Written by Tyler Sherwood, Accounts & Marketing Director Turf Dietitian, Inc.
Ingenuity is the glue that binds all the moving parts of a grounds maintenance crew. The new year has arrived, and the unpredictability of life remains intact, so how do we manage our minds to keep managing turf? Dealing with the uncertainty of today is best served fundamentally. Getting back to basics and a more simplified approach to maintaining plant health is what can ease our minds and stimulate root growth for the upcoming Spring season.
Strengthening our minds is no simple task, but many proven methods are well overthought. Applying the same approach to plant health may seem daunting but asking what it takes to reset the way you think is a vital question for everyone in our current society. Might we address how we perceive the world? Would we take a look at the surroundings that molded our reactionary urges? Would we do a deep dive to evaluate what actions truly bring ease to our currently shocked nervous systems? Can we start with ourselves to stimulate the environments around us?
Focusing on the fundamentals of plant health and remembering to take time to care for yourself will help you show up better for your crews, which are like an extended family to us. We must remain nimble and continue to trust our instincts. But, coming up with solutions to a seemingly unending loop of doubt can be exhausting. We must emphasize taking care of ourselves, no matter how stigmatic that process is. We must set our pride aside and ask for help. We must allow ourselves to feel, to show up for our families, preserving enough energy to keep sustaining business in an orderly fashion for the upcoming spring season. The last thing we want is for our board of directors, membership, and crews to see us sweat. But, it is a must to put these last two years into perspective and better appreciate the jobs that we hold onto so dearly.
Professional athletes know what sets them apart from the pack is relentless training during the offseason. If the best athletes in the world know that there is no time in-season to learn new techniques, the off-season is vital to hone in on these new skill sets and physical attributes. This type of mindset is imperative for the evolution of their careers. So, what lesson is to be learned here for turfgrass professionals, regardless of the industry? There should never be an offseason in the traditional sense, and I relate this to mental fortitude. We must be working on ourselves just as hard as we fight to keep these greens alive or ready for the next season. If not, what reasons are there to keep going at all?
Speaking of ingenuity, preparing for Spring can be an easier transition with organic products and natural biochemicals. These products have been showing great promise for the future of most green industries by facilitating plant growth and metabolism, increasing root mass, and increasing soil microorganisms. They are simple to use, and almost any plant will benefit from biochemicals, specifically turfgrass. These by-products contain many energizing properties, which come in handy through the winter months when the plants struggle the most.
By introducing biochemicals and activating these biological systems, the plants will begin warming themselves up like professional athletes before a game. These same systems also stimulate food reserves to be constructed. As the warmer months come rolling in and the stress we place these plants under stunts root growth, we can combat this reality of regularly cutting grass at an eighth of an inch.
Similar to organic supplements in the human world, the benefits and effectiveness of organic biochemicals in the plant world are only starting to be undeniably understood. By focusing on soil health, we increase the chances of survivability in our plants, and regarding off-season approaches, we can help aid the strength in which these plants will resurface. Biochemicals enhance soil microflora making the uptake of nutrients more effective. Scientists have also experienced an increased level of antioxidant activity by boosting internal defenses against environmental stresses and disease pressure. Many criteria affect the efficacy of most organic products. Differences in outcomes may be prevalent depending on a few factors involving type, quality, freshness, and source location. Hormones dependent on these factors may stimulate new growth, root development, and cell enlargement. Plants have not evolved to move around in search of better conditions to grow in, so we must do what we can to enhance the soils where we plant them.
I am not suggesting that organic biochemicals should replace fertilizers for good. But studies are starting to show that these products can cut down on fertilizer use considerably, meaning that clubs could potentially worry a lot less about budget cuts in the long run. Making more nutrients in the soil available for consumption is the key here, and unleashing these nutrients that are bound up, we will serve your team through the high-traffic months. You may find that the correct ratio of plant hormones has beneficial results, but many speculate what that ratio might be. Getting to know the right conditions for the proper use of organic biochemicals takes endurance and understanding. Applying a certain amount when the plant is under significant stress compared to when it is not can show different results. This uncertainty can be a turn-off for some, but I would refrain from allowing it to be the final factor in deciding whether or not to use these products. This close-minded approach is where I challenge you to address your train of thought and bring mental health back up in our outlook on one-size-fits-all ideologies.
What works for me is not what is going to work for you. We must take it upon ourselves to find a routine that strengthens our mental state. And hold ourselves accountable to this routine, knowing that it might not remain the same throughout a calendar year. Our mind has evolved to adapt and react, and many of us who fear challenges forget that we are creatures that need adversity to thrive. Regardless of the scale of your operation, you will learn through failure which products work best. These are factors that only you and your crew can know and adjust for, day in and day out. Like the natural resilience that plants possess, our minds need to be challenged and kept guessing equally as much if not more. The true challenge is all in how you look at the situation.
Temperature Stress Reliever
Grass in northern states that forego temperature fluctuations present a different kind of challenge by having a decreased ability to photosynthesize. Reduced germination rates and delayed plant growth mean more shallow roots and decreased plant yield. With the industry continuing to see budget cuts, spiking chemical prices, and the demand for the same job to get done with fewer resources, it’s no wonder how golf course and sports turf maintenance both compete with labor industries that can pay more. If biochemicals provide a cheaper alternative to foreign input products like fertilizers and pesticides, now may be a better time than any to start considering them.
Why not simplify our approach? Although biochemicals are still in the experimental stages of being defined, the natural stimulation they have shown to provide plants should not be overlooked. By enhancing microbial processes in the rhizosphere and stimulating root growth without harsh chemical inputs, we can dramatically reduce our carbon footprints and improve sustainability overall. Biochemicals also offer diversity in which they interact with soil nutrients and root secretions in the rhizosphere. Some experiments have involved methods of direct product application to induce plant growth. Regardless of the direct or indirect application, rhizobacteria remain constant. These microorganisms stimulate existing microbes in the rhizosphere. When the microbes in the soil are more active, the plant will grow stronger through this bio-stimulation.
Biochemicals can also target a plant’s natural processes to cope with temperature stress. Triggering molecular mechanisms involving the use of natural protectants such as antioxidants, membrane lipids, metabolites, and proteins. Studies have shown that added biochemicals as temperature stress relievers with cold-weather fluctuation exhibited early flowering in strawberry plants. When used with turfgrass, you should expect to jump-start plant root growth and see luscious fairways and smooth greens amidst the Spring season.
Indigenous Microorganisms Working Double-Time
I love the phrase “Work smarter, not harder.” The demand for this mind frame in today’s market is more relevant than ever. The use of biochemicals can be a great way to “trim the fat” and simplify our approach to the not-so-simple task of growing grass.
I could go on for days about the different biochemicals that exist currently, but for the sake of keeping things brief, I’ve only spoken about plant growth hormones in this article. As plant health professionals, we know every biochemical known to man has to be produced by plants to thrive and keep beneficial bacteria alive.
Some products have only one ingredient, and others have combinations of these biochemicals. Which one should you use? The answer is simple: Choose the one that works the best for you. I believe all of them to be beneficial. Over time we will start to see more studies that will show what the proper balances in the plant are. Here is a list of biochemicals that I’ve seen in products manufactured for plant and soil health specifically:
- Beneficial Microbial Products
- Amino Acids
- Fulvic Acids
- Humic Acids
- Plant Growth Hormones
- Minerals (Nutrients)
- Carbon Compounds
Preparing soil for Spring can be simplified by targeting roots. Specifically, the area where root secretions and soil nutrients interact with local bacteria. Thus, directly affecting growth. By adding natural products and plant biochemicals, you can stimulate micro-bacterial activity which it naturally occurs in the soil by providing nutrients that encourage the existing bacteria to perform their biological processes.
Consequently, lean into the idea behind using organic biochemical products to your benefit, making indigenous microorganisms work double-time to boost natural plant processes. With the demand and responsibility asked of ourselves, doesn’t that sound like a breath of fresh air?
Improve plant hardiness and promote how well your turf will bounce back after abiotic stresses such as low temperature. Improve mental hardiness by boosting processes that naturally occur in our brain anyway. Remain strong, as your resilience does not go unnoticed. And even though you may not be seeking recognition, everyone else around will appreciate the mental fortitude and ingenuity you exude.
Mental Health Resources for Superintendents:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
A free, confidential crisis hotline that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Crisis Text Line
Text “HOME” to 741741
The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line is free and serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.
National Institute of Mental Health
The agency offers resources and expert-reviewed information on mental disorders and a range of related topics, including treatment, prevention and recovery.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
The agency provides resources on treatment facilities, data and statistics, and information on current public health topics.
Mindfulness and self-care with Paul MacCormack
A GCSAA webinar with Paul MacCormack, the “Mindful Superintendent,” focused on topics tied to personal well-being, tailored to superintendents.
Down, but not out: A superintendent’s recovery from a brain injury
After a life-changing injury on the job and a winding road to recovery, Canadian superintendent Brian Youell has turned private hardship into a message of hope and strength.