In the green industry, nearly everyone is trying to do more with less. Lawn care businesses are facing labor shortages, increasing expenses and environmental pressures. All of these challenges make it tough for businesses to become profitable – and stay that way.
“In today’s competitive marketplace, every single choice a business owner makes has an impact,” says Chris Derrick, field sales agronomist for Koch Turf & Ornamental (Koch). “From hiring employees to choosing a fertilizer, you have to carefully consider how each decision will help you meet your goals and objectives.”
Koch produces enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) that help lawn care businesses optimize plant and turfgrass performance with fewer resources. Fertilizer blends that contain higher percentages of these nutrient-rich EEFs offer better nutrition and less filler, which has little to no nutritional value. However, the benefits of EEFs extend far beyond turf appearance and health.
“Certainly, selecting a fertilizer that performs well and helps you give your customers thick, healthy, green lawns is a priority,” Derrick says. “However, you need to ensure that your fertilizer also makes good economic sense. Choosing the right product can help your business enjoy numerous advantages and overcome the challenges green industry businesses are facing today.”
Labor scarcity. In the past few years, lawn care businesses across the U.S. have reported substantial growth; however, finding and retaining good employees continues to be a struggle. Because Koch’s EEFs offer extended longevities, lawn care technicians can apply them fewer times annually and still get exceptional results. That means employees can visit more properties each day or spend their valuable time on other revenue-producing tasks.
“Furthermore, because their employees are spending less time handling heavy bags of fertilizers, businesses that choose to apply EEFs can reduce their risk of workplace injuries and the costs associated with lost productivity,” Derrick says. “That also has a positive effect on overall morale and job satisfaction.”
Mike Annatone, president of Executive Landscaping in New Haven, CT, made the switch to Koch’s DURATION CR® controlled-release fertilizer about four years ago, and he’s experienced its labor-saving benefits firsthand.
“After we made the business decision to bring enhanced efficiency fertilizer technology into our operation, it began paying off quickly,” Annatone says. “We liked the extended longevities, and we also saw some labor savings because we didn’t have to make as many applications. In fact, the labor savings in the spring adds up to about the equivalent of six weeks of application time. That freed our guys up to perform other tasks, which in turn generates more revenue.”
Resource allocation. While purchasing a cheaper bag of fertilizer may seem like a good way to keep business expenses down, it can end up costing more in the long run. As a result, lawn care businesses must purchase, store, haul and apply more bags of fertilizer to their customers’ lawns than if they were using a blend with EEFs and a higher nutrient analysis.
“Higher-quality fertilizer blends may cost more per bag, but they end up being a far better value over time,” Derrick says. “Because of their extended longevities, you can apply them fewer times per year, reducing your total fertilizer expense, fuel costs and the associated wear-and-tear on your equipment and vehicles.”
Another benefit? Applying fertilizer fewer times per year allows lawn care technicians to focus more on other tasks, like pre- and post-emergent herbicide applications, leading to greater customer satisfaction and fewer call-backs to the site for spot weed treatments.
Environmental stewardship. Protecting the quality of our air, water and soil is a responsibility we all share. For lawn care businesses, that responsibility includes understanding how to use fertilizers in the right way to optimize nutrient efficiency and minimize losses to the environment.
“We’ve always promoted sustainable practices,” Executive Landscaping’s Annatone says. “But over the past few years, more of our customers have asked us how they can have beautiful lawns with fewer chemicals. They’re trying to embrace more sustainable lifestyles, which includes the products they — or we — use on their turf.”
Koch’s controlled-release, slow-release and stabilized nitrogen EEFs can reduce nitrogen loss to the environment and slow its conversion to nitrate, optimizing plant uptake over a longer period of time. In fact, using EEFs can decrease nitrogen use by up to 40 percent when compared to conventional fertilizers like urea and ammonium sulfate. From a business standpoint, knowing how to use nitrogen more responsibly can also be a key selling advantage when talking with current or potential customers.
“By including DURATION CR fertilizer in our program, we can give our customers the beautiful lawns they want while still respecting their desire for less environmental impact,” Annatone adds.
From lowering total input costs to efficiently utilizing scarce labor and saving on equipment wear-and-tear, EEFs can potentially enhance profitability and help you take your business to the next level. Doing the proper research and consulting with an agronomic expert to choose the best possible option can have positive effects that resonate throughout your entire operation. Ask your sales rep about Koch’s EEFs and discover the difference for yourself.