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Chicago Summit Showcases Organic Success Stories

Golf course superintendent Paul Cushing discusses the impact of gypsum on his course while fellow panelists Peter Wild (Boston Tree Preservation), left, Dr. William Sadler (Bradfield Organics), Dr. George Snyder (University of Florida) and Craig Dick (Calcium Products) listen in.

Golf course superintendent Paul Cushing discusses the impact of gypsum on his course while fellow panelists Peter Wild (Boston Tree Preservation), left, Dr. William Sadler (Bradfield Organics), Dr. George Snyder (University of Florida) and Craig Dick (Calcium Products) listen in.

Bringing together pioneers in the ever-expanding field of organic landscape maintenance and construction, the Chicago: 2012 Summit showcased success stories from coast to coast.

“I’m not here to talk about issues of safety, or toxicity, associated with the synthetic chemicals, although that is a great side benefit,” said landscape architect and radio host Howard Garrett of Dallas, Texas. “I started out down this road because I was worried about my daughter rolling around in poisons. But I’m here today because organics works so well and it cost less.”

Golf course superintendent Paul Cushing told the audience that a soil-based approach had worked well for the four courses he has constructed in his career. He is currently transforming Torrey Pines in San Diego from a chemically intensive program to one that’s more utilizing composts, compost teas and natural amendments like high-calcium limestone and gypsum.

“The key for us is getting the calcium to magnesium ratio in the right ratio of 6 to 1,” said Cushing, whose course hosts a PGA tournament each year in January. “That will help flush the sodium out of the soil and give us more consistently green and lush growth patterns.”

His success with calcium and gypsum, he said, has made him one of the best customers of the Summit’s sponsor, Calcium Products Inc.

“Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are relatively easy to manage, but the calcium is the key with grass,” said Cushing. “Finding a consistent, quality source has made all the difference.”

Among the day’s highlights was a science-based presentation by Dr. George Syder, professor emeritus at the University of Florida. He emphasized that many micronutrients were just as important as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in grass health. He also shared studies that showed a wide variability in leaching rates of various forms of phosphorus, which has been banned in many lawn fertilizers in states nationwide because it can run off into fresh water and cause algae blooms.

The phosphorus in natural fertilizers like Milorganite, derived from biosolids, stays put, he said. The phosphorus in some synthetic chemical fertilizers can move too quickly.

“One of the keys,” he said, “is to use the products properly, according to label instructions.”

Dr. George Snyder demonstrates the variability of phosphorus leaching.

Dr. George Snyder demonstrates the variability of phosphorus leaching.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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