Seaweed extracts feature in many turf managers’ annual programmes and looking at what’s currently available there are plenty of seaweed products you could choose. But what should turf professionals look for? Don’t all seaweed products do pretty much the same job?
The simple answer to that question is no. There are distinctly different seaweed species, a number of methods and approaches for harvesting, collecting and extracting seaweed’s beneficial components. Seaweed products are not all the same, so different products will produce very different responses in turf.
For any professional, it’s worth looking beyond the marketing hype. Weigh up the evidence from product trials that demonstrate how seaweed extract actually improves the condition of turf. Other important factors to look for are the percentage of active seaweed content in products, tank mix compatibility, and, of course, value for money.
Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed (rockweed) is a marine plant of the northern Atlantic ocean and common on the north-western coast of Europe including east Greenland and the north-eastern coast of North America. Growing in cold, clean intertidal zone conditions, this is a plant that can survive very demanding conditions. At high tide it’s immersed in cold, salty water and at low tide suffers dehydration and exposure in freezing temperatures, the very qualities that make seaweed effective and an ideal conditioning product for turf.
While there seems to be general agreement in the sportsturf industry that applying a seaweed product can have a positive effect as a tonic, supporting evidence has been either anecdotal or based on crop trials rather than being tested on turf. Yet, recent independent trials on turf with a new seaweed extract have produced convincing results.
ICL developed SeaMax, a premium, water soluble and high density Atlantic Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed powder. This is the latest innovation in the Sportsmaster WSF range and contains 75% active, high quality, high density seaweed extract, a significantly higher percentage compared to many seaweed products on the market. It is also, importantly, harvested from sustainable, renewable sources.
Independent trials showed that SeaMax helped the plant produce longer roots, a greater root mass and improved the quality of growth (shoot weight), compared to competitor products or control conditions, using no seaweed extract. Under drought conditions, the turf quality and colour improved noticeably when treated with SeaMax and, when included in an annual nutritional programme, turf quality remained significantly higher throughout the autumn and in the lead up to winter.
A quality seaweed extract for turf is a complicated product containing a range of plant-available micronutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and bioactive molecules. How these interact within the turf plant is also a complex process at a cellular level and one that is slowly being uncovered through in-depth and focussed research.
Dr Andy Owen is ICL International Technical Manager and explains; “The mode of action of seaweed extracts within the turfgrass system is fascinating. Undoubtedly seaweed extracts will modify the numbers, types and activity of microbes in the rhizosphere and enhance interaction with roots. Certain seaweeds can generate a hormone response in the plant and contain compounds which affect both the plasticity and elasticity of cells. This triggers the plant to respond and control water more efficiently through its stomata, which in turn improves root growth and plant vigour, which is probably why turf treated with seaweed extract is better able to resist stresses in periods of drought and extremes of weather.”
Formulated for use on golf course greens, tees, fairways and sports fields, SeaMax is a water soluble powder so is an ideal tank mix partner for liquid and foliar nutrition or to complement a granular fertilizer programme. Independent tests show a low input rate of only 1kg per hectare provides the most effective results, making SeaMax a perfect supplement to any turf nutritional programme, providing cost-effective support and efficient conditioning for the plant to help combat the season’s stresses.