 1-0-1 Soil Amendment and Root Stimulator. Essential Plus™ is a time-tested blend of organics that includes two types of kelp extracts, natural rooting hormones, L-amino acids, vitamins, and more. It produces key enzymes and improves root branching, boosts a plant’s total root mass, increases a soil’s nutrient holding capacity, and creates a more neutral soil pH.

The Mechanics of Fertigation

A fertigation system consists of a flow sensor that measures the amount of water going through an irrigation system, along with a computerized program that calculates the optimal amount of each product to add to the irrigation water. Automated pumps pull products from a storage tank and inject them into the water.

Adding a fertigation program to an existing irrigation system usually takes no more than a few hours to install. Once installed, a fertigation system lasts for years. Compare that to the high maintenance costs associated with spraying equipment (e.g., replacement costs and frequent repairs) or the equipment costs for spreading granular products, and you can see another avenue of savings. Because of reduced equipment costs, reduced water costs, and reduced labor costs, most fertigation systems more than pay for themselves.

Fertigation can be used on areas of almost any size. (Alan himself has overseen the installation on plots as small as 5 acres and as large as 135 acres.) In addition to parks and fields, it’s also perfect for resorts and other locations where managers don’t want guests to see workers spraying grass on a regular basis. Fertigation is equally ideal for many agricultural crops.