We asked experts from several fertilizer and application equipment manufacturers:

“What are some recent trends you’ve seen regarding fertilizer and application equipment, when it comes to tree care?”

Here’s what they had to say:

Roger Mellick
President/ The Doggett Corporation

We see a general trend, as in all sectors, toward organic. It’s a consumer-driven trend and not such a strong trend for industry professionals. The continuing standard trend is toward a good, slow-release, low-salt, suspendable powder fertilizer for injection into the soil. There has been a lot of interesting work coming out around adding biochar to the soil. All the results aren’t in, but there’s pretty compelling evidence that this will prove to be a very effective application. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more about biochar. A large group of industry professionals and researchers got together recently to update the ANSI 300 (part 2) “Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Management-Standard Practices, (Soil Management & Fertilization).” This updated version is an extremely comprehensive document; look for this in the very near future.

Kent Honl
Arborologist-ISA Board Certified Master Arborist/Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancement

Since 2014, Rainbow Treecare has added biochar to our formulas for tree nutrition fertilization and to our root enhancement service-prescription organic matter. Biochar is a specialty charcoal made from woody material, used as an amendment to improve soil quality. Charcoal has a long history of use for its ability to absorb and remove odors and toxins. Urban soils are far from optimum for healthy tree growth. Low organic matter is one of the main problems in urban soils. Addition of biochar makes the soil friendlier for tree roots and other organisms that contribute to tree health. Biochar particles have a very large and absorbent surface area, providing sites that water and nutrients can adhere to. This helps sandy soils hold more water, and opens up space in clay soils for root growth. Fertilizer applications are more efficiently used when combined with biochar, since the nutrients are held in place for tree roots to use rather than getting leached away by rainfall.

Gary Maurer
President/Green Pro Solutions

Spray equipment should be designed based on the plant health care program of the company’s choice. If the largest volume of liquid is used for tree fertilization, that may dictate the size of the tanks, the volume of liquid and the size of the truck. Advances in product can also make a difference — a customer using our Nature’s Pro Bio-Tree & Shrub nutritional root feeding product with an application rate of 1 gallon per diameter at breast height (DBH), versus 5 gallons per DBH for many other products, can also make a lot more money with a smaller spray system. Soil and trunk injectables and truck applications for almost any kind of treatment no longer require an arborist to have the larger spray trucks. Also, greater interest in biologicals, organics and various kinds of natural approaches to plant health care in general are changing the equipment required. Adjusting pH and adding calcium and organic material to the soil requires more room to haul bagged ingredients. Green Pro Solutions is designing equipment that incorporates this more holistic approach to tree and shrub health.

Rhett Clark
President/Gregson-Clark

The days of applying broad spectrum products over the majority of the landscape have long been over. Our most successful customers practice the Integrated Pest Management approach of timely applying specific products to control specific pests and only when certain thresholds are exceeded. This requires more sophisticated equipment and well-educated technicians. Of all of the services a company might provide, tree and shrub applications, when done correctly, can offer the highest profit margins so the investment is well worth it for most companies. Although the technology behind compost tea and other organic products is literally as old as dirt, green industry professionals have only recently embraced methods of effectively producing, storing and applying these products. In the past five years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for compost tea-friendly sprayers and liquid handling equipment, and we’re excited to be a part of this movement.