Healthy Turf Grass: At the Root of It All

No matter how environmentally aware a turf manager may be, the fundamentals behind the idealized concepts of golf course turf are inherently in opposition with nature. We sod, sprig or seed vast surfaces with a single hybridized species of plant. Then, we mow it often and mow it short. Although the result is the sprawling, pristine fairways golfers love to play, the process that takes us there too often relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers, the copious use of chemicals and various mechanical methods of aerating the soil.

In contrast, Mother Nature’s preference is to be left alone with a diverse variety of plants that grow without the interruption of mowing or trimming and that decay in a natural cycle, providing rich organic matter and stimulating healthy, broad-based microbial activity. As Brian Galbraith explained, “Left alone, Mother Nature will always create a forest.”

The Forest Beneath the Surface

The understanding that less is more is one of the factors that led Galbraith in 1988 to launch Humate International, Inc. After acquiring a large supply of high-quality, decomposed organic matter known as humate, (obtained exclusively as a by-product of a Florida mining process), Galbraith set up shop in the Jacksonville area. His objective was to bring the natural benefits of humate to golf courses to aid superintendents in the bioremediation of depleted soils.

Over time, Humate International expanded beyond the high-energy HUMATE granular and liquid organics it offers by adding BIOSYST microbial inoculants and biostimulants to its product line. Working together, the HUMATE and BIOSYST products support plant and soil performance, promote naturally healthier soil and help suppress disease and nematodes.

When organic matter and soil microbes create a natural ecosystem below the surface of soil, and it is diverse and self-sustaining, you essentially “create a forest beneath the grass,” a fact one golf course superintendent observed firsthand during his work at a public course in Sarasota, Florida. “I tried the combined HUMATE and BIOSYST program on an island green where I had less than one-inch roots. Within two-and-a-half weeks, I had three-inch roots with the microbes and eight-inch roots where I used HUMATE Ag and the microbes together.”

Another golf course superintendent at a Florida east coast course was also focused on root growth. He told us, “Potash, magnesium and phosphorous are the required nutrients that continue to be an integral part of our fertilizer program. In combination with these nutrients, the HUMATE Ls helps us achieve root density and elongation up to eighteen inches in the fairways and ten inches on the greens. In addition to length, the most noticeable feature of the root system is an extremely large number of root hairs which creates a very fibrous mass.”

An intricate and interwoven community can, in fact, thrive in the forest beneath the grass. Here, plants, through their roots, feed microbes. These microbes analyze the output from the plants’ roots and then respond by giving back to plants the nutrients the plants require. Although this description is an oversimplification of the multifaceted relationships that exist beneath the surface of the soil, it illustrates how easily our good intentions in applying synthetic chemicals can disrupt the balance of a natural process that is infinitely complex yet remarkably simple.

The Dirt on Good Dirt from Golf Course Superintendents Who Rely on Humate International Products and Programs

Soil includes organic substances and inorganic minerals, along with animals (primarily invertebrates, such as earthworms), plant roots and microorganisms that interact to yield the optimal environment for plant growth. Healthy soil is a three-fold issue of combining biological, physical and chemical components.

From a biological aspect, soil must be balanced and have abundant, active microorganisms and other animal species. Physically, it must be sufficiently open for air and water movement with water-holding capacity; good soil contains a lot of air. Chemically, good soil must possess effective nutrients in complex form while being absent of toxic substances and salts.

Robust, healthy turf begins with healthy soil. Turf grass and ornamentals grown in healthy soil are heartier, more drought tolerant, more disease resistant, more economical to sustain and generally, less of a headache for turf managers and maintenance staff than their counterparts grown in poor soil and then coaxed into the appearance of good health through what can be heavy-handed and pricey chemical applications.

As Brian Galbraith puts it, “The two most important components of the soil are a high-energy organic material, such as our HUMATE Ag granular products, and a broad-based, balanced, active microbial population, like our BIOSYST microbial inoculants and support materials. With these in place, you can obtain the macro- and micro-nutrients, trace minerals and other inputs your plant and soil system requires using relatively small amounts of efficient and effective low-salt, organics, which is our HUMATE Rejuvenator and MicroFeed.

“Furthermore,” he said, “Our golf course customers have demonstrated over the years how they can produce high-quality turf using our products and we can now provide a complete range of products for a total organics program. More recently, they have started to prove how they can maintain a high-quality turf without the continual application of fungicides and other chemicals and recent university trials have demonstrated how our organic products and programs enable a plant and soil ecological system to control disease.”

The experience of the superintendent at a private course near Atlanta is one of countless examples of turf grass and plants fortified to withstand stress through the use of Humate International products. He and his crew used HUMATE Ag and HUMATE Ls as the basis of his bent grass greens program for many years.

During one particularly long, hot, Georgia summer, the superintendent reported, “The soil on all my greens –some sand and some native soil– is light and porous, and this is the first time in ten summers I have not had to core aerify. Also, despite the hottest, driest summer I can recall, the grass is tight and lush, and I still have a three-and-a-half to four-inch root system in August.”

And the results of using Humate International products on Tifdwarf Bermuda are equally as impressive. Another golf course superintendent shared, “We renovated and resprigged with Tifdwarf Bermuda. We incorporated HUMATE Ag6 into the top five inches of mix at one, two and three pounds per cubic yard of soil.

“In just seven weeks, the two and three pound rates produced a root mass and length I have never seen before. The root mass was two to three times that of the non-treated greens, and the length was from eleven to fourteen inches.”

Simple Concept. Simple Plan. Superior Results.

Humate International keeps its product lines straightforward, thereby making it easy for superintendents and turf managers to
identify how Humate International products target biological, physical or chemical aspects of soil health and strong turf. Products are charted to show which benefits are primary and which are secondary.

You’ll find detailed explanations for benefits, application rates and frequency, on-going applications and packaging for each of the following products on the company’s website at

  • HUMATE Ag is based on a unique humic + fulvic acids raw material extracted from the soil and is available in a line of insoluble granular products, in several particle sizes.
  • HUMATE Ls and HUMATE As are soluble products used on their own or to complement HUMATE Ag applications.
  • HUMATE Rejuvenator is a granular nutrient product, offered in customized blends based upon PROBIOTIC granular fertilizer, HUMATE Ag and calcium in specific combinations to meet individual needs.
  • HUMATE MicroFeed is liquefied manure nutrients stabilized using Humate Ls and has no odor issue.
  • HUMATE AcidipHier is a granular, long-lasting answer for bicarbonates, salts and high pH.
  • BIOSYST is a line of microbial inoculants and support materials in dry-soluble form for infinite shelf life. The products are based on mixtures of fifteen to thirty species of soil microorganisms and the materials required to support soil microbial populations.
  • BIOSYST MSR (Microbial Stress Reliver) is the microbial answer to overcome stress.
  • PROBIOTIC provides slow-release fertilizers, sized for general-purpose and greens-grade applications.
  • AQUA-ROOT is a unique formula of HUMATE, plus wetting agent and biostimulants.
  • DeBug Turbo is a neem extract, plus the active ingredient azadirachtin, for use as a general-purpose insecticide.

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