Like any other industry, professional turf management as well as commercial organic agriculture can often be susceptible to misinformation regarding which methods and equipment are most effective for achieving ideal results, and this definitely holds true when it comes to understanding what it takes to produce optimal plant growth and health. While few crop or turf managers would argue that amino acids are an important component of any fertilization program, there seems to be some confusion regarding the exact role that amino acids play in soil and plant management. Below are some key facts and insights regarding what amino acids are, and why they should be regarded as a vitally important element of your fertility management program.
First Things First: What Exactly Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds that are comprised primarily of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. This “cocktail” of essential elements forms the building blocks for proteins, which are the basic components required for living cells to exist. Plants are able to synthesize amino acids by obtaining carbon and oxygen from the air, hydrogen from water and nitrogen from the soil, combining these key ingredients together in order to generate amino acids through the formation of complex biochemical pathways (i.e., photosynthesis). The prevalence of amino acids in the soil will be directly proportional to the overall health and quality of the plant you’re trying to grow.
Amino Acids: The Essential Nutrient for Soil and Plant Health
Amino acids also serve as a vital food source for the untold billions of microbes (i.e., small organisms) found in the soil. The carbon found in amino acids is one of the primary energy sources for these tiny soil microbes, which metabolize the carbon in order to continue building their populations. There are thousands of different species of beneficial microbes that contribute to the health of soil and plant life by building soil structure, breaking down thatch, suppressing various plant and soil diseases, and providing vital carbon dioxide output that plants can use in the process of photosynthesis. Since the life cycle of these microbes is very short (averaging roughly 20 minutes), they also die off at a rapid rate, releasing vital organic compounds back into the soil that can be used for nourishment as well. This delicate give-and-take relationship between the microbes, soil and plant life depends upon amino acids to thrive, so it stands to reason that the soil with the highest quantities of amino acids will ultimately provide the highest level of nutrition for the plants.
Focus on Amino Acids, Not Nitrogen
It is standard practice for growers as well as turf professionals to think in terms of how much nitrogen per season will be required for optimal plant health, and while this has some validity when using synthetic fertilizer, it is a better idea to focus on amino acid content when using organic fertilizer. Choosing an organic fertilizer with a high percentage of amino acid content will ensure that the soil microbes have plenty of nutrients to work with in order to maintain a healthy soil structure, which is the key to growing a robust and resilient plant. The average manure-based product features roughly five percent to 10 percent amino acid content, which translates into about 100 to 200 pounds of amino acids per ton of fertilizer. On the other hand, Nature Safe 10-2-8 (an all-natural and organic fertilizer) contains more than 60 percent amino acid content, which is the equivalent of 1,200 pounds of amino acids per ton of product. Given the fact that there are literally billions of microbes found in just one gram of soil, you’re going to need a fertilizer product with an abundance of amino acids to meet the nutritional needs of these vital microorganisms in order to keep your soil healthy enough to grow a high-quality plant. When viewed in this light, the choice is clear: Not only does Nature Safe provide far more bang for your buck in terms of amino acid content, but it also offers the best overall nutritional value to ensure optimal plant growth and stability.