The Holganix Blog

How have plants naturally adapted to water loss?

turf drought

No matter the organism, water plays a key role in almost every chemical reaction. Therefore, plants have adapted in many ways to help combat water loss and resist drought. Here are four important adaptations:

The Cuticle

The cuticle is a layer of epidermis cells in vascular plants. The epidermis cells eject a waxy, water-repelling substance (cutin) that keeps water locked within the plant.

Leaf Hairs

Leaf hairs deflect some sunlight and maintain a cooler temperature in the plant.

Stomata

The stomata are pores within the cuticle of the leaf found on the underside of a plant’s leaves or on the stem. Two guard cells surround the stomata, causing a “doorway” effect, and can either increase or decrease in size. When the guard cells increase, it seals off the stomata, keeping water in the plant. When the guard cells decrease in size, it allows Carbon Dioxide to enter the plant and water vapor and oxygen to leave the plant.

Partnerships with microorganisms

Plants form symbiotic relationships with soil microorganisms like endo and ecto mycorrhizae fungi. Plant roots exude sugars which act as fuel for the mycorrhizae, while mycorrhizae help roots mine for moisture deep within the soil. 

Turf roots

 

Tags: lawn care, the science behind holganix, sports turf, golf course, agriculture

Healthy Soils. Less Pollution.

organic fertilizer

Is it even possible to stumble through your day without talk of “Climate Change”? In today’s world, especially with political campaigns brewing, climate change is a HOT topic.

What the political campaigns and news don’t talk about is the influence soil plays on climate change. According to Eric Brevik, Professor at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, “The organic matter in soil holds large amounts of carbon, which is also an important part of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide.”

In fact, roughly 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in the soil.

According to Rattan Lal, Director of Ohio State University’s carbon management and sequestration center, 800 Billion tons of carbon is in the atmosphere, 560 Billion tons in plants and animals, 25 Billion tons of carbon is stored in the soil.

In the past, there was a larger supply of carbon stored in the soil, but due to the agricultural practice of tilling (no longer a popular practice) and construction, as the soil is churned, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Today, we are still seeing the effects of tilling and construction remains prevalent.

Restoring Earth’s degraded soils could result in an increased ability to store carbon in the soil.

 

Carbon is added to the soil in three key ways.

1. Through photosynthesis

As fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide and other gases are released into the atmosphere and trap the sun’s energy.

However, through photosynthesis, plants and some organisms capture the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to carbon in a process called carbon fixation. The oxygen particles are released into the atmosphere while the carbon is utilized to produce sugars that are used as energy sources for the plant and help store food.

Luckily, plants over produce sugars and excrete 20 to 40% of their sugar to the soil. Within the soil, sugar acts as a food source for soil microorganisms that in turn, go to work protecting and nurturing the plant.

 

2. Animals exhale CO2 and decay

Critters within the soil breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, adding it to the soil atmosphere. At the same time, when organisms die, they decay and are turned into carbon rich organic matter.

Organic matter is full of nutrients and food sources for soil microorganisms, contributing to a healthy soil food web and thereby a healthy plant.

The soil food web is a system that cycles carbon through the soil life forms, constantly moving it from one life form to another. Keeping it trapped within the soil.

 

3. Leaves are full of carbohydrates

Leaves are full of carbohydrates. So, when they fall and decay, they are also adding carbon rich organic matter to the soil. Instead of bagging and throwing away your leaves and clippings (And risk them being burned in an incinerator which releases the carbon into the atmosphere), allow them to decay. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is also better for the plants and soil.

 

How to increase the soil’s Carbon holding capacity

According to Rattan Lal, plants with mycorrhizae can transform 15% more carbon than plants without mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae fungi form a synergistic relationship with the plant, holding on to the carbon dioxide that plants exude into the soil.

In addition to utilizing products containing mycorrhizae, utilizing products or practices that maintains or strengthens the soil structure will also increase the soil’s ability to hold carbon.

soil food web

Tags: lawn care, the science behind holganix, sports turf, golf course, agriculture

Why utilize Holganix Tree and Shrub in your program?

love_the_tree-542720-edited.jpg

Why utilize Holganix Tree and Shrub in your program? Whether you are a lawn care company owner looking to add an additional revenue source or a golf course superintendent looking to boost the look of your course, taking care of trees and shrubs should be one of your priorities. Here are the top three product benefits for using Holganix Tree and Shrub:

1. Reduce disease susceptibility – Holganix builds strong, more resilient plants that are less susceptible to disease. Trichoderma, present in Holganix, form mutualistic relationships with plant roots, aiding in root development but also in the protection of roots against disease. Chitin and Streptomyces also aid in boosting the plant’s immune system.

2. Increase the uptake of water, minerals and nutrients –End and Ecto Mycorrhizae fungi and Trichoderma associate around or penetrate plant roots, aiding in root growth that allows the plant to mine for nutrients, minerals and moisture in deeper, hard to reach areas within the soil.

3. Lessen Transplant shock – When you lessen transplant shock, you are reducing plant loss and replacement costs. By aiding in root development, Holganix will have your transplanted trees and shrubs comfortable in their new environment. Also, by adding Holganix, you are ensuring that their new home is equipped with biology and biological food sources needed to maximize the soil food web.

Landscape Company

Tags: lawn care, the science behind holganix, sports turf, golf course

Endo and Ecto Mycorrhizae: Squashing Disease!

plant_growing.jpeg

Turf isn’t the only thing that’s growing right now. Disease is starting to come out and before you know it customers will start reporting their usual spiel of disease complaints. Spraying a fungicide is an important step towards both preventing and reacting to disease issues in turf, but there are other options available too.

One of our favorite ingredients within the Holganix jug is mycorrhizae fungi. There are 20 different types of mycorrhizae in a single jug of Holganix!

Mycorrhizae are responsible for increasing the uptake of nutrients, minerals and moisture by the plant, as well as in the fight against disease.

 

What are Mycorrhizae?

According to Irrigation and Green Industry Magazine,, “The word mycorrhizae comes from two Greek words: mycos, meaning ‘fungus,’ and rhiza, meaning ‘roots.’” In short, it’s a fungi that works in conjunction with plant roots.

There are two categories of mycorrhizae: endo mycorrhizae and ecto mycorrhizae. “Endo mycorrhizae literally attaches itself to the roots, penetrates cell walls, and becomes one with the roots,” said Robert Neidermyer, PhD, Director of Soil and Plant Science at Holganix in an Irrigation and Green Industry Magazine interview. Endo Mycorrhizae form symbiotic relationships with 80 to 90 percent of all plants, including turf.

On the other hand, “The ectomycorrhizae just kind of lay up next to the roots, coming into very close proximity but don’t attach themselves.” Ectomycoorhizae form relationships with 5 percent of plants, including many types of tree species.

The plant and mycorrhizae form a mutualistic relationship whereby the plant produces sugars through photosynthesis and exudes them out of the roots for mycorrhizae and other beneficial microorganisms to consume.

In turn, mycorrhizae bring water and nutrients to the roots from distances the root cannot reach. They also form physical barriers protecting the roots from pathogens and secrete biochemicals that wreck havoc on disease.

mycorrhizae_colonization_on_strawberry_roots_2.jpg

Mycorrhizae colonization on strawberry plants

 

Mycorrhizae Increase Fertilizer, Mineral and Moisture Uptake

Mycorrhizae are “fertilizer helpers,” says Irrigation and Green Industry Magazine. “As the [mycorrhizae] filaments grow and stretch out, they behave like military reconnaissance squads, conducting sweep searches for water and nutrients over a large underground area.”

For plants, the big benefit is the “enhanced supply of available nutrients, including carbon, potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. They also get a faster uptake of minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron and zinc, and in greater amounts than would normally have been available to their roots.” As a result, mycorrhizae allows for an increased tolerance to adverse soil conditions (think low amounts of NPK and poor pH).

26._Golf_roots-_left_=_2_apps_of_holganix_at_14oz_5-14,_9oz_6-25_copy.jpg

Root comparison: With Holganix (Left), without (Right)

 

Mycorrhizae Provide Protection Against Plant Disease

While it’s well known among Holganix enthusiasts that mycorrhizae help roots dig deeper into the soil to mine nutrients, minerals and moisture for the plant, they also do incredible things to prevent disease infection and repair the plant after disease strikes. Mycorrhizae help plants overcome disease by (1) forming physical barriers and (2) fighting pathogens.

  1. Forming physical barriers

Mycorrhizae will associate with or penetrate roots to create a physical barrier between the plant and pathogens. Biochemicals produced by the plant and mycorrhizae can also cause an increase in lignin production, causing cell walls to harden and making the roots resistant to penetration from pathogens.

  1. Fighting pathogens

Mycorrhizae causes the roots, stems and leaves to create antibodies or biochemicals that suppress pathogen infection, or post infection growth within the plant, by inhibiting pathogen growth or the ability to infect plant roots.

While mycorrhizae isn’t the answer to wiping out all disease in turf, adding it into your turf and plant health care program allows you to reduce the amount of fungicides needed to effect optimal control, and simultaneously boosts the roots’ ability to uptake nutrients, minerals and moisture.

 

Learn more about how Holganix and mycorrhizae affect root growth in our ebook: Turf Roots: Technical Turf Report

Turf roots  

Tags: lawn care, sports turf, golf course, agriculture

What are plant auxins? And how do they affect plant growth?

Auxins are a powerful growth hormone produced naturally by plants. They are found in shoot and root tips and promote cell division, stem and root growth. They can also drastically affect plant orientation by promoting cell division to one side of the plant in response to sunlight and gravity.

Auxin_diagram.jpegAuxins have four key effects on plant growth:

  1. Stimulating shoot elongation – Auxins positively influence gibberlins that promote cell elongation. This increases plant length. Essentially, gibberlins and thereby auxins, increase the distance between nodes, spacing the branch points further apart.

  2. Controlling seedling orientation – It was the infamous Charles Darwin and his son Francis who first noticed that seedlings bend toward the light. However, whether a new shoot grows into the soil or towards light, depends on where auxins are located and how they influence cells within the plant. Auxins will move downward due to gravity and laterally, away from light. Cells grow more in areas of the plant where auxins are highly concentrated.

  3. Stimulating root branching – When an auxin is applied to a cut stem, the stem will initiate roots at the cut.

  4. Promoting fruit development – Auxins in the flower promote maturation of the ovary wall and promote steps in the full development of the fruit.

Auxins can be produced naturally (by the plant) or synthetically (in a lab). When produced synthetically, they can be used in high concentrations as a pesticide, causing drastic growth. The herbicide, 2-4-D, is an example of an auxin-based pesticide, specifically engineered to cause dicots (plants like dandelions) to grow quickly and uncontrollably, ultimately killing the plant.

Turf roots

Tags: lawn care, the science behind holganix, sports turf, agriculture, golf

Struggling with Employee Engagement at Your Lawn Care Company?

I_love_my_job_employee.jpeg

When speaking with current customers, regardless of whether they are from the lawn and landscape industry, golf, sports turf, agriculture or even our distributors, one problem seems to remain constant: Employees!

Specifically, green industry organizations are struggling to keep employees engaged, reduce turnover, and find new talent.

Office Vibe, a company focused on providing better management practices to boost employee engagement, released several scary facts regarding employee engagement last year. According to Office Vibe, across all industries:

  • 88% Of employees don’t have passion for their work

  • 80% Of senior managers are not passionate about their work

  • Employee disengagement costs more than 500 Billion per year in the U.S. Economy

  • 79% Believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem

  • 75% Are struggling to attract and recruit people they need

  • Regardless of the statistics, one thing remains constant, employees aren’t happy.

Many extraordinary lawn care companies are looking for opportunities to boost employee engagement in order to reduce employee turnover, promote increased productivity and decrease customer attrition.

 

Apple Tree Dreams On and Reduces Employee Turnover from 110% to 30% 

John Ratliff, former owner of Apple Tree Answers, a call answering service in Delaware, was faced with 110% turnover in his business (Industry average was 300%). According to John, employee turnover was costing him $5,000 per turnover – a startling $2 million problem annually.

“I knew that if I could solve this bottleneck in my business, it would not only save me a lot of money, but it would touch all cornerstones of my business including customer retention.”

John and his executive team started a program called Dream On modeled off The Make A Wish Foundation. Front line employees were encouraged to submit dreams to the executive team with the promise that some would be chosen and fulfilled.

Over four years, John granted a total of 275 dreams. The end result? John created an awesome company culture that reduced employee turnover from 110% in 2008 to 30% in 2012, decreased customer attrition, increased gross margin from 47% in 2008 to 60% in 2012 and increased EBITA from 14% in 2008 to 22% in 2012.

In 2012, John sold Appletree Answers for 11.5x EBITA. Learn more about Apple Tree Answers in Holganix CEO, Barrett Ersek’s Harvard Business Review Article here.

 

Advanced Turf Solutions: 100% Employee Ownership Leads To Better Customer Service 

Another company that is proving the power of employee engagement is our partner in crime and distributor, Advanced Turf Solutions (ATS).

ATS opened its doors on October 1, 2001 with the mission to provide service to customers that is second to none and using the most knowledgeable and experienced sales team in the green industry.

One of the first things that founders, Alex Cannon (CEO), Vic Garcia (President) and Dan Dunham (Retired/Board Member) did was transform the green industry distributor model by offering key ATS employees the opportunity to own a piece of the business.

Today, ATS is 100% employee owned and maintains close relationships with some of the largest and most prominent lawn and landscape companies, sports fields and golf courses in the Midwest region.

Both Apple Tree Answers and Advanced Turf Solutions have broken the mold on what it means to run a company. By thinking about employee engagement differently, they have been able to create remarkable companies that better serve and create value for stakeholders.

But not every organization is the same and you don’t have to start granting dreams or turning over company equity to boost engagement. Try brainstorming, “How can I boost employee engagement?”

Okay, your brainstorming session needs a little inspiration? We’ve got your back. Here are 5 tips to boost engagement in your organization.

 

5 Tips for boosting engagement

1. Start With Your Hiring Process!

Because boosting engagement often starts with hiring, we thought it worth noting Landscape Management Magazine’s (LM) Editor Note in the March 2016 issue.

“We need to think about hiring as an acquisition process versus a selection process,” says Mel Kleiman an HR expert for LM. Landscape contractor Chris Joyce, who was featured on the cover of the LM issue recommends recruiting from restaurants, bars and hotels. After all, their jobs revolve around superb customer service.

LM offers a sample recruiting card to hand out to potential candidates. You can download it here.

 

2. Quarterly Theme

At Holganix, the entire company gets behind a quarterly theme revolving around the quarter’s goal. If the company reaches the goal, the entire company gets a prize. “It gets the entire team behind the company’s objectives for the quarter,” says Barrett.

Holganix’s Quarter Two theme is “Reel them in!” which revolves around specific sales objectives. The prize? A fishing trip!

You can read more about setting quarterly themes in this article by Business Guru, Verne Harnish.

 

3. Core Values

Do you have core values at your firm? If you don’t, now is the time to set them. But if you already have core values, ensure they are being practiced. Start rewarding employees each week or month if they placed a core value into practice. Prizes could be as small as a $25 gift card!

You can read more about setting core values here.

 

4. Daily Huddle

Keep the entire team on track by creating a daily huddle. Daily huddles are as short as 5 to 15 minutes and are focused on keeping the team informed on progress towards your goal. 

Learn about setting daily huddles on our blog here.

 

5. Celebrate

Work hard, party hard! Your entire team works hard together, why wouldn’t they celebrate together too? Celebrate as a team to break down barriers between the hierarchy. You can create a celebration based on goals you achieved, holidays or just because it’s fun.

Grow your lawn care company

Tags: lawn care, sports turf, golf course, marketing hints and tips

Top 5 Plant and Soil Science TED Talks

soil TED TALK

At Holganix, we are self-appointed soil geeks. Learning about new trends, research and theories that are happening in the field makes us tick. We bet it gets you excited too!

Here are our top 5 favorite plant and soil science TED Talks. Warning! Some of these are crazy, unique ideas that will make Holganix almost seem ordinary! If you know a good TED Talk we are missing, post it in the comments of this blog. We’d LOVE to check it out!

If you are reading this on an email, video function will not operate. Click on the link to watch each TED Talk. 

 

Humus – The Essential Ingredient

Humus is what is left after soil microorganisms have decomposed organic matter. It holds nutrients and moisture and provides a great structure for planting in. Humus is essential for food production and is being gradually depleted. Learn more in Graeme Sait’s TED Talk.

 

Healthy Soil, Healthy World 

If you pick up a handful of soil, you will be holding more microorganisms in your hand than the entire number of people who have ever lived on earth. Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine the quantity of living things in your grasp? Soil is FULL of life. In this TED Talk you’ll have the opportunity to explore the soil from a microorganisms’ point of view.

 

Putting Carbon Back Where It Belongs

 

Good news! Plants can quite literally change the face of the earth. By growing more plants, we can capture more carbon dioxide, water, production, biodiversity and profit? In fact, a 1% change in soil organic matter across just one quarter of the world’s land area could sequester 300 billion tons of physical C02. Check out Tony Lovell’s TED Talk here.

 

Stop Treating Our Soil Like Dirt!

Healthy soil is not dirt! Healthy soils are critical for keeping water clean producing food and buffering the effects of extreme weather. Soil plays a fundamental role in our lives in three key ways… Watch Karen Wynne’s TED Talk here.

 

Soil – From Dirt To Lifetime 

Did you know there are more living organisms beneath the soil then there are above it? Soil scientists can’t even come to an agreement about how many microbes are actually in the soil. Check out Fred Kirshenmann’s TED Talk here.

soil food web

Tags: lawn care, sports turf, golf course, marketing hints and tips, agriculture

It's SOIL! Not dirt. The key to maintaining a balanced soil ecosystem

soil food web

Maintaining a balanced soil ecosystem is key to nurturing healthy plants. Microorganisms go to work breaking down nutrients, organic matter and carrying out functions for the plant. Carbon acts as an energy or food source for soil microorganisms. 

When adding microbes to the soil you are taking a probiotic route to plant health, boosting the soil food web with key players (microbes) to tackle plant challenges. But, when adding carbon to the soil, you are taking a prebiotic route to plant health, serving the soil food web by providing food sources for microbes present within the soil. By tackling both probiotic and prebiotic approaches, you are solving both ends of the plant health care equation.

By having the optimal ratio of carbon to nitrogen (20 Carbon:1 Nitrogen), you are promoting active soil biology by providing food sources, reactivating and/or sustaining the naturally occurring biological cycles (Think Nitrogen Cycle), increasing your cation exchange capacity (the ability of the soil to store nutrients) and are controlling the process of decomposing soil organic matter.

Carbon, in the correct ratio, controls the rate of decomposition of soil organic matter, which is critical to building healthy soils. When soil organic matter decomposes quickly, carbon is volatized as CO2 and leaves the soil. However, when it decomposes slowly, carbon is released back into the soil to a stable form, allowing microbes and plants to continuously reuse the food source.

The end result of the decomposition of organic matter is humus. Humus is impervious to further decomposition. It acts like a sponge, holding in moisture and nutrients (think Cation Exchange Capacity), bringing structural integrity back to the soil. Humus and microbes act as soil buffers, protecting plant roots from pathogens and parasites.

One of the reasons why we selected Healthy Grow to manufacture our granular fertilizer is because the egg-laying poultry manure carries a high source of carbon (20:1). 

Learn how Healthy Grow Infused with Holganix is manufactured here.

When comparing composted organic granular fertilizers to pasteurized sludges and natural organic meals, the carbon to nitrogen ratio is a telling story.

Pasteurized Sludges - C:N Ratio of 7:1, Proteins are striated and not digestible by the plant

Natural Organic Meals - C:N ratio of 6:1, High in protein nitrogen but is not composted and therefore contains lower available soil carbon

Composted Organics (like Healthy Grow) - C:N ratio of 20:1, Enhanced with beneficial microorganisms and contains a high amount of available soil carbon

Together, with the carbon found in Healthy Grow and the beneficial microorganisms found in Holganix, we are supporting an elaborate soil ecosystem.

soil ecosystem

 

While Holganix acts as a probiotic because of the microorganisms, Healthy Grow’s carbon intensive compost functions as a prebiotic. Therefore, when utilizing Healthy Grow Infused with Holganix, you are utilizing probiotics and prebiotics to address both ends of the plant health equation and boost the soil food web.

soil food web

Tags: lawn care, the science behind holganix, sports turf, golf

"I Won't Plant Anything On My Property Without Holganix!" - Brandon Haley

organic landscape

Holganix caught up with Brandon Haley, CGM, Grounds Manager of Red Diamond Tea’s 72 acre corporate campus in Moody, Alabama to congratulate him for being the recipient of the PGMS (Professional Grounds Management Society) Green Star Award for the Industrial, Commercial and Office Park Category.

In addition to being the Grounds Manager for Red Diamond Tea’s corporate campus, Brandon is also an avid blogger and consultant on sustainable grounds management.

“The PGMS Green Star Award really recognizes the commitment to sustainability, levels of maintenance on turf and landscape, and recognizes the challenges we have on the property,” says Brandon of the PGMS award. “I’m so thankful for my crew.”

Brandon went on to explain how Holganix has played a role in achieving the beautiful, award winning landscape surrounding Red Diamond’s Corporate Campus.

 

The most prominent results Brandon has experience are:

  1. Irrigation Reductions:We’ve cut back on irrigation by 75% over the last three years,” claims Brandon. “Holganix has contributed in [last year’s reductions]. Because our roots were so deep, I was able to go extra days without watering.”

  2. Fertilizer Reductions: “We have a pretty efficient use of fertilizer on our property,” says Brandon. He was able to cut back from 3.3 lbs of nitrogen to 2.4 lbs in 2015. His target for 2016 is to lower his use down to 1.8 – 1.9 lbs.

“I won’t plant anything on our property without Holganix,” states Brandon. Watch our full interview with Brandon here

 

Want to learn more about Brandon’s Holganix experience?

Register for our upcoming webinar featuring an interactive Q&A session with Brandon Haley!

New Call-to-action

Tags: lawn care, holganix reviews

Why YOUR Lawn Care Company Should Add A Flower Program

Your current customers are already hiring your team to care for their lawn, why wouldn’t they hire you to care for their flowers too? After all, there is nothing more annoying then spending both time and money to have annuals planted, only to see them wither away from disease and/or insect damage.

Flower fertilizer

Top 3 Reasons

Here are our top 3 reasons why your lawn and landscape company should add a flower care program to your available services.

  1. Additional source of high gross margin - Incorporating a flower program provides the opportunity to make high gross margin revenue from current customers. Since you are already on their lawn, you won’t have to pay for windshield time (The time it takes your techs to drive from one house to the next), drastically reducing overhead costs associated with this service.

  2. Improve the overall look of your customers’ landscapes – Keeping your customers’ flowers healthy by providing them a good source of food and nutrients, while protecting against disease and insects, means providing a better looking landscape. According to a study done by Virginia Tech, “A well-landscaped home had a significant price advantage over a home with no landscaping. That advantage from 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent.”

  3. An easy sell! – Your customers already know and trust you. Your homeowners need someone to take proper care of their flowers. Utilize your brand power to upsell a flower program.

 

Start marketing!

Want to get started with a flower program but don’t know where to start? We’ve got your back. Check out our Flower Marketing In A Box! It’s a tool designed specifically to help you sell flower care programs to customers.

organic flower program

Tags: lawn care, marketing hints and tips