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One of the most important breakthroughs in organic lawn care is the fertilizer preemergent natural. It’s a type of natural fertilizer made from byproducts of organic materials. But what makes this fertilizer truly unique is not its very effective nutrient base, but its natural weed suppressant ability. It’s a preemergent, which means that it inhibits seed germination by drying out a seed as soon as it cracks open to sprout. For this reason, the fertilizer preemergent natural has since become known as a “weed n’ feed” fertilizer.
Most fertilizer preemergent natural products available in the market are made from corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal is used as an animal feed, specifically for cattle, poultry, other livestock, fish and some dog foods. It is actually a byproduct of the corn (Zea mays L.) wet-milling process to make cornstarch.
In 1985, Dr. Nick Christians, of Iowa State University (ISU), accidentally discovered that corn gluten had preemergence herbicide activity. His study on turf fungal activity showed that thin seeded grass stands when pure corn gluten was used.
Christians and four of his students later found that corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances – later identified as an organic dipeptide – that cause the breakdown of cell walls in the seed’s tiny feeder roots. As these roots emerge, they are immediately destroyed by corn gluten’s fertilizer preemergent natural effect.
As a result of this “attack” by the fertilizer preemergent natural, the seedlings will struggle to get enough moisture, causing them to die before they ever have a change to take hold.
In 1991, the fertilizer preemergent natural was U.S. patented as a natural herbicide for plants. The patent was reissued in 1993 with broader claims that cover the use of corn gluten meal on field crops and home gardens.
When used properly, this fertilizer preemergent natural acts as a natural herbicide but will not harm beneficial insects, soil organisms, pond or stream life. What’s more, since it’s all natural, it is also safe around pets and children.
Another good twist to the corn gluten’s fertilizer preemergent natural activity is that it only kills the roots of sprouting seeds. This makes them convenient natural fertilizers to have around when transplanting or establishing a new vegetable, flower, fruit, or shrub plot or even a lawn. Corn gluten can be used even up to the day of the harvest. Just watch out for your vegetable or flower seedlings to gain true leaves. As soon as they do, take that as your go signal to begin applying this fertilizer preemergent natural.
So far, the only potential hazard that has been documented relating to corn gluten is that it can pose an allergic reaction from inhalation of dust with certain individuals. If you have asthma or respiratory problems, take this word to the wise: Use a mask when applying this fertilizer preemergent natural.
Here are some more interesting facts you ought to know about this fertilizer preemergent natural:
* Corn gluten fertilizer preemergent natural is a fine yellow power, usually palletized for easier application.
* It comes in 5 lb bags, but a 25 lb bag (blended with bone meal and potassium sulfate from the organically certified Idaho mine) will be available soon.
* It is available at local stores, by mail order, or on the Internet under various brand names.