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DNA-analyzed compost plays key role in managing healthy turfgrass

DNA testing has revolutionized compost analysis, allowing a deeper look into microbial universe

January 30, 2024  By Michael Stangl

Through DNA analysis, the genetic code of microorganisms within compost samples can be deciphered. Photo credit: Michael Stangl

In the world of turf management, lush, green lawns are more than just aesthetics – they represent the pinnacle of healthy turf. Achieving that perfect green carpet, however, often requires intensive care and the use of various chemicals. But what if there was a more natural and sustainable approach? 

Thanks to advancements in technology and soil science, the landscape of turf management is evolving, and the key player is compost – more specifically, DNA-analyzed compost derived from Dr. David Johnson’s renowned Johnson-Su method.

Decoding the microbial universe of compost
Compost, that rich, earthy concoction of organic matter, is the ultimate elixir for soil health. Traditionally, we’ve known that compost fosters nutrient-rich soil, improves water retention, and provides essential organic matter. However, understanding the microbial communities within compost and their impact on turf health remained a mystery until now.

DNA testing: A game changer for turf health
The advent of DNA testing has revolutionized compost analysis, allowing us to delve deeper into the microbial universe of compost. Through DNA analysis, we can decipher the genetic code of microorganisms within compost samples. This breakthrough technology is changing the way we manage turf, providing a wealth of information that was previously hidden beneath the surface.


Benefits of DNA-analyzed compost extracts for turf management:

  • Comprehensive microbial assessment: In our DNA analysis of our compost, we detected the presence of an astounding 636 different species of bacteria and 126 species of fungus, each with its own role in promoting soil health.
  • Phylum distribution: Among these species, the dominant phyla include Ascomycota (90 per cent), Mortierellomycota (5 per cent), Basidiomycota (less than 1 per cent), and Mucoromycota (less than 1 per cent). This diverse phylum distribution contributes to a balanced soil ecosystem, enhancing turf vitality.
  • Functional insights: Beyond identifying species, DNA testing provides insights into the functions these microbes perform. For example, our analysis revealed that 73 per cent of the microbial community contributes to carbon fixation, promoting nutrient cycling and soil health.
  • Customized turf solutions: Armed with knowledge about compost’s microbial composition, turf professionals can tailor their soil health strategies to meet the specific needs of lawns and sports fields.
  • Biocontrol agents: Our DNA analysis unveiled the presence of biocontrol agents within the compost extracts, with a remarkable 76 per cent specializing in fungicide activity. These natural defenders act as a frontline defence against turf diseases.
  • Bacterial phylum distribution: Among the bacterial community, key phyla include Proteobacteria (35 per cent), Actinobacteriota (30 per cent), Bacteroidota (11 per cent), Firmicutes (8 per cent), and Myosarcoma (3 per cent), further diversifying the soil ecosystem.
  • Phytohormone generation: Major players such as Talaromyces marneffei (27.86 per cent) and Aspergillus fumigatus (25.84 per cent) contribute significantly to phytohormone generation, particularly auxin (IAA) production (41 per cent). This supports plant growth regulation.
  • Foliar application for targeted protection: DNA-analyzed compost extracts enhance nutrient supply through carbon fixation (73 per cent) and inorganic phosphorus (P) solubilization (19 per cent). They also bolster turf stress resistance with exopolysaccharide production (75 per cent) and ACC deaminase (31 per cent).
  • Nutrient supply and stress resistance: Iron availability is boosted through iron assimilation (41 per cent) and siderophore production (19 per cent). Growth regulation is facilitated by abscisic acid (ABA) for salinity protection (19 per cent) and root growth promotion.

The future of turf management: regenerative and sustainable
The traditional approach to turf management often involved a cycle of chemical inputs and visual field assessments. With DNA-analyzed compost extracts and advanced microscopy, we’re ushering in a new era of regenerative turf management. This approach focuses on nurturing soil health, reducing input costs, and increasing long-term profitability.


Matt Powers, author of Regenerative Soil Microscopy: The Science & Methods, describes how these microscopy techniques allow us to see the intricate world of fungi, phosphorus mobilization, and soil health like never before. It’s not just about growing grass; it’s about creating vibrant, thriving ecosystems beneath the surface.

Join the turf revolution
DNA-analyzed compost for extracts and cutting-edge microscopy provides the tools to understand your soil’s health at a level previously unseen.

The mission is to promote turf management practices that prioritize long-term soil health, reducing the reliance on chemical interventions and promoting sustainability. The compost extracts offered, powered by DNA analysis, are not just products; they are the future of responsible turf care for healthy lawns, sports fields, and golf courses.

This article is part of the Turf Revival Week.
This article is part of the Earth Week.

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