6 A different approach

A Different Approach

By Clive Liddiard MSc

The critical elements to growth have never changed, they are the LAW of growth, Light, Air and water. Without any or all of these elements you already have problems. The amount each species needs varies but they all, at some point, need the LAW to help them. Nearly all grounds are currently fed with a mixture of, N, P, K, Mg, Fe, and Calcium and on the odd occasion a bio product of some description.

We feed the turf to promote growth when we have growth we have Photosynthesis which in turn produces chlorophyll which contains carbohydrates which provide plant energy. We have used proprietary fertilisers for decades why change, well we could have to because NH3+HN03= NH4NO3 or in English Ammonium nitrate and as most people are very well aware nitrates cause harm to the environment. So if nitrates harm the environment can the harm they plant as well could it stand to reason well the answer is yes they do cause problems for the plant, Ammonium nitrate + water = Nitric acid.

Chlorophyll production is dramatically increased after an application of nitrogen. Chlorophyll before nitrogen application is around 6.2 on the pH scale after an application of 12-0-9 it drops to 4.9 after applying 20-10-10 it is 4.1 on the pH scale which is around the same acidity of a lemon which if you as a person were to bite your mouth would duly water to break down the acid that is present. Saliva carries many bacteria which help keep your mouth nice and healthy plus it also carries various other things which when it is diluting and acid in your mouth the level of benefit to you from the saliva is cut by 70% all the saliva is doing is diluting the acid.

So, after an application of nitrogen, the plant reacts by producing more chlorophyll to dilute the present acid this fluid is around 30% of its true carbohydrate value. The grass plant breaks down its energy sources in various stages but as a rule of thumb it is 30% top growth 30% in the crown and 40% to the roots.

So, as the figures suggest, there is a lot of top growth but almost no other activity.

To sum up, the plant has a carbohydrate level of 70% below its normal rate, the excessive chlorophyll production is forcing excessive top growth, and the chlorophyll is diluting the present acid. As a consequence of this the plant is not following its normal growth cycle.

We do know for sure that nitrogen is an essential element; we also know that the grass plant can take nitrogen directly from the soil as the organic matter level is broken down by bacteria. Bacteria and mycozorial fungi are critical to good soil conditions. Seaweed has a high bacterial count but this should not be confused with soil bacteria as the 2 are very different but the seaweed bacteria does give the soil bacteria a fed source.

Plant sugars make up a lot of the chlorophyll produced by the plant, the plant produces 7 different sugars of which 5 have been identified as being used for growth and 2 for the reproduction process. We also now know that the plant can take natural sugars from the soil and also take it in through its exudation system.

Seaweed along with sugars create a good organic feeding source, at this time both are applied by liquid, we know that liquid formulas have a very limited time of activity. Too much seaweed application can cause extensive problems on sand based structures, though this is dramatically improved if LAW is in place. So ideally seaweed should come via a meal of granular form and sugar in a similar type.

We will go back a little and re look at proprietary fertiliser and another draw back is that no matter what the current rate of growth or the requirement for growth the fertiliser prill will break down so whether or not the plant needs it. It is like having 3 plates of dinner served to you you can only eat one but now have to eat all 3 either some will go waste or the body will just dispose of it as quickly as it can.

So would the same apply if sugars were used in granular form?

Well in theory yes but only if it comes via a prill the one we use comes via Zealite which does not break down naturally in the soil in fact it acts like a particle of soil allowing the plant to draw feed from it when it needs it. The delivery of the seaweed is delivered via a coating on the granule.

Now on the face of it sugars are very expensive and fertiliser is very cheap by comparison. Now a standard fertiliser has an average life of around 6 weeks now if you also add the loss of nutrient as well this drops to around 4 weeks. Sugars via Zealite have a average life of 6 months, whilst sugars are more expensive they are not 4 to 6 times more.

Do sugars work the pictures below show a before and after treatment over a 2 year period?

HamptonPicture1.jpg Jan 2003
HamptonPicture2.jpg Jan 2004
HamptonPicture3.jpg Jan 2005 after 48 games have been played.

When I took over at Hampton we had some quite serious problems with the cricket tables, we had root break at 3 to 4 inches, we had a very serious soil pan at 6 inches our bacteria levels was a case of what levels, aeration work which had been carried out prior to me joining had had little or in truth no effect, just to round it off we had low bounce which was caused by the root break sadly it just got over rolled instead.

Upon taking a sample you were deemed lucky to get 2 inches of any structure so, after an extensive range of works to reintroduce LAW, treatment went ahead.

HamptonPicture4.jpg Profile sample
HamptonPicture5.jpg Root depth and strength

In picture 5 I am only holding the grass blades themselves.

So root development is stronger and bounce is slowly returning back to the squares.

So other facts that have come to light during this research program have been.

  • Plant growth activity continues at low temperatures.
  • The plants requirement for light is reduced
  • The sward stands up in low temperatures
  • The tolerance of wear is increased by 50%
  • The levels of Poa have been dramatically reduced.


  • Remember the LAW of plant growth
  • Organic matter is essential for bacterial levels to exist around 10% seems to work best.
  • Have good bacterial activity
  • Active elements at good levels, primarily Mg
  • If available a sugar or carbohydrate based product.

If you can put all these together you will have growth and good strong growth at that.

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