The Role of Amino Acids

In Cost-Effective Turf Maintenance

Every turf manager’s objective is to produce a stand of turf grass that is pleasing to the eye, able to withstand environmental, traffic and mechanical stresses, and to do so with a minimum of input and cost. Unfortunately, nothing ever goes to plan and with shrinking budgets, it is getting harder and harder for the discerning turf manager to achieve these objectives efficiently and cost effectively.

The role of amino acids in turf maintenance is a very old and well researched phenomenon and is related to producing better turf by creating better conditions for the turf to grow in a more natural and sustainable state. In this tech bulletin, we will discuss how amino acids can help you produce your objectives while minimizing your inputs and cost!

The use of fertilizers and pesticides alone is clearly not sufficient to realize our objectives. Every turf plant needs certain components for healthy growth in addition to soil, sun, rain and air. The basic component of all living cells is protein; the building blocks of these proteins are the amino acids. Proteins are formed by the sequencing of various combinations of amino acids.

Turf, and indeed all plants, synthesizes amino acids from the primary elements the carbon and oxygen obtained from the air, and hydrogen from water, to form carbohydrate by means of photosynthesis, and then combining it with the nitrogen which the turf obtains from the soil, leading to synthesis of amino acids by creating metabolic pathways. Only the L-Amino acids have metabolic synthesis activity in turf. The requirement of amino acids in essential quantities is well known to increase healthy growth and overall turf quality.

The application of amino acids for foliar or root application in turf is based on a basic physiological requirement in general terms, but more particularly, amino acids are required at vital stages of turf growth.

Turf absorbs amino acids through stomas, and by root up-take; absorption is reliant on suitable ambient and soil temperature (minimum 52°F). Amino acids are essential ingredients in the process of protein synthesis. About 22 important amino acids are involved in the process of each function. Studies have shown that amino acids can directly or indirectly influence the physiological characteristics of the turf plant.

Amino acids can be supplied to turf by incorporating them into the soil (granular) or by topical or foliar application. Soil application of amino acids greatly improves the environment for the microflora, thereby enabling a better assimilation and transfer of macro and minor nutrients by the turf roots. Foliar nutrition in the form of organic protein based liquid fertilizer provides ready-made building blocks for protein synthesis to occur.

Protein Structure and Chemistry

Proteins have an organizational purpose, metabolic function (enzymes), a transference function and a supply of amino acids function. Only L – Amino Acids are assimilated by turf.

Dealing with Stress Issues

Stress such as high temperatures, low humidity, high traffic, wear, etc. have a deleterious effect on the turf plant metabolism, which results in a decrease in the quality of the turf, and an overall decline in turf health. The application of amino acids before, during and after these stress conditions, supplies the turf with amino acids which are directly related to an anti-stress physiology, and thus have a role in prevention and recovery from these stressful conditions.


Plants synthesize carbohydrates by photosynthesis, low photosynthesis results in slow or no growth. Chlorophyll is responsible for the facilitation of absorbing energy from light. Glycine and Glutamic Acid are the essential metabolites in the process of the formation of healthy leaf tissue and chlorophyll synthesis. These amino acids help to increase chlorophyll concentration in the turf, leading to a higher degree of photosynthesis. This is the fundamental process of giving turf it’s healthy green and lush appearance.

Function of the Stoma

Stomas are microscopic cellular structures on the leaf surface that help control moisture, nutrient (macro and micro), and the absorption of gases through the leaf surface. The opening of the stomas is controlled by both external factors (light, humidity, temperature) and internal influences (amino acids concentration, abcisic acid, etc.) The stomas are closed when light and humidity are low or when temperature or salt concentrations are high. When stomas are closed photosynthesis and transpiration are reduced (low absorption of macro & micronutrients) and respiration is increased (carbohydrate destruction). Under these conditions, the balance of nutrient metabolism in the plant is negative, the result is retarded metabolism, meaning decreased plant growth. L-glutamic acid acts as a microscopic osmotic agent around the guard cells, which encourages the stoma to open, thereby facilitating better absorption of nutrients.

The “Foliar” Application (Just Part of the Story)

Recently, and almost overnight, the turf industry has created the “foliar” category, and it has to be said, mainly as a marketing tool for the liquid fertilizer companies. In truth, all plants, including turf, obtain only part of their essential nutrition via the foliar route. Liquid and foliar feeding is important, but good agronomy dictates that foliar fertilizers really should be part of an overall granular/foliar nutritional program. Turf can exist on granular fertilizer alone, but it is a brave man that puts his reputation on line on the “foliar only mentality”

The Importance of Complexing or Chelation

Amino Acids have a chelating or complexing influence on micronutrients. When applied together with micronutrients, the absorption and translocation of micronutrients inside the plant is far more effective. In simple terms complexing or chelation makes the nutrients far more “recognizable” to the turf plant.  In particular, L – Glycine & L – Glutamic Acid are known to be extremely efficient complexing/chelating agents.

Plant Hormones (phytohormones)

Many research studies from all over the globe show that amino acids are the precursors or activators of plant growth hormones or growth constituents within the plant and root structure. L – Methionine is a precursor of ethylene, espermine and espermidine, which are synthesized from 5 – Adenosyl Methionine. L – Tryptophan is a known precursor for Auxin synthesis, vital for healthy growth to occur.

Healthy Soil Microbial Activity

The balance of the microbial flora of the soil structure is a basic requirement for good mineralization of organic matter and also for good soil structure and nutrient mobility around the root zone. L-methionine has been shown to be important in strengthening the cellular integrity of the micro-flora. Amino acids have shown in countless studies in all forms of agriculture and turf maintenance, to drastically increase soil microbial population. Remember, a healthy growing environment is one where one gram of soil contains 10 billion soil microbes!


The role of amino acids in creating healthy turf has been clearly understood for many years. In general terms, turf is physiologically dependent on the addition of amino acids for healthy growth to occur. Global research from many universities indicates that by adding organic amino acids in either a granular form or as a liquid/foliar spray; favorable conditions are then created that will induce the plant to better assimilate and absorb macro and micro nutrients. Conditions will be created where disease pathogens are less likely to proliferate. The addition of amino acids is  very likely a benefit in helping to reduce the input of macro nutrients due to the more efficient use of the fertilizer, thereby saving the turf manager time and money in reduced applications.