The public has become more aware of the impact of synthetic fertilisers and chemicals on the environment. The result is many turf managers have begun to use biostimulants for turf managment in Australia. At very low rates these have many benefits and give a positive growth response. A good example of this response is the use of the turf pigment Vertmax Duo which contains salicylic acid. This not only filters UV light and gives an immediate colour reponse but also increases growth and increases lateral root branching.

Yet, enthusiasm for their use should be tempered with the knowledge that if you decide to go down this path you need to know what you are using. Simply, using “a biostimulant” and expecting results is no guarantee of success and is most likely going to be a waste of time and money. For example, many turf fungicides kill the very organisms you are trying to encourage.

Biostimulants for turf are substances or microorganisms that you use on turfgrass to enhance plant growth and health. They are improve the overall quality of the turf by increasing its resistance to stress and disease, and by promoting root development. Biostimulants work by stimulating the plant’s natural physiological processes, and they can be used in combination with fertilizers and other products to improve the overall health and appearance of turfgrass.

Examples of biostimulants for turf:

  • Seaweed extracts: These extracts contain a variety of natural compounds that can promote plant growth and health, such as hormones, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Microorganisms: Certain bacteria and fungi can be applied to turfgrass to improve root development, nutrient uptake, and disease resistance.
  • Humic acids: These acids are derived from decomposed organic matter and can improve soil structure and water-holding capacity, as well as increase the availability of nutrients.
  • Plant extracts: Some plant extracts like aloe vera, can be used to improve plant growth and health.

It is important to note that biostimulants for turf are not regulated by the APVMA. As a result it is important to research the product and check the label for the active ingredient, the amount and the specific use before application. Also, consult with a professional before applying any biostimulant, as different turf types may require different biostimulant treatments.

There is a constant stream of new products coming on the market which make massive claims with little supporting data. This blog is an attempt to cut through the marketing and get to the facts

Humic substances as biostimulants.

Humics are “natural, highly broken down organic substances with very complex structures”. These are either humin, humic, and fulvic acids. Even if two products contain the same amount of humic acid, they may have come from different sources and so give very different responses.

Humic substances:

  • Improve the growth of roots and shoots;
  • Cause an increase in the CEC of a soil;
  • Improve the structure of a soil;
  • Increase the activity of soil microbes;
  • Enhance nutrient uptake and plant hormone activity;
  • Improve seed germination.
 
The video below shows the growth response with Humifirst®.

 

Plant hormones as biostimulants.

Stresses such as heat, cold and drought can cause a number of hormone responses which turf plants use to survive. There are 5 major plant hormones that play a role in turf grass.

  • Indoleacetic acids (IAA). These are also known as auxins and promote root and shoot growth;
  • Gibberellic acids. These promote shoot elongation and the germination and growth of seeds;
  • Cytokinins which regulate turf growth and development;
  • Abscisic acids that cause a turf response to environmental factors and
  • Ethylene which causes a growth response.

Of these the most important are the cytokinins, gibberellic acid and abscisic acid. Different hormones can either be synergistic or antagonistic. An antagonistic effect is when hormones effect the same part of the plant but work against each other. In contrast a synergistic effect is when the effect of two or more hormones is greater than the effect of the individual hormone. By knowing what specific hormones do, it is possible to manipulate them to get a desired turf response.

  • The incorporation of salicylic acid into Vertmax Duo. This increases turf stress tolerance, speeds up seed germination and results in increases in root branching;
  • Applying strobilurin fungicides. This reduces turf respiration meaning more energy can go toward turf growth;
  • Applying trinexapac ethyl (Amigo 120ME) in shade. This increases the production of cytokinin and inhibits gibberellic acid.

 

Seaweed as a biostimulant for turf.

At low levels seaweed extracts can cause many beneficial plant responses. Its two main uses in the turf industry are to encourange root growth and to increase stress tolerance. Seaweed products contain organic and mineral compounds. These include:

  • Growth promoting substances like auxins, cytokinins, GA’s, and brassinosteroids;
  • Very low amounts of nutrients;
  • Alginates and
  • Amino acids.
As seaweed products do not all contain the same ingredients they won’t give the same results. This reason for this difference could be due to where the seaweed is from or what process was used in its manufacture.  
 
The type of cytokinin and turf type can also have a major effect on the growth response you get. Responses include:
  • Cell division;
  • Shoot initiation;
  • The growth of lateral buds;
  • Leaf expansion;
  • Increases in the opening of stomata and
  • The production of chlorophyll.

Seaweed on cool season turf.

Studies with cool-season turfgrass show:

  • 67% to 175% more roots compared to untreated plots;
  • 38% more top and 52% more root growth in the spring;
  • Increases in photosynthesis;
  • Higher numbers of leaves and shoots and a greater shoot and root mass;
  • Higher drought and salinity tolerance and
  • If you use seaweed plus iron in the autumn, it helps warm season turf keep its colour and encourages early spring green-up.

Work in 2013 shows that applications of foliar seaweed extracts results in 15% less root decline over a 42-day heat stress trial. A 30-day interval between applications is fine at first, but as heat and turf metabolism increase, the interval between treatments should be shortened to 14 days. This shorter interval during hot summer weather is because cytokinins etc tend to break down faster in the plant as the temperature increases.

Seaweed used as a bio-stimulant has a number of roles within the plant.

Phylgreen®

Phylgreen® is a natural extract of Ascophyllum nodosum and it maintains all its “goodies” as a result of its extraction process. By pre-stress conditioning the turf, it conditions turf against abiotic stress. This is a “Primactive Effect” and increases the ability of turf to manage stresses such as heat or drought.

Amino acids.

There are 20 amino acids that turf needs for growth and the table below summarises some of these. Like all plants, turf contains a variety of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. These amino acids are important for the growth and maintenance of the turf.
 
 
When a turf plant is growing under ideal conditions it can manufacture all the amino acids it needs. However, in reality turf grass is seldom grown under ideal conditions and so supplementary amino acids can make up for any shortfall that exists during periods of stress. The use of foliar L-amino acids can:
 

Research.

Work by Mertz et al on turf shows that the use of amino acids:
  • Improves putting green performance in older low shoot density creeping bentgrass, without having to re-surface;
  • Increases the evenness of a putting surface during periods of high stress and
  • Helps control turf nematodes.
 
 
 
 

Delfan Plus V.

Delfan Plus V is an L-α amino acid biostimulant for turf. L-α amino acids are potent plant biostimulants and turf stress relievers. Some of the amino acids in Delfan Plus V are anti-stress compounds which the plant uses to maintain growth.

The key is making Delfan Plus V applications before stress occurs. Delfan Plus V helps to reduce negative stress chemicals and as a result of this the turf is better able to resist abiotic stress.
water drop with and without the addition of the bio-stimulant delfan Plus showing spreading effect.

Delfan® V Plus has also been used as a spray tank additive to reduce the surface tension of turf chemical sprays and increase chemical to target contact.

After adding the bio-stimulant Delfan Plus the surface tension is reduced and full coverage occurs.
Gilba Solutions company brochure

Defan V Technical Sheet

Gilba Solutions company brochure

Research showing the importance of timing when applying bio-stimulants such as Delfan Plus.

Kreotec® as a biostimulant for turf

 

Kreotec® is a biological inoculant, that contains a blend of endophytic bacteria. After applying to the leaf surface these enter through the leaf stomata and live inside the plant. Kreotec increases nitrogen use efficiency and so reduces the need to apply fertilizer by adding up to 30 Kg of Nitrogen/Ha.

  • Work on lettuce shows a growth response. It reduces fertilizer to 60% of the standard rate with no yield decreases.
  • In ryegrass there are increases in yield with the use of Kreotec®.
Kreotec biostimulants in turf on tomatoes gave an increase in leaf area
Bio-stimulants in turf - Kreotec gives an increase in yield with less fertilizer
Kreotec use in Italian ryegrass
Kreotec bio-stimulant use in tomatoes
Kreotec use on wheat improved yields

 

In the turf industry, there are several products that claim to increase beneficial organisms in the soil. This is a great theory but in practice, but there is little data to support these claims. 

The reasons for this are very simple:

  • At the label use rates it is unlikely that the introduction of non-native organisms will result in their becoming dominant;
  • Little thought is given to the non-target effects of turf chemicals and 
  • There is an antagonism between endophytes and VAM. If you use products containing VAM on high endophyte ryegrass they aren’t going to work.

 

Trichoderma spp.

Trichoderma is a genus of fungi that is commonly found in soil, plant debris, and on the surface of plants. They are known for their ability to form mutualistic relationships with plants and are often used as biocontrol agents to protect crops from plant pathogens. Trichoderma species can colonize plant roots and produce enzymes that help to break down organic matter in the soil, which can make nutrients more available to the plant. They also produce secondary metabolites that can inhibit the growth of plant pathogens. 

Biostimulant use in turf using VAM.

You can class Mycorrhiza as arbuscular or vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas (VAM) and they form relationships with most grass species. When you seed a sand constructed sports ground or golf green, fungal populations are slow to increase. In this situation, with no dominant microbial population there are clear benefits to using these fungi:

  • They increase turf resistance to nematodes and root diseases;
  • They increase chlorophyll levels;
  • Seed germination increases;
  • They increase drought recovery and finally
  • They can increase turf salt tolerance.

But, in reality, what is the impact of fungicides on these?

General Rules on the use of fungicides with fungi inoculants:

  • Foliar non­-systemic fungicides have very little impact on mycorrhizal fungi. This is because they live on the roots. Even though some fungicide may reach the soil, it is such a low rate it is unlikely to effect these fungi;
  • Soil applications of non-­systemic fungicides can be detrimental to mycorrhizal fungi. This is especially the case if you apply before root colonization occurs. A soil application washes the fungicide into the root zone and so it is important to avoid using these too close to when inoculation occurs. A good rule is to avoid using soil drench fungicides 2 weeks before inoculation (longer if systemic) and 4 weeks after inoculation.

After colonization.

Once spores have colonized roots, mycorrhizal fungi tend to be less sensitive to soil-applied non systemic fungicides because:

  • Although fungicide levels will be high in the soil they are lower inside the roots;
  • High soil fungicide levels can kill off fungae in the soil, but not fungae inside the roots;
  • When soil fungicide levels fall, root fungal tissue will recover and grow a new network out into the soil;
  • We don’t recommend the use of systemic fungicides.

The effects of fungicides on bio stimulants.

Fungicide Active Ingredient

ecto mycorrhizal fungi

VAM mycorrhizal fungi

trichoderma sp

Azoxystrobin

None

Negative

Captan

None

Generally negative

Negative

Chlorothalonil

Generally negative

Negative

Fludioxonil

None

Fosetyl aluminium

None

Negative

Iprodione

Negative

None

Mancozeb

Negative

None

Metalaxyl

None

Negative

Paclobutrazol

None

Propamocarb

None

Propiconazole

Negative

Negative

Terrazole

Negative

Triadimenol

Negative

Is there a role for biostimulants in turf?

 

The short answer is yes. But only when using products that have good non biased trial data. Avoid using products because they have a nice brochure or the company that markets them tells you they work. Also if you can’t verify any claims avoid using it and if it hasn’t got an expiry date keep well away.

  • Always ask for a certificate of analysis;
  • Check on the expiry date and if it doesn’t have one ask why not?
  • Watch what fungicides you use. If you don’t these are going to kill the very thing you are trying to encourage.

As a final note we often carry out product tests on behalf of clients. Recent tests on a VAM containing liquid from two laboratories were:

Results indicate that 2 types of yeasts dominate the product and there is no presence of VAM. Contact the manufacturer of the product, and carry out further testing to verify results”.

The role of bio stimulants in turf.

Biostimulant

Grass Type

Increase Drought tolerance

Root Growth

Increase shade tolerance

Reduce disease

Improve flood tolerance

Increase Photosynthesis 

Enhance salinity tolerance

Seaweed

C3

  ♦♦

  ♦

♦♦

  ♦

  ♦

C4

  ♦

  ♦♦

  ♦

Humic acid

C3

  ♦

  ♦♦

♦♦

  ♦

  ♦

C4

  ♦♦

  ♦

  ♦

Triazole Fungicide

C3

  ♦

  ♦♦

♦♦♦

  ♦

  ♦

Amino acid

C3

  ♦

♦♦

  ♦

  ♦♦

Silica

C3

  ♦

♦♦

  ♦

Trinexapac

C3

  ♦

♦♦

  ♦

FAQ

What are examples of biostimulants?

Good examples are seaweed extracts, salicylic acid derivatives, amino acids, and rooting compounds used for plant cuttings.

What is the difference between a biostimulant and a fertiliser?

A fertiliser generally gives a growth response. A biostimulant doesn’t necessarily give a growth response but even when used at very low rates, they can increase root growth or improve the ability of a plant to cope with stress.

Do biostimulants work on lawns?

The simple answer is yes if used at the correct rates, at the right time and on the right grass. Always remember that more isn’t necessary a good thing and label rates are for a reason.

The information on this website is for general purposes only. The information is provided by Gilba Solutions and while we try to keep it up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, or suitability with respect to the website or the information, products, or services, on the website for any purpose.

 

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