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Articles on this Page
- 11/11/10--08:04: _Chemical Guide
- 01/05/11--10:09: _Pesticide Myths
- 01/06/11--14:10: _Restrictions Intensify
- 02/01/11--04:00: _Bring on the Bugs!
- 03/01/11--11:18: _Controlled-Release ...
- 04/05/11--15:17: _Spraying it Forward
- 04/09/11--09:41: _Combat Grassy Weeds
- 05/22/11--05:00: _Starting Over
- 06/04/11--11:55: _Treating Brown Patc...
- 07/08/11--10:30: _Don’t Be Stuck with...
- 09/01/11--05:00: _Imprelis Herbicide ...
- 10/07/11--11:53: _Varmints Vamoose!
- 01/05/12--10:44: _Rotating Chemical U...
- 04/01/12--10:04: _Herbicide Bows Out
- 07/02/12--09:43: _Disarming Scale
- 08/01/12--13:40: _Strength in Numbers
- 09/01/12--05:00: _Before the Fall
- 10/16/12--14:59: _Fall Turf Strategies
- 03/12/13--03:29: _Lights Out for Mole...
- 04/05/13--07:19: _Taking It Slow
- 11/11/10--08:04: Chemical Guide
- 01/05/11--10:09: Pesticide Myths
- 01/06/11--14:10: Restrictions Intensify
- 02/01/11--04:00: Bring on the Bugs!
- 03/01/11--11:18: Controlled-Release Fertilizers Prove Value
- 04/05/11--15:17: Spraying it Forward
- 04/09/11--09:41: Combat Grassy Weeds
- 05/22/11--05:00: Starting Over
- 06/04/11--11:55: Treating Brown Patch Disease
- 07/08/11--10:30: Don’t Be Stuck with the Bill
- 09/01/11--05:00: Imprelis Herbicide Injury
- 10/07/11--11:53: Varmints Vamoose!
- 01/05/12--10:44: Rotating Chemical Use for Best Results
- 04/01/12--10:04: Herbicide Bows Out
- 07/02/12--09:43: Disarming Scale
- 08/01/12--13:40: Strength in Numbers
- 09/01/12--05:00: Before the Fall
- 10/16/12--14:59: Fall Turf Strategies
- 03/12/13--03:29: Lights Out for Mole Crickets
- 04/05/13--07:19: Taking It Slow
Insecticides for turf
The following charts provide a quick, four-page reference that allows you to compare chemical products available to help you rid turf of insect pests.
You’ll find a table that lists insects across the top and active ingredients of products down the left side. Once you locate the insect you’d like to target, slide down to see the active ingredients designed to control it. There’s also additional info in the table about each active ingredient: to which chemical class it belongs (helpful if you are trying to rotate chemicals in an effort to limit resistance); its mode of action, which tells you if the insects have to ingest the product or simply be exposed to it; and its form of application: bait, dust, granular or spray.
Go to page 6 to find the brand names and suppliers for each of the active ingredients listed in the table. Remember, these specification charts are only for reference. They are not a recommendation for use.
Supplier Contact Information
Agrisel USA Inc.
The Andersons Inc.
BASF Professional T&O
Bayer Environmental Science
Central Life Sciences
Cleary Chemicals LLC
Crop Production Services (CPS)
DuPont Professional Products
FMC Professional Solutions
Monterey Ag Resources
Nufarm Americas Inc.
Regal Chemical Co.
Soil Technologies Corp.
Fungicides for Turf
Turf disease can be the most intimidating attack on turfgrass. To help, this section of the guide focuses on fungicides and provides a reference for controlling your turf disease problems, all in one concise format.
You’ll find two tables profiling the chemicals for fighting turf disease. The first lists chemicals using the active ingredient (common name) of the fungicide and specifies the mode of action as either contact or systemic. Contact fungicides generally are applied to the leaf and stem surfaces and do not move appreciably within the plants. Systemic fungicides are absorbed and translocated within the plant. This chart also defines the fungicide group, which is an important factor for avoiding resistance. Using the same fungicide each time to treat a disease can result in reduced efficacy, so you’ll want to rotate the chemicals you use repeatedly. Next are the formulations for each active ingredient (liquid or granular, for example). Lastly, the table specifies diseases you can control with each active ingredient and designates with a “P” or “C” whether the fungicide can be used for preventive or curative treatments, or both.
On page 12, you’ll find brand names and suppliers for each active ingredient. Below is contact information for manufacturers and suppliers.
Supplier Contact Information
Agrisel USA Inc.
The Andersons Inc.
BASF Professional T&O
BioSafe Systems LLC
Cleary Chemicals LLC
Crop Production Services
FMC Professional Solutions
Gowan Turf & Ornamentals
Maril Products Inc.
Monterey Ag Resources
Nufarm Americas Inc.
Regal Chemical Co.
Supplier Contact Information
Agrisel USA Inc.
BASF Professional T&O
Bayer Environmental Science
Monterey Ag Resources
Nufarm Americas Inc.
Herbicides for Turf
Controlling weeds is arguably the top pest-related problem for turf managers. We’ve designed the following charts to provide a unique reference, covering nearly all turf herbicides and weeds in a format that allows youto easily find the chemical solutions to your weed problems.
You’ll find a list of active ingredients and the weeds (grassy and broadleaf) they control and a table at the end of the charts where you can cross-reference active ingredients to find the brand name of chemical you want and a list of suppliers.
When you turn this page, you’ll find charts that describe every chemical (by common name or active ingredient) listed within the herbicide guide. These pages describe each chemical’s characteristics.
The charts beginning on page 20 and 21 list which of these chemicals (by active ingredient and divided into pre-emergence controls and post-emergence controls) to use to control grassy weeds and sedges. Following are herbicides that control broadleaf weeds, divided into pre-emergence and post-emergence catagories. Finally, you’ll find a list of chemical brand names and who supplies them. See contact information below.
Supplier Contact Information
Agrisel USA Inc.
The Andersons Inc.
BASF Professional T&O
DuPont Professional Products
FMC Professional Solutions
Gowan Turf & Ornamentals
Monterey Ag Resources
Nufarm Americas Inc.
Regal Chemical Co.
Most people understand the benefits of pesticides. Yet, the myths surrounding pesticides sometimes fuel sensational headlines where these products get a bum rap and the facts get lost in the shuffle.
It’s no surprise that emotions run high on the topic of pesticide use. Those who oppose pesticides see it as a matter of safety, so they are advocating restrictions for all the right reasons. It’s important to take this into account when educating clients — or even city councils. Stick to and present the facts in a professional manner and position yourself as concerned and informed, and you may not only earn the trust and business of new clients, but also become a go-to person in your community regarding these issues.
“Everyone in our industry has an important role to play in ‘debugging the myths’ about lawn care. The absence of good information and misinformation drives the debate about product use,” says Karen Reardon, director of communications for Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. RISE is a trade association of manufacturers, formulators and others also concerned with related legislative and regulatory issues. See debugmyths.com for more info.
“The majority of people understand the benefits of DIY or professionally applied pesticides. They come into contact with the benefits of pesticides every day, especially in the lawn and garden area where healthy turf and plants perform a range of functions from preventing run-off to keeping allergy-causing weeds at bay,” Reardon says. But it still is critical that landscapers be on-the-ready to educate the public on the benefits of pesticides that are used properly and dispel the common myths.
Myth: Pesticides are not a necessary part of lawn care.
Fact: “Not only are pesticides necessary, they work to protect people from potential diseases and other health issues by reducing the populations of insect pests that spread disease and cause illness,” Reardon says. Without pesticides to keep mosquitoes and ticks in check, instances of West Nile virus and Lyme disease, both of which can be life-threatening, would increase. So would allergies were it not for herbicides that target ragweed, poison oak, poison ivy and other toxic plants.
Myth: Pesticides will harm my family and pets.
Fact: If used correctly and according to the label, pesticides pose no threat to you, your family or your pets. All pesticides are scrutinized by the Environmental Protection Agency, which even focuses its testing on sensitive groups such as children and immune-suppressed individuals. “Only products determined to have a reasonable certainty of no harm to the environment or human health can be registered by EPA,” Reardon says.
Myth: Integrated Pest Management alone will control weeds and insects.
Fact: This myth is tricky because the answer is yes, IPM alone will control weeds and insects. However, what a client may not realize is IPM, the gold standard for lawn care, includes the judicious use of pesticides. The goal of IPM is to eliminate or control as many pests as possible through proper turf care, monitoring and mapping pests and their lifecycles and “taking advantage of all appropriate pest management options,” according to the EPA’s definition.
Myth: Fertilizer will run off and contaminate water supplies.
Fact: Misuse of pesticides can result in runoff, which is what perpetuates the misconception that fertilizers contribute to runoff and water contamination. However, university research indicates under normal circumstances and use, phosphorus from fertilizer does not significantly contribute to nutrient runoff —all the more reason to have it professionally applied.
Education Is The Key To Safe Applications
While there are household items such as aspirin, table salt and gasoline that can be much more toxic than many pesticides, it still is important for contractors to stay up-to-date on proper pesticide applications and follow directions diligently. By design, pesticides are toxic and “can damage human and environmental health,” says Fred Kapp, Educational Director of the Alabama Green Industry Training Center, which strives to educate professionals about responsible pesticide usage. “Education is the answer. We encourage all professionals and their employees to enroll in high quality, verifiable training to protect their companies, customers and environment and to satisfy federal and state laws,” Kapp says.
By Cindy Ratcliff
Three more states in the Northeast are proposing new laws that would prohibit the use of pesticides on grounds surrounding schools and, in some cases, daycare centers.
If adopted, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire would join New York and Connecticut in imposing bans on EPA-registered lawn and ornamental pesticides for playgrounds and playing fields.
For now, residential lawns are excluded from state legislation calling for pesticide restrictions, but as each of these bills pass, it opens the door to the possibility of their gradual expansion, according to Tom Delaney, director of government affairs, Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). He points to Canada, where many provinces ban cosmetic use of pesticides altogether, as an example of how quickly policy can pass from public to private property.
“Those who would like to see pesticide use go away feel schools are easier targets for these laws, but it’s just a starting point,” says Delaney, who is also a member of the Pesticide Policy Dialogue Committee (PPDC), an EPA federal advisory committee.
“We all should be paying attention—even if you don’t make applications at schools. Don’t sit on the sidelines thinking this doesn’t affect you because eventually, it will. We’re not so far removed from it on residential lawns. We may work on a different site, but we use the same products, so don’t put your head in the sand. Support those in the industry who are being affected now.”
Delaney says following best management practices along with IPM (Integrated Pest Management) are the best ways landscapers can support the industry. “All it takes is one person doing something wrong to provide the basis for a new law or regulation, and everyone in the industry will suffer from that person’s poor practices,” he says.
In the United States, determining regulations for pesticide use is a responsibility shared at the state and national levels. The EPA regulates pesticides nationally under the authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other laws to register pesticides, educate applicators, monitor compliance and investigate pesticide problems.
Under these guidelines, states are allowed to develop their own regulations that are more comprehensive and stringent than federal regulations. State pesticide regulatory offices typically license pest control companies that operate in each state, certify individual pest control applicators, investigate companies and enforce pesticide laws in conjunction with the EPA and other agencies, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.
Many states also have preemption laws to prevent municipalities from crafting their own laws regarding the use of pesticides and fertilizers. However, a bill introduced in the Connecticut legislature earlier this year seeks to overturn the state’s pesticide preemption law. In states that don’t have state primacy laws, municipalities can specify their unique ordinances for how pesticides are used and applicators are certified.
What follows is an update of new and/or noteworthy state and municipal pesticide usage restrictions, including proposed legislation that would impact usage on a national level.
1. According to Beyond Pesticides (a non-profit organization that advocates “a world free of pesticides”) research, 34 states have adopted laws that address pesticide use at schools and/or daycare centers:
• 21 states recommend or require schools to use IPM, a 24-percent increase since 1998;
• 16 states restrict when or what pesticide may be applied in schools;
• 17 states require posting of signs for indoor school pesticide applications;
• 26 states require posting of signs for pesticide application made on school grounds;
• 23 states require prior written notification to students, parents or staff before a pesticide
application is made to schools.
2. Recent laws passed in New York and Connecticut restrict the use of pesticides on schools grounds and daycare centers. The Connecticut law (effective Oct. 1, 2009, for daycare centers and on July 1, 2010, for K-8 schools) bans all EPA-registered pesticides labeled for use on lawn and/or ornamental sites, including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. New York State’s Child Safe Playing Fields Act was passed in May 2010, requiring all schools, preschools and daycare centers, both public and private, stop using pesticides on playgrounds or playing fields. The law went into effect for daycares on Nov. 14, 2010, and for schools on May 18, 2011. The law does allow for emergency application of pesticides in instances of infestations.
3. New Jersey is proposing a Child Safe Playing Fields Act this year. Forty towns there already have pesticide-free parks, and more than 30 municipalities have enacted bans of synthetic lawn pesticides on public property.
4. Maine and New Hampshire are each proposing a version of Child Safe Playing Fields Act for their states, as well.
6. Illinois’ Pesticide and Lawn Care Product Application bill prohibits the application of pesticides when children are present at licensed daycare centers. Additionally, the treated area of those centers must remain unoccupied for at least two hours following application. Applicators must provide a four-day advance notice of application for parents and guardians of children at daycares and schools.
7. Federal legislation, the School Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), was first introduced in November 1999 in both the U.S. Senate and House and has been reintroduced every Congressional session since, according to Beyond Pesticides. It seeks to restrict the use of pesticides both indoors and on school grounds nationwide. It also would ban the use of synthetic fertilizer at schools. The bill, if adopted, would establish a 12-member National School IPM Advisory Board to develop school IPM standards that would be a national standard.
Sources: SafeLawns.org, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, BeyondPesticides.org, Environmental Protection Agency, New Jersey State Legislature, Cornell University, National Pesticide Information Center, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, IPM Institute of North America.
Pitting predators against pests
When the Orlando office of ValleyCrest Landscape Companies faced an outbreak of chilli thrips, they didn’t send in trucks with tanks of pesticides, they called in an army: thousands of entomopathogenic nematodes.
The result? These natural enemies of the chilli thrips are helping keep their populations in check, without the need for a strict regimen of synthetic pesticides.
Using a pyrethroid pesticide actually increased the chilli thrip population rather than decreasing it, says Barry Troutman, vice president of technical services for ValleyCrest in Orlando, Florida. So, they had to minimize traditional pesticides in this situation to maximize the beneficial insects. Florida has benefited greatly from the introduction of biological pesticides, he says, not only in the treatment of the invasive chilli thrips but also for controlling mealy bugs on hibiscus plants.
“We certainly have respect for the importance of beneficial insects,” Troutman says, “so we only treat when we have problems that they won’t treat.”
While Troutman knows first-hand that biological controls are effective, he recognizes the limitations of them, too, especially in an industry driven by results. Ultimately, says Troutman, the decision to use biological pest control must be weighed against client expectations.
“You have to be able to tolerate some pest damage, and that makes it hard for customers to accept,” he says.
From a cost perspective, he adds, biological controls target a narrow range of insects, while some synthetics cover a variety of pests. “That makes it hard to manage in high-volume landscaping. But in situations where you can focus on a single problem and allow some degree of plant damage, they do work well.”
The goal of biological pest control is to use parasitic and predatory insects to reduce undesirable and harmful insect populations, either by introducing natural enemies into the landscape or by nurturing the beneficial insects already there.
“I’ve always been more in favor of learning to recognize existing local enemies so you don’t work against them,” says Whitney Cranshaw, professor of entomology at Colorado State University. Many times, he says, landscapers will mistakenly wipe out beneficial insects in their attempt to eliminate other insect pests. “Know the key players. Identify them and work to create an environment that appeals to them.”
Common beneficial insects include lady beetles (ladybugs), green lacewings, predatory mites and parasitic nematodes (entomopathogenic nematodes). Lady beetles and green lacewings are general predators that consume a variety of insect pests; predatory mites feed on other mites and thrips; and nematodes target various soil pests including white grubs, mole crickets and caterpillars.
Food is often all the encouragement these local beneficial insects need to give them staying power, but it has to be more than a few isolated plants. You need a large area of host plant material to keep the good guys around for the long term.
In addition to making sure beneficial insects have enough food, Cranshaw recommends diversifying. “Use of certain flowering plants will provide nectar and pollen that can help supplement dietary needs. Also look for plants that can provide adult food needs.” To help conserve natural enemies, cut back on pesticide use or try using a more selective product that won’t also kill the good bugs with the bad.
Weighing the benefits
Using biological controls to reduce pest populations has its advantages and disadvantages.
Pros: They embody sustainability, offering long-term solutions and working for you when you are not there. Once established, they have the potential to keep pests in check.
There is less need for chemical control. To some clients, even the perception of fewer chemicals is enough incentive to embrace biological controls. Plus, fewer chemical treatments mean fewer man hours for you. If biological controls are established, resulting in long-term benefit, they are economical.
Cons: The process takes time. Time for establishment and sometimes time to fail (beneficial insects leave), reassess and start again with a new predator. It requires patience from you and your client.
Environment factors out of your control often determine the success of biological controls or eliminate them as options.
You and your client may have to learn to tolerate a certain threshold of pest and damage in the landscape.
Bringing in the bugs
Introducing predatory/parasitic bugs to landscapes in an effort to establish them as a means for long-term pest management falls under the classic definition of biological control. Your success will depend on timing, region and, of course, food supply and ecosystem.
“Biological pesticides should be customized to the region and weather (lady beetles, for example, don’t do well in heavy rainfall),” says Anand Persad, entomologist and regional technical advisor and lecturer at The Davey Institute in Kent, Ohio. A successful introduction requires research. “Technicians need to be proficient in the tri-trophic complex: the predatory or parasitic organism, its preferences and how it will impact the target pest.”
Applicators should know, for example, whether they will need to purchase adult bugs or their larvae, depending on timing and environment. If adult lady beetles are released, for example, without adequate food supply, they will likely fly away to the nearest food. “The larval form however, cannot fly away, so you may need that form initially,” Persad says.
While more and more grounds managers are implementing biological controls, Persad says use varies by market and region. In Canada, for example, where the use of synthetic products is heavily restricted, this method is employed often, but it’s not a strategy everyone can utilize due to regional limitations or because of the pest they are working with.
“It depends on your situation,” he says. “Biological control is not ideal for every landscape. You must have an ecosystem that will sustain and proliferate the beneficial pest. That’s step one. You must also be working in an environment that can tolerate pests at an aesthetic threshold.”
In other words, this method won’t be the best form of control for every client, particularly those who are unwilling to tolerate a certain degree of damage to the landscape. But for those clients who can accept some bad with the good it can provide a viable alternative to traditional pest control or as a strategy to moderate the need for chemical intervention.
Maryland recently passed into law what some are calling one of the toughest measures in the country regulating the use of lawn fertilizer, limiting both the content and application of fertilizer for urban and suburban areas. With a precedent now in place, other states are looking to follow suit, and it could mean a whole new way of doing business for turf managers.
While the new law places limitations on traditional fertilizer use, it does make special allowances for coated fertilizer products. This has many lawncare professionals taking a serious look at controlled-release products as a way to save their business and stay in compliance with the new regulations.
Of note is the fact it was a lawncare professional who helped convince Maryland lawmakers that one blanket law for fertilizers would not accurately address the objective of decreasing excess nitrogen levels in turf. Ken Mays, president of Scientific Plant Service, a lawncare company that services Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, lobbied the Chesapeake Bay Commission, presenting research demonstrating that controlled-release fertilizers provide nitrogen on an as-needed basis in turf.
Perhaps the most persuasive piece of research considered by the Commission was this: During the course of a year, if you use a product with a polymer coating (controlled release), you’ll end up applying up to 40 percent less nitrogen to turf compared to what you would with traditional products — getting fertilizer where it needs to be and, more importantly, preventing it from going where it shouldn’t.
While the outcome of the Maryland legislation was favorable for controlled-release fertilizers, manufacturers of coated products are gearing up to educate the market about the environmental benefits of using these products, especially now that fertilizer use in general has come under more scrutiny.
Pennsylvania is expected to be the next state to enact a law similar to Maryland, and Florida is trying to sew up its patchwork of locally enacted fertilizer restrictions. Currently, counties can specify application rates.
“The issue is going to become a bigger concern as more states look at fertilizer restrictions,” says Ron Dekok, product marketing manager for Agrium Advanced Technologies.
Maryland Case Study
According to Maryland’s new law, homeowners cannot use phosphorus fertilizer unless they are establishing or repairing turf and are prohibited from applying any fertilizer after November 15 or before March 1. In addition, the law restricts the amount and type of nitrogen that can be used in fertilizer, specifying at least 20 percent of nitrogen in fertilizers be slow-release.
For professional applicators, the law is more flexible, allowing the application of fertilizer through December 1, but only if water-soluble nitrogen is used and applied at a reduced rate. Professionals may also continue, for now, to apply organic fertilizer that contains phosphorus but will be confined to limited amounts beginning in 2013.
Other states are looking to follow Maryland’s example, and it could mean a whole new way of doing business for turf managers.
Early drafts of the law called for even stricter regulations that would have severely limited rates of nitrogen, as well, because the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which worked with various groups to reach an agreement on the measure, did not initially take into consideration slow-release fertilizer options in their early assessments.
He lobbied to create rates more in line for what they need to be for controlled-release products — rates that would keep professional applicators in the game — by helping educate the Commission on the environmental benefits of this type of fertilizer.
“I presented the Chesapeake Bay Commission with research that shows how these products release nitrogen more efficiently — so that you are actually using less nitrogen, even if you are making a single application at a larger rate,” he says. “The material was reviewed by the Commission and at the university level, resulting in a rewrite of the law that allows 2.4 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.”
“We are putting out 30 to 40 percent less nitrogen and getting better results.”
Controlled-release products are designed so that one or two applications can provide the appropriate amount of fertilizer for an entire year, compared with three or four applications needed for a traditional (uncoated) fertilizer, Mays says. They also can be applied at a higher rate without increasing the risk of leaching into water supplies.
About 14 percent of the nitrogen and 8 percent of the phosphorus entering the Bay can be traced to non-agricultural urban and suburban sources—mainly lawns, according to the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The Fertilizer Use Act will have to rely heavily on educating not only homeowners, but also professional applicators, as well. The law requires the Maryland Department of Agriculture—with technical guidance from the University of Maryland—to establish a training, certification and licensing program for professionals hired to apply fertilizer to lawns as well as individuals who manage turf at golf courses, public parks, airports, athletic fields, businesses, cemeteries and other non-agricultural properties.
Uncoated products (generally uncoated urea) deliver nitrogen immediately (or the first time they become wet), sending a sudden burst to the turf. That’s great for a quick green-up, but the roots can absorb only so much nitrogen, and the leftover product will be washed away, potentially into ground water.
Slow- and controlled-release fertilizers have been around for nearly 40 years (primarily sulfur-coated urea products, or SCU), with polymer-coated urea (PCU) debuting about 25 years ago. They traditionally come in nitrogen (N) or in variable combinations of nitrogen, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) variations.
These coated products allow water to enter a protective membrane, dissolving the urea. It is then released through the temperature-controlled dissolution of the solution as the polymer coating meters out the solution into the surrounding soil environment. You can control the length of time the product takes to release by affecting the thickness of the coating. You can also customize release curves specific to the applied geography, which can last from seven weeks to a year, depending on your needs.
“The coating controls the release of the nutrients, which is directed by temperature,” Dekok explains. For example, if you live in a northern climate, the traditional fertilizer application schedule would be three to four times a year. However, if you use a polymer-coated fertilizer, you can specify with your distributor how long wish it to last.
“If you have turf in Maryland, and you apply fertilizer at the end of March, you’ll have season-long feeding until the end of the year,” Dekok says. “You save time and money — which doesn’t even take into account the environmental benefits you derive with these products.” If you choose, the coating also can be impregnated with a pre-emergence herbicide, Dekok says.
Time Is Money
Controlled-release fertilizers are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. However, Mays says time savings and redistribution of labor offset the higher price — plus, he acknowledges the satisfaction of knowing his company is more environmentally responsible, a goal he set five years ago when the business turned 50.
“Our biggest costs savings results from having to apply fertilizer only twice per year for our typical residential lawncare program. In athletic turf and on commercial property, we have to apply only once a year,” he says. He also says turf color with controlled-release products is better than what’s achieved with traditional fertilizers, even though less nitrogen is being delivered.
By Cindy Ratcliff
New sprayers answer the call for versatility.
By Cindy Ratcliff
The elements of a good sprayer are straightforward: precision, efficiency, reliability and control. It’s the configurations and options that often sway landscape professionals to one product or another. Whether you prefer backpack sprayers, tank sprayers, ride-on sprayers or sprayer attachments to fit your existing fleet, you’ll find that manufacturers are making them more versatile, maneuverable and durable.
If maneuverability matters
Ground Logic, in its fourth year of operation, introduced its latest product, the Pathfinder XC (shown left), in response to users who wanted more machine capacity but not the extra expense of some of the larger hydro-driven equipment on the market.
“The Pathfinder provides users with the ability to maintain sports fields and larger commercial properties, yet it is maneuverable enough to be used on residential properties,” says Brice Crawford, president and owner of Ground Logic.
An articulating spreader/sprayer, the Pathfinder has a narrow wheelbase that allows it to fit through a 36-inch gate opening and most common carrier racks. The larger spreading and spraying capacities reduce the need for frequent refills of granular and liquid products.
Jamie Blackstone, owner of B-Green Lawn Care in Superior, Nebraska, initially switched to a Ground Logic sprayer because the machines are manufactured a few hours away in Lincoln, Nebraska, but was quickly won over by the machine’s agility. “The machine is quick and maneuverable — whether you are spraying a 5,000-square-foot lawn or a football field,” says Blackstone, whose spraying season runs April through November. The machine’s nimble performance, coupled with the benefit of consistent speed offered by the machine’s Honda engine, has boosted employee performance and efficiency, translating into a cost-savings for the 11-year-old B-Green Lawn Care.
“The groundspeed makes the calibration stick, and we’re not wasting product, plus we can get more area covered, and it really cuts down on employee fatigue,” Blackstone says. “The initial investment is worth it when you realize just how much time savings you get.”
Retail price for the Pathfinder XC is $7,395. groundlogicinc.com
If your focus is flexibility
A sprayer that can convert from one piece of equipment to the next offers versatility and considerable savings up front. A multi-machine sprayer attachment means not having to purchase dedicated sprayers for different carrying vehicles; it also doesn’t require the serious investment that its ride-on counterparts do.
Last year, TurfEx introduced two models of sprayer attachments that can be used interchangeably with zero-turn mowers, utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
“The ability for these sprayers to be mounted on several types of vehicles and offer multiple application options with little or no modifications maximizes their flexibility,” says Bruce Carmichael, national sales manager for TurfEx. “It’s basically a one-size-fits-all solution, regardless of the utility vehicles available or the application preference.”
The US-500 and US-1000 can spray using a front-mounted boom, boomless spray head or hand-held spray wand and are electric-driven. They attach to and are powered by the carrying vehicle’s electrical system.
“One goal of the TurfEx line is to allow operators to turn their zero-turn mowers into a Swiss army knife, of sorts, by offering a variety of mower attachments, such as sprayers, spreaders, leaf pushers, dethatchers and brooms,” Carmichael says.
A turf-care professional could mount this sprayer on a zero-turn mower for one project, utilizing the spray bar to apply fertilizer to a lawn, and then on the next project have the same unit in the back of a Gator or a pickup truck to spot-spray flowers and newly planted trees using the handheld spray wand.
The US-500 (50-gallon tank) retails for
$1,199.99. The US-1000 (100-gallon tank) retails for $1,599.99. turfexproducts.com
If you seek better comfort in a backpack
Backpack sprayers are a staple for many grounds-care professionals. For jobs requiring spot treatment of weeds, insects or diseases, it doesn’t make much sense to pull out the heavy-hitting, large-capacity sprayers. Instead, backpack sprayers allow you to quickly address the problem with a fraction of the effort. While convenient, they have not always rated high in comfort. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. A full tank of chemical on a backpack sprayer can weigh nearly 40.
“We focused on creating a new commercial sprayer because, based on customer feedback, there was a need to bring to the market a premium commercial sprayer that combined extreme durability with comfort,” says Robert Stanley, product manager for Shindaiwa.
The SP45BPE (shown above) provides this with extra padding for back and waist support that also works to equalize weight distribution during spraying. Shindaiwa also focused on providing a more comfortable handle with a lock on/off feature to reduce hand fatigue for longer spraying, Stanley says.
List price is $114.99
If your passion is precision
The key to consistent application rates lies in consistent groundspeed. Go faster than the speed at which you’ve calibrated, and you don’t apply enough product; go too slowly, and you over-apply. Sprayer equipment with GPS speedometer technology can keep you on pace, calculating exact speeds to ensure precise applications with every spray.
The GPS speedometers on the L.T. Rich Products Z-Spray machines will not only keep you in check during application, but also help you calibrate spray and spread, says Tom Rich, owner of L.T. Rich Products.
“We wanted to help clients eliminate product waste, apply chemicals more precisely and in a more environmentally friendly way,” Rich says. His machines also offer hydraulic-drive hoppers to provide variable spread widths from 4- to 25-feet.
“Environment and bottom line are our main areas of focus, and with a GPS speedometer, you get both,” says Rodney Creech, owner of Lawn Plus in West Alexandria. He owns two Z-Spray machines, a Z-Spray Junior and a Z-Max. His company, which services 70 percent residential clients and 30 percent commercial, sprays March 15 through Dec. 1. “Application accuracy is key.”
For Creech, the Z-Spray line of machines offered more appealing options, such as the adjustable spread width, that he says have helped optimize his crew’s productivity. “If we aren’t spraying, we can go multiple spread widths. We are all about efficiency and options.”
List price is $8,400 to $9,600. zspray.com
If you covet control
ProLawn’s Shielded Sprayers and sprayer attachments use a shielded design that keeps the spray within the spray shield, providing a safer, more environmentally effective way to spray in commercial applications. “We loved to spray years ago, in the 80s, but were sick and tired of coming back with stiff, white-laced pants and clothes that smelled of chemicals. By keeping the spray within the spray shield, you increase a great amount of safety to the operator, public, pets and non-target plants,” says Randy Gerosa, one of the chief operating officers of ProLawn.
“The Shielded Sprayer has made a world of difference to my business,” says Kenny Thexton, owner of Thexton Lawn Maintenance in Tonganoxie, Kansas, who uses it with his Grasshopper mower. The wind has always made spraying a struggle, often forcing him to reschedule jobs, he says. “After a season of not getting any spraying done, I actually lost more money than the sprayer costs. I can spray right up against flowers — just about anything — and not have to worry about it,” Thexton says.
Depending on the model, list prices range from $999 to $4,800.
Best Ways to Deal with Weeds
Pre-emergence prevention is one of several strategies to combat these tough weeds.
By Cindy Ratcliff
Planted and planned, one man’s weed is another man’s turfgrass. But when bentgrass crops up unannounced in your carefully manicured Kentucky bluegrass, this monocot is nothing more than a weed.
Grassy weeds are among the toughest to combat, and your strategy for handling them will differ greatly from that for typical broadleaf weeds. Because grassy weeds are monocots and most broadleaf weeds are dicots, their tolerances to chemical herbicides can be quite different, particularly to post-emergence products.
“It is much more difficult – and in some turf species almost impossible – to remove existing grassy weeds without injury to the turf,” says Wayne Wells, turfgrass specialist and extension professor at Mississippi State University. “Weed management is dictated by timing of weed germination and population dynamics. Grassy weed management strategies rely heavily on pre-emergence herbicide applications to prevent establishment prior to germination.”
While a pre-emergence strategy gives you the edge on offense, Wells stresses the best weed management is a good defense: Quality turf, as a healthy, dense turf canopy, is a strong competitor with weeds.
“A good analogy is a picture puzzle. Any missing pieces leave holes, and the picture is never complete,” he says. So, when any other maintenance practice (mowing, watering, nutrition, other pests control, etc.) of turf management is lacking, holes are left for weed encroachment.
Proper mowing is critical to quality turf, Wells says. “Every turf species has an optimum height range, and this should be maintained by never removing more than 1/3 of the total leaf area at a single mowing.” For example, a Bermuda grass lawn maintained at 1 1/2 inches should be cut to never remove more than 1/2 inch in a single mowing. “The lawn needs to be cut regularly with a sharp blade to prevent scalping and leaf shredding. Regular mowing also eliminates many weed seedheads before the seeds mature so the seed bank is greatly reduced.”
Smart watering: A thorough but less frequent watering regime is more effective in producing quality turf than applying small amounts every day, which encourages shallow turf rooting. Watering early enough in the day to allow the foliage to dry before nightfall will reduce the potential for disease problems, which can open the canopy for weeds.
Picking products: Grassy weeds appear in two basic forms: annual types, such as crabgrass, goosegrass and annual bluegrass, and perennials, such as Bermuda grass, Bahia and Dallisgrass, which are major problems for Southern lawns. There are considerable differences in managing cool-season versus warm-season turf species with herbicides and timing of applications.
“There are several effective products to choose from to apply preventatively,” Wells says, addressing control for warm-season turfs. Most have cell-inhibiting activity, but selection should be based on specific local conditions. “The keys to success are proper timing and rate of application, thorough uniform coverage and activation prior to seed germination.”
For established grassy weeds, selecting the best herbicide is more challenging. “Bahia can be removed from most other warm-season turf species with metsulfuron,” Wells says. “Sethoxydim is effective in removing several grassy species from centipede. Many of the newer sulfonyl-urea type products are effective for removing several cool-season grasses from warm-season turf species.”
Critical conditions: Warmer temperatures wreaked havoc on the cool-season grasses of the Midwest last summer, opening the door for grassy weeds. The stresses put on turf by the brutal temperatures weakened turfgrass plants, making them more susceptible to weed invasion, says John R. Street, associate professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State University.
“Normally, cooler, less humid nights help the turfgrass rebound from the daytime stresses, but the higher day and nighttime temperatures resulted in significant stress on both the shoots and root systems of all our typical cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and bentgrass,” Street says.
The result was a bumper crop of grassy weeds, especially crabgrass. “Because of the conditions, crabgrass germinated about two weeks earlier than normal. Anyone who did not get pre-emergence herbicides down by about April 5 saw a decrease in control, unless they used herbicides such as dithiopyr or pre-post combinations like prodiamine and sulfentrazone that provide early post-emergence activity,” he says.
In a more typical season, the timing of a pre-emergence herbicide can make or break your success at combating grassy weeds. “The timing of pre-emergence herbicide applications is the most critical component of an effective chemical control program,” Street says. “It is a sound agronomic strategy to apply the pre-emergence herbicide a little earlier in the spring than to delay the application and miss the target date window. Improper timing is considered one of the major reasons for pre-emergence herbicide failures.”
In the Midwest, this means applying a pre-emergence herbicide in the early spring, one to two weeks prior to crabgrass seed germination. Annual bluegrass germinates significantly earlier in the spring, so you’ll need to apply chemicals even earlier for maximum efficacy. “Late fall applications of pre-emergence herbicides may be an alternative approach where annual bluegrass is the key target weed,” Street says.
Heed directions: Any time you are implementing a chemical control for weeds, there is the potential to harm desirable turfgrass, which is why it is critical to read and follow all label instructions and precautions.
Improper timing is one of the major reasons for pre-emergence herbicide failures.
“We don’t take prescription medicines without following instructions, so treat your lawn the same way,” Wells says. “Hundreds of test and trials have been done to establish use rates and application guidelines. If these are followed, it is extremely rare that injury will be greater than described on the product label. However, misapplication, adverse environmental factors and turf stress conditions can often impact turf tolerance.”
Controlling grassy weeds is typically an early-spring activity. Depending on your region, this is a time of year when you’re not yet overwhelmed with mowing, so take advantage of it to concentrate on pre-emergence herbicide applications for grassy weeds.
“In the South, preventative weed control applications offer an opportunity to keep busy during dormant periods when the turf is not growing,” Wells says.
Renovate or reestablish?
Removing existing turf and starting from scratch can be a scary proposition for a lot of clients. Typically, though, if their property has less than 60 percent of desirable turf covering the ground, they should consider reestablishment.
Renovation is the less severe overseeding of turf to achieve a more substantial lawn through scalping with a mower, and any combination of aerating, verticutting, and/or topdressing to maximize seed-to-soil contact. It can be a less intimidating option for those clients who can’t commit to a complete overhaul.
“There is no better time to give your cool-season lawn the attention it craves than in the late summer to early fall.”
2. ’Tis the season
“There is no better time to give your cool-season lawn the attention it craves than in the late summer to early fall. The cooler growing season provides turf plants a chance to regenerate themselves,” says Bruce Hellerick, senior horticulturist for Brickman’s PennDel Division. Weeds begin to wane and will pose less competition for seedlings, giving them opportunity to get well-established before cold weather sets in.
3. Out with the old
Killing out what’s left of existing turf is easily accomplished with a non-selective herbicide, such as RoundUp or Kleenup. Zac Reicher, Ph.D, professor of turfgrass science at the University of Nebraska, says that multiple applications two weeks apart may be necessary for tough-to-control grasses like nimblewill, but difficult weeds like quackgrass may never truly be controlled.
4. Timing is everything
Wait at least three days before taking the next step in reestablishment if you’ve treated the site with a non-selective herbicide. If you can wait longer, even better. “Allowing the existing dead grass to decompose for a month or more makes the next step easier and allows for repeat applications of glyphosate to ensure complete kill,” advises Reicher.
5. Prepping makes perfect
The type of soil you’re working with will define how you prepare the area for new seed or sod. Soils that aren’t compacted and that don’t have thatch: Use an aerator to expose the soil. “A power rake set to cut 1/8 to ¼ inch into the soil also will work well,” says Reicher.
If you have good soil but a thick layer of thatch: Use a power rake to get rid of as much thatch as possible. A sod cutter may be necessary for thatch that is more than an inch thick, and Reicher says that you may even need to rotary till the soil, turning under the thatch. And if it is a clay, turning in this organic layer will help improve the soil.
Compacted soils present the toughest challenge. Start by tilling the soil 4 inches or more then raking the surface smooth. Allow it to settle for a week or two, irrigating the area and compacting slightly with the wheels of a utility tractor or other implement, suggests Reicher.
6. Making amends
If you’re working with heavy, clay soils, introduce compost by tilling it into the site. Reicher recommends applying an inch of compost, tilling, then repeating, tilling in a different direction to insure uniform incorporation of a few inches of compost.
7. To seed, or not to seed
In most cases, seeding is the more practical way to go because it’s less expensive for your customer. However, there are situations where sod works better, especially in areas with a lot of traffic or high visibility.
If you do seed, follow up by lightly raking the soil to incorporate the seed in the top ¼ inch, says Reicher, and roll the area with a light roller to ensure seed-soil contact.
8. Don’t forget fertilizer
Just before seeding, apply a starter fertilizer. If you’ve done a soil sample test, fertilize to those recommendations. If not, Reicher recommends using 1.0 pounds P2O5/1000 square feet.
9. Water works
Irrigation is a critical component to establishment. Light, frequent watering is the rule, which could mean irrigating several times a day.
10. Take care
When the seedlings begin to grow, mow at 1.5 inches until they have been cut at least two times. “After that, raise the mowing height in ½-inch increments over the next three weeks until a normal mowing height of 3 to 3.5 inches is reached,” says Reicher.
Apply the starter fertilizer again at four weeks after germination, using the same rate as specified above.
Reicher advises against applying herbicides for broadleaf weeds until after you’ve completed the second mowing of the seedlings. However, there are newer herbicides like QuickSilver, SquareOne, or Tenacity that are safe on new seedlings. As always, follow the instructions on your herbicide label.
If your client can’t stand the thought of a complete reestablishment of turf, there are some things you can do to improve the overall appearance and health of turf, says Bruce Hellerick, senior horticulturist for Brickman’s PennDel Division. Here is what he recommends for clients who opt to not do a complete renovation.
• Have the soil tested by a reputable lab to determine proper pH and corresponding lime requirements to ensure good uptake of existing nutri- ents already present. Lime and fertilize only as necessary.
• Core aerate the soil, preferably in two-to-three directions and apply top- dressing in especially thin areas to add organic matter and improve soil struc- ture. “This process removes ‘plugs’of soil from the turf, which helps to reduce the thatch layer and improve air, water and fertilizer penetration into the soil,” says Hellerick.
• Top dressing the turf areas with ½ to 1 inch of organic compost will intro- duce beneficial microbes, organic material and low levels of slow-release fertilizer.
• Broadcast seed in areas that have more than 60 to 70 percent desirable turf species and use a mechanical slit seeder in areas that have less than 60 percent to insure good soil-to-seed contact and promote the best and quickest germination.
• Apply a starter fertilizer to provide immediate nutrients for newly germi- nated grass seedlings to aid in the lawn’s root development.
• Provide adequate irrigation to renovat- ed area to keep the seedbed moist but not too wet. The turf should receive approximately 1 inch of irrigation or rainfall each week.
Failure to thrive
There are a number of reasons turf withers away. When helping your customers decide if they need to renovate or reestablish, it’s beneficial to explain what went wrong in the first place, especially if it’s something they could correct in the future.
• Mowing too low
• Poor or compacted soil from initial construction practice
• Thatch accumulation
• Excessively wet, dry or shaded areas
• Disease and insect stresses
• Improper or poor quality grass species used at point of installation or species of grasses are out of balance
• Improper soil pH, causing nutrient deficiencies
Here are the most effective ways to prevent and treat this difficult turf disease.
By Cindy Ratcliff
In the summer, humidity and excessively wet conditions can create the perfect opportunity for brown patch.
“Heavy rainfall, too much irrigation, wet and humid sites, poorly drained areas, long periods of wet foliage, wet thatch and damp soils are the main factors,” says Joseph Rimelspach, program specialist, plant pathology, at Ohio State University.
Here’s Rimelspach’s best “turf doctor” counsel to help you identify and treat brown patch or, during a good year, prevent it.
Brown Patch or Rhizoctonia Blight
The fungus Rhizoctonia solani
Grasses at Risk
+ All common turf grasses
+ Especially lush, cool-season grasses
+ Tall fescue lawns
+ Hot, wet and humid weather patterns
+ Daytime temperatures 80 to mid 90s
+ Nighttime temperatures warm, mid 60s and above
+ Abundant rainfall
Areas of Increased Susceptibility
+ Overly irrigated sites
+ Wet soils and poor drainage
+ Shaded lawn areas
+ Lawn areas with little to no air movement
+ Irregular to circular patches (6 inches to 2 feet in diameter)
+ Patches variable shades of tan to brown
+ Outer edges of patch may be darker
+ Irregularly shaped dark lesions on leaves
+ Gray to white fungal growth when turf is wet and during high humidity (may be seen in the early morning with dew)
“There are many challenges to accurately diagnosing brown grass in lawns,” Rimelspach says. “Since all common turfgrasses can get brown patch, it is difficult to rule out the disease on the basis of the type of grass in the lawn.”
If there are brown patches in a lawn and the turf and site are dry, brown patch is most likely not the problem, he says. Not sure? Sample turf and send it to a lab for testing. It’s the safest way to get an accurate diagnosis.
Most extension agencies will charge from $20 to $75 for disease identification, and some universities charge $100 to $150, depending on whether you want a phone consultation or a written report of their findings. Turnaround time varies from one day to several weeks, depending on the disease, but is typically around three days.
+ Avoid excessive fertilizer, especially in summer. Several light fertilizer applications are less likely to trigger disease than one heavy application, Rimelspach says.
+ Keep grass as dry as possible.
+ Mow lawns and avoid excessively tall grass.
+ Improve airflow over the lawn by removing obstructions, like overgrown shrubs and trees. For golf courses, fans are sometimes used.
+ Avoid over-watering. Rimelspach recommends deep, infrequent irrigation early in the day, which gives turf leaves a chance to dry quicker.
+ The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program offers information on turfgrass assessment for disease. Check it out online at www.ntep.org.
+ Dozens of products and more than 30 active ingredients are labeled for preventive and/ or curative control of brown patch.
Rimelspach suggests trying fungicides in the strobilurin family, such as Compas (trifloxys- trobin), Disarm (fluoxastrobin), Heritage (azoxystrobin) and Insignia (pyraclostrobin), which are effective against brown patch (always check labels for use restrictions).
+ Often, the disease will subside when weather conditions are cooler and dryer.
When a lawn has had previous brown patch problems, Rimelspach recommends you apply fungicides when humid weather and hot nights are predicted.
Applications should continue according to the fungicide label for as long as the hot, humid weather persists. Understanding the causes and taking the correct actions can help end and prevent brown patch turf disease.
Billbugs are masters at disguising their destruction as drought or disease.
It’s not always easy to tell. The damage caused by these weevils is often confused with things such as drought, disease, white grubs or other insect pests, such as chinch bugs.
Early damage caused by billbugs often appears as small spots of dead or dying grass in late June through August, which coincides with summer drought stress. This may lead you to believe your turf is suffering from lack of water. If it doesn’t respond to irrigation, you may begin to consider turf disease, as the dead spots can be mistaken for dollar spot. To get to the real root of the problem, you just need to dig a little deeper.
“Diagnosing billbugs is most reliably done through collection and identification of adults or larvae from affected turf,” says Paul Smith, IPM coordinator at the University of Georgia. “Because larvae are feeding on the roots, pulling up on the dead grass and seeing if it comes up easily from the roots may help signify an infestation. This should not be considered a diagnosis unless larvae or adults are collected from the area, as well.”
Seeing is believing
If you wouldn’t know a billbug if you saw one, here is what you’re looking for: Adult billbugs range from 1/5 to 3/4 of an inch in length (depending on species) and are usually reddish-brown in color, Smith says.
The adults have a distinctive snout, as their name implies, and their mouthparts are located at the tip of the snout or “bill.” The larvae, which can be collected from the crown or roots of the turf, are white, legless grubs about 3/8-inch long with the rear end wider than the head. These should not be confused with white grubs, which are generally much larger, have legs and are C-shaped.
Root of the problem
Billbugs cause serious problems for turf by feeding on its stems and roots. The most significant damage is caused by the older billbug larvae, which feed specifically on the roots, Smith says.
“Most damage occurs in June and July as increased root feeding and heat stress combine to exacerbate damage,” Smith says. If the infestation is significant enough, it can result in extensive damage — even complete destruction of turf — by the end of summer.
In addition to direct damage from billbugs and their larvae, turf also can suffer from secondary damage: predators like skunks and raccoons that dig up lawns to feed on larvae and insects.
New lawns are especially susceptible to billbug damage, particularly those established with sod, according to Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University Extension entomologist and professor.
Ramping up resistance
Kentucky bluegrass, zoysiagrass and bermudagrass are most often injured by billbugs, but feeding may occur on many types of grasses, Smith says. “Using mixed-grass lawns or establishing lawns using resistant turf varieties is often effective at limiting the severity of billbug attacks,” he says.
Kentucky bluegrass varieties ‘Park,’ ‘Arista,’ ‘NuDwarf,’ ‘Delta,’ ‘Kenblue’ and ‘South Dakota Certified’ exhibit resistance or tolerance to billbug attack.
“Most endophyte-protected ryegrasses and fescues are resistant to billbugs, as well. As with any integrated pest management program, careful monitoring of the turf and early detection are the best defense against a major infestation.”
Giving billbugs the boot
If using one of the resistant turf varieties isn’t an option for your client, chemical control methods are effective against billbugs, although controlling them when they are in the larval (grub) stage can be difficult, Cranshaw says. “Young larvae are protected within the plant. Older larvae occur in the root zone where insecticides fail to penetrate,” he says.
Applications are usually administered in mid to late spring to coincide with emergence of migrating adults in search of egg-laying sites. A second application may be required for heavy infestations.
“Apply adult sprays so insecticide residues remain as long as possible on foliage and in the crown area of the plant,” Cranshaw advises. “This may be achieved better with liquid sprays than with granular formulations.”
You have many chemical options for control of billbugs, but Cranshaw cites two active ingredients:
• Halofenozide (MACH-2) is a growth-regulator insecticide that is effective against younger stages of billbugs. It is fairly fast acting (days, weeks) and moderately persistent (weeks).
• Chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn) has shown activity against billbugs. Low toxicity to non-target species allows classification as a Reduced Risk Pesticide.
Biological controls also can be effective against billbugs, including predation by birds and hunting wasps, fungal diseases and parasites, Cranshaw says.
“Parasitic nematodes (Steinernema species, Heterorhabditis species) are effective against both larvae and adult stages,” he says.
On the mend
With light to moderate billbug infestations, you may be able to mask the damage with adequate irrigation and fertilization until populations are under control, says David Shetlar, entomologist and associate professor at The Ohio State University. “The critical period for this irrigation and feeding is when the bluegrass is preparing itself for summer dormancy periods.”
Shetlar says lawn care companies using programmed rounds should make application of insecticides to those neighborhoods that have experienced billbug damage in the past. “These neighborhoods should be routed two to three weeks before the first billbug migration is expected and continued for no more than three weeks after migration is confirmed.”
The latest on how to get damaged trees, and client relations, on the mend.
On Aug. 11, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the sale of Imprelis, an herbicide introduced by DuPont last year that has recently been linked to scores of tree deaths around the country. The company had withdrawn sales of the product a week earlier and announced plans for a refund program.
And now, more than three months after initial reports of injury to trees, lawn care operators (LCOs) are waiting to see if certain conifers, such as white pine and Norway spruce trees, on clients’ properties will recover or whether they should be removed from the landscapes.
“Be patient, water the trees and hope for the best,” says Pete Landschoot, professor of turfgrass science at Penn State University. Landschoot was among the first to post online information regarding a course of action for Imprelis-damaged trees.
There are no quick fixes in sight.
“Drought and heat stress, typical this time of year, are certainly not going to help the situation,” Landschoot says. In addition to watering trees to relieve this stress, he also recommends holding off on fertilizing the damaged trees, which could exacerbate the situation.
Imprelis was launched in 2010 as one of the most anticipated herbicides to hit the market in years.
Instead, working with clients and documenting Imprelis-related damage is the best course of action for now. “It’s the best recourse for getting compensated for those trees,” Landschoot advises. “Follow the damage, keep records and take pictures.”
A letter sent to LCOs from Michael McDermott, global business leader for DuPont, acknowledged Imprelis was responsible for injuring some tree species and stressed the company’s commitment to work with every customer who has experienced Imprelis-related damage.
“Follow the damage, keep records and take pictures.”
“First and foremost, I want to underscore DuPont’s commitment to our customers’ satisfaction and to responsible stewardship of our products. We sincerely regret any tree injuries the Imprelis may have caused and will work with you to promptly and fairly resolve problems associated with our product,” he stated in a July 27 letter.
DuPont spokesperson Kate Childress declined to discuss plans for reimbursement or insurance supplementation but says the company wants to work with lawn care companies on an individual basis to resolve claims. The company also has “engaged 20 independent, certified arborist companies to work with you and evaluate your claim,” according to the company’s website (www.imprelis-facts.com)
At press time, DuPont had not released the number of claims it has received, but Extension services in 22 states from Kansas to Pennsylvania have reported injury to conifers associated with Imprelis applications, according to the Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.
“We’re not sharing the scope yet because we’re convinced we haven’t heard from everyone, yet,” Childress says.
Ryan Lawn & Tree in Kansas City, Missouri, began using Imprelis last spring. With citywide use, Larry Ryan, founder and owner of the company, estimates 8 percent of his clients sustained Imprelis-related injury to their trees. “Other companies I’ve talked to have had a higher percentage — as much as a 25 percent for some smaller companies. We’ve been fortunate,” he says.
Childress says she believes the percentage could be less when tallied nationwide. “We don’t want to release a number now because we don’t want to trivialize any of the claims. DuPont is taking each claim seriously, and we are putting our attention and care to each case.”
Imprelis was launched in 2010 as one of the most anticipated herbicides to hit the market in years. Research indicated the herbicide would be highly effective against a number of notoriously hard-to-control weeds, such as ground ivy, clover, dandelion and wild violet. That, coupled with a low toxicity to mammals and its ability to achieve weed control at a low rate of application, made it an attractive product.
Initial reports pointed to possible applicator error as the reason for tree damage because not all applications have resulted in injury. But when more and more LCOs across the Midwest and eastern United States began to report damage, the product came into focus as the common denominator.
Why and how Imprelis causes injury to conifers has yet to be determined. DuPont is working with the EPA, state regulators and university extension specialists to determine the cause of the damage.
The Imprelis label warns the product should not be applied within the drip line of trees, but some operators speculate heavy rains may cause it to leach into closer proximity and cause damage.
Dealing with Injured Trees
It appears some trees injured by Imprelis will make a recovery, according to arborists. However, the recovery could take a few seasons.
The team of arborists working with DuPont recommends that injured trees remain in the ground this fall and winter to fully assess the potential for recovery next spring, Childress says. In some instances, though, if it’s obvious the tree is beyond repair or if the client has low tolerance for a recovering tree on their property, removal may be your only option.
Ryan’s team is evaluating damage and grading each tree a 1, 2 or 3. “Threes will not recover, most likely,” he says. “All we can do is learn from this, play it out, and add it to our foundation of knowledge. We’re all really guessing right now.”
DuPont has issued these recommendations, based on a Bartlett Tree technical report on remedial treatments practices, for trees showing signs of stress:
• Irrigating the plant during dry periods will minimize moisture stress.
• Do not over irrigate. One good soaking per week will suffice if there has been no rain.
• Tree fertilization should be avoided for a minimum of one growing season because stimulating excess growth can compound injury from certain herbicides.
• Deep root fertilization of trees should be avoided until trees recover.
• Pruning should be delayed for at least a year to fully assess the extent of injury.
• Immediate pruning is necessary if dead branches pose danger to life or property.
• Consult a Certified Arborist, Registered Consulting Arborist or Tree Care Industry Association member company if you have questions regarding tree care.
For more information from DuPont, see its website: imprelis-facts.com or call the toll-free hotline: 866-796-4783.
By Cindy Ratcliff
When considering pests, it’s common to think about thresholds. In other words, how many weeds, insects or other pests can healthy turf and landscape plants — and the client — tolerate before you implement control strategies. But this concept often doesn’t apply to vertebrate pests such as rabbits, voles and deer, according to Jeff Jackson, retired Georgia’s Extension wildlife specialist. “It may be that only one animal is too much.”
Control of vertebrate pests can be divided into three categories: habitat management (changing the environment in some way to deter pests), population management (favoring other or killing pests) and human dimension (how the client feels about it). The human element always is the deciding factor, as a client’s attachment to animals can sometimes prevent him or her from wanting to eliminate them.
“The human part can overrule the other two,” Jackson says.
The appeal of having an animal habitat in your backyard can quickly fade, though, when you face repeatedly replacing landscape plants mowed down by a hungry rabbit or deer.
When Steve Scoville, president of the Pest Control Center in Sacramento, California, is called in to deal with vertebrate pests in his area, he says client sentiment usually isn’t an obstacle. Homeowners are frustrated and mostly concerned about the safety of the method of control.
“That’s the No. 1 question they have. They don’t really care how we get rid of the pests — even if we are or aren’t using chemicals. They just want reassurance that it’s safe, and they want the pest gone.”
Ridding certain wildlife from your landscape is more challenging than dealing with traditional insect pests. Your options may be limited by wildlife regulations, which vary by state. And some control measures, such as shooting or poison baits, may be too risky for urban settings.
Learn everything you can about the natural history and biology of the animal. Then, consider the following options.
Trapping is the most common control method Scoville uses against vertebrate pests. “The manpower is more intensive when we have to use traps, and it costs the customer more, but it’s often our only choice,” he says. Check with your state’s wildlife resources office to determine what the laws are for trapping in your area. In California, you must have a trapper’s license. Most states also regulate how to deal with trapped animals. Relocating animals is often not allowed due to the potential for spreading rabies and other diseases. California requires you to euthanize trapped animals.
The appeal can quickly fade when you face repeatedly replacing plants mowed down by a hungry rabbit or deer.
Chemical controls, such as poison baits, fumigants and toxicants, are often the easiest and most effective to use, but they may not be practical for clients who have pets.
Label restrictions on fumigants prevent their use within 100 feet of buildings, so it’s rare that they can be used in urban areas. Poison baits, which are Scoville’s preferred method for dealing with voles, aren’t a prudent choice for areas with other desirable animals or small children.
Smoke bombs, or what Scoville refers to as sulfur sticks, can be effective for tunneling pests or those burrowed under concrete. They are most successful when the soil is moist enough to hold the smoke underground and when you’ve ensured all tunnel entrances are covered.
Applying repellents often is a client’s first choice for vertebrates. However, it is a short fix at best to ward them off. “Repellents don’t work very well, and the smell is obnoxious,” Scoville says. They can also be time-consuming and unrewarding.
Planting undesirable ornamentals or less appealing turfgrass varieties works in temperate climates where pests have other food choices. But when food is scarce, this method is less reliable. “If you have a hungry deer that weighs 150 pounds, it’s going to eat whatever is available,” Jackson says.
Fencing can be effective for guarding a landscape, if your client is open to it. If your target pest is rabbits, Jackson says the fence doesn’t have to be very high. “Although we think of them as good jumpers, they jump ahead, not up,” he says. For deer, it’s a bit trickier, as they can easily jump fences or hedges. Your best bet is a 6-foot or higher fence that has a dense hedge in front of it. This provides less of a runway for deer to get airborne.
Wild Goose Chase
One of the best methods for dealing with Canada geese, which enjoy federal protection as migratory birds, is to employ the services of a dog. The Sprint World Campus in Overland Park, Kansas, did just that in 2001 to keep geese at bay on its 240-acre campus. Shayla, a Border collie specially trained to chase geese, keeps them off sidewalks and away from buildings.
By Cindy Ratcliff
Once you find a product you like, it’s difficult to think about switching. It’s reliable, it does the job effectively and you’re comfortable using it. Marketers call that being brand loyal. However, when it comes to insecticides, using the same product repeatedly can actually provide you with diminishing returns. The best way to guarantee the product on which you’ve come to rely continues to offer the control you’ve come to expect is to stop using it — temporarily.
Most traditional insecticides work to control or eliminate insects by interfering with their nervous systems. Depending on chemical class, pesticides affect nervous systems in different ways. “Mode of action” describes how they do this.
Cholinesterase inhibitors, for example, interfere with nerve impulses by tying up the molecules required to stop the impulse, resulting in the insect’s inability to distinguish from real and imagined impulses. Insecticides in the organophosphate and carbamate group use this mode of action. Chloronicotinyls, another chemical class, affect the nervous system in a different way, by blocking receptor sites. Imidacloprid uses this mode of action.
Over time, using chemicals in the same class can result in insects building a resistance to the active ingredient in the insecticides, according to Pat Vittum, professor of entomology at the Universityof Massachusetts.
“Insects can develop the ability to break down insecticides with repeated use, making it necessary to switch to a whole new chemical class of insecticide for good control,” Vittum says.
So if you use bifenthrin (a pyrethroid) and then switch to cyfluthrin (another pyrethroid), as far as the insect is concerned, you are still using the same mode of action.
“If an insect develops resistance to one insecticide in a given chemical class, it normally automatically develops resistance to others in the same class (or mode of action),” Vittum says. “So knowing the mode of action is important so the turf manager can avoid its repeated use.”
A wise management strategy is to use more than one mode of action, normally by alternating from one to another. Rotating insecticides from different chemical classes is especially important on properties that require more than a single application in a season.
“Avoid using the same mode of action in consecutive applications, and avoid using the same mode of action several times in a growing season,” Vittum says.
Fit Turf, a Denver-based lawn care company that services 3,500 clients, evaluates insecticide resistance on a case-by-case basis. For properties that receive insect control applications only once or twice a year, rotation of insecticide isn’t an issue, according to sales manager Michael Snyder.
“When it’s more than that, we are careful to rotate products to avoid resistance altogether, especially since we use a lot of products that have imidacloprid (a chloronicotinyl) and bifenthrin (a pyrethroid),” Snyder says.
Vittum warns turf managers to be especially mindful of mode of action when dealing with chinchbugs and weevils — two insects that have demonstrated their ability to become accustomed to active ingredients in the pyrethroid class of chemicals.
“The most common examples of resistance in turf involve southern chinch bugs resistant to pyrethroids and annual bluegrass weevil, also resistant to pyrethroids,” Vittum says. “I have not yet heard of any confirmed cases of resistance to neonicotinoids, in spite of the fact they have been used for many years in many locations.”
How the loss of MSMA means more emphasis on pre-emergence control of weeds until a new alternative emerges.
By Cindy Ratcliff
For half a century, turfgrass managers have turned to monosodium methanearsonate (MSMA) as the post-emergence herbicide solution for some of their most challenging weed problems. So when the EPA cancelled the registration of MSMA for agricultural crops, including turfgrass, in 2009, it left a need for alternative products and management strategies that yield the same control.
Subsequently, managing hard-to-control weeds, such as dallisgrass, goosegrass and crabgrass, without MSMA proved more difficult, especially on warm-season turf grasses. While there are products offering good efficacy against the same weeds targeted by MSMA, they generally require more than one application and are more expensive.
Until researchers find the next best thing for post-emergence control, experts recommend a strategy based on an old standard: good cultural practices (aerification, fertility, irrigation, mowing, etc.) combined with an emphasis on pre-emergence control of weeds.
Back to basics
Healthy turf is less susceptible to disease and weeds, which can gain a foothold when turf is stressed.
“The best defense against weed invasion is maintaining a vigorously growing turf stand. Maximizing turf quality with proper cultural practices will help reduce weed invasions on the whole,” says Jim Brosnan, assistant professor of turfgrass weed science at the University of Tennessee.
The best defense against weed invasion is maintaining vigorously growing turf through good cultural practices.
“However, when herbicide applications are needed, selecting an alternative to MSMA will depend on what weed species you are trying to control,” he says. “In regard to crabgrass, the loss of an effective, economical post-emergence herbicide, like MSMA, makes pre-emergence control more important than ever.”
He recommends trying products such as prodiamine (Barricade), oxadiazon (Ronstar), dithiopyr (Dimension) and pendimethalin (Pendulum), which provide effective pre-emergence control of annual grassy weeds like crabgrass and goosegrass for extended periods of time.
“Weeds like dallisgrass are more challenging in that certain herbicides will provide suppression, but few provide complete control,” Brosnan says. “Eradication with current technology requires multiple applications during several growing seasons.”
Prognosis for post-emergents
Currently, research is concentrated on evaluating new chemical compounds, as well as combinations of existing compounds, that will help soften the blow of losing MSMA.
But other avenues are also being explored. While University of Tennessee researchers evaluate the efficacy of experimental herbicides against weeds controlled by MSMA application, they’re also looking at how meteorological data can be used to determine points in the growing season where difficult-to-control weeds, such as dallisgrass, are most susceptible to various herbicidal modes of action.
This research indicates the optimum time to initiate a dallisgrass-control program is during the fall, when the average daily air temperature falls below 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Post Emergence Alternatives
While MSMA can no longer be sold for use on
residential, sports or commercial turf, existing supplies in the hands of turf managers can still be used, providing that the label is in compliance. If you still have reserves of MSMA, Brosnan’s advice is to use them against annual grassy weeds.
“This point especially rings true for dallisgrass, as there are no good options other than MSMA for selective post-emergence control of dallisgrass in turf,” he says.
“Herbicides such as foramsulfuron (Revolver) and trifloxysulfuron (Monument) will provide only dallisgrass suppression, not control.”
For cool-season turfgrasses, the lack of MSMA hasn’t significantly altered weed-control programs. “We were never a large proponent of MSMA,” says Forrest Martin, president of LushLawns, a treatment-based operation serving the Triangle-area market in North Carolina. “We live in a tall fescue market, and when there is a breakthrough of crabgrass here, it is in the dead of summer. By that time, fescue is under such stress that MSMA would damage it, even though it would knock out the crabgrass: just one of the challenges of living in the transition zone [for fescue].”
Instead, Martin uses Drive XLR8 selectively to treat weed breakthrough. “It does a good job and is kinder to the fescue, so we prefer it,” he says.
For cool-season turfgrasses, the lack of MSMA hasn’t significantly altered weed-control programs.
In warm-season turfs, another herbicide, Celsius, is becoming a popular alternative. Stephen Caracciolo, owner of Turf Medic in Wilmington, North Carolina, says it is his go-to herbicide for managing weeds on client properties.
“We like Celsius because it controls a variety of weeds,” says Caracciolo, a North Carolina Certified Turfgrass Professional. “I’ve been happy with the results. You can use high rates even in the summer, and there are no heat restrictions.” He also uses Drive and Revolver to eradicate centipedegrass and bermudagrass.
For some contractors, the transition away from MSMA will be more difficult, depending on their region.
With nearly 90 end-use products that contain MSMA, one thing is for sure: MSMA’s successor has potential to have broad appeal for weed control.
Why MSMA Was Banned
MSMA contains an organic form of arsenic that is relatively nontoxic. However, in an inorganic state, arsenic is highly toxic. And in 2006, water samples from some golf courses in Florida tested high in arsenic, which prompted the EPA to cancel the registration for ag use. There was a concern that the organic arsenic from MSMA could convert to the more toxic, inorganic form in the environment.
As part of its ruling on MSMA herbicides in 2009, the EPA stipulated distributors could continue selling these products to golf courses until June 30, 2013 (for restricted use). Subsequent use of all MSMA products on golf courses will be prohibited. However, the EPA has agreed to further evaluation that could extend MSMA registration.
“The EPA has agreed to conduct a scientific review in 2012 evaluating available information describing the mode of action of MSMA and benefits conferred by its use as a herbicide,” says Jim Brosnan, assistant professor of turfgrass weed science at the University of Tennessee. “If this review is favorable, use of MSMA on golf courses, sod farms and highway rights-of-way may continue beyond 2013.”
However, there are no indications the EPA will reconsider expanding MSMA herbicide registration to include use on residential and commercial turf, even if the scientific review results in continued use on sod farms, rights-of-way and golf courses.
“Scale insects, far and away, can be some of the most difficult pests to control,” says Joe Chamberlin, regional field development manager for Valent Professional Products.
Your best bet is to rely on a strategy that emphasizes prevention but relies on fast-working systemic products when outbreaks occur.
Scale insects are divided into two broad groups: soft scales and armored scales. Each has a different feeding habit, but their most distinguishing feature is that one group wears a flattened, plate-like cover. These are called armored scales. The other group, soft scales, is best known for excreting honeydew, a sweet, sticky liquid that can (annoyingly) drip on windshields and lawn furniture.
Identifying scale is not easy. Scout for honeydew to narrow the search and then take your findings online, using extension websites specific to your area.
Knowing which scale you’re dealing with is important because its lifecycle will impact ideal treatment schedules. It is easier to kill off the younger generation of scale, which usually emerges in the spring, but sometimes the summer.
Scales have many natural enemies working to keep their populations in check. When the natural balance gets askew, introduction of other predators can be a good way to bring their number back down. “Many scales have effective parasitoids and predators,” says one expert. “Parasitoids are typically sold as adults (Aphytis) or sometimes pupae (other species).” These biological controls range in price from $20 to $80 depending on species and quantity ordered and can easily be ordered online and shipped to you (typically overnight).
Another natural way to keep scales away is to also keep ants away. Controlling ants is important, especially those that are sugar feeders and ‘tend’ the honeydew-producing scales (e.g., Argentine ants in California).
You should also closely inspect plants before purchasing. Small numbers of scales can be easy to miss
In general, an application of a pyrethroid product will wipe out scales, but it will kill natural enemies as well. Some other foliar-applied products will, too. “Sometimes, you can make scales worse by using a foliar spray,” Chamberlin says.
For the most part, people are moving away from that toward soil applications. However, there are instances when foliar applications are the best route. “When the state of scale infestation is really out of control, maybe for a new client, and you need fast-acting control, you may need foliar control,” Chamberlin says.
Systemic insecticides are the preferred method for managing scale populations when levels get out of control. With this type of insecticide, the plant incorporates the active ingredient (AI), and the insects ingest it through typical feeding on the plant. While these types of insecticides can be applied foliarly, for the most part, they are used as a soil drench, trunk drench or injection.
A newer AI, dinotefuran (Safari), does reach the harder-to-reach armored scales because it is more highly soluble in water, allowing it to travel more quickly through the plant’s xylem and farther into the plant’s storage tissue outside the vascular system. Thiamethoxam (Meridian) also ranks high in solubility, just behind dinotefuran.
Do a Google search on lawn care, and much of what you’ll see relates to do-it-yourself (DIY) topics like “10 Ways to Grow Grass” or “8 Ways to Save Money on Costly Lawn Care.”
Despite the popularity the DIY path suggests, the landscaping and lawncare industries have weathered a glum economy and indicators predict a small amount of growth in 2012. Even though U.S. consumer spending was unchanged in May, for example, there was increased spending on services for the second straight month – a good thing for the green industry.
The landscaping services market is poised to reach $80 billion by 2015.
And many statistics point to the strength of the landscaping and lawn care market. The landscaping services market is poised to reach $80 billion by 2015, according to Global Industry Analysts (GIA), which indicates moderate to strong growth after several years of flat growth or declines: good news for everyone included in “landscaping services,” defined as lawn, garden, ornamental shrub and tree services to hardscaping services.
Driving that long-term growth is a “post recession economic recovery, resurgence in consumer spending, growing emphasis of homeowners on backyard beautification and the imminent rise in remodeling activities,” according to PRWeb.com.
If you’re not quite ready for that level of optimism, check out the numbers that don’t come with analysis but still speak to the strength of the industry. Here is a snapshot of some of the trends and more interesting statistics that make the green industry go. ~~By Cindy Ratcliff
Winter weeds wither in the presence of two new pre-emergence herbicides.
Treating weeds in the fall is one of the best things you can do for turfgrass. Targeting fall-germinating weeds like chickweed, henbit and annual bluegrass with a pre-emergence herbicide is the path of least resistance to a lush lawn next spring.
“Most of the time, it’s a lot more cost-effective to treat weeds pre-emergently,” says Laurence Mudge, manager, technical services of the Green Solutions team at Bayer. “It’s been proven that pre is the way to go. Otherwise, you’re going to be out there three or four times to get weeds. During the years, pre-emergence herbicides have become a major tool in our weed-control arsenal.”
Whether you’re working with cool- or warm-season grasses, the introduction of new chemistries has made it easier than ever to achieve season-long control of winter weeds, even for areas that require reseeding – a category for which pre-emergence herbicides used to be a no-no.
Safe on seedlings
In the Midwest through the Southeast, high temperatures combined with little rain are positioning the industry for a fall that could be focused on lawn renovation. For years, reseeding a lawn meant foregoing a pre-emergence herbicide because of its non-selectivity of seedlings. That all changed with the introduction of mesotrione, a new active ingredient brought to market by Syngenta in its pre-emergence herbicide Tenacity, which was approved for use on residential lawns in April 2011.
“Summer has been brutal in many parts of the country, so to have lawn next spring, fall is the time to seed,” says Dean Mosdell, technical manager for Syngenta. “But as we put food and water down, we are still germinating weed seed: chickweed, henbit, speedwell. The goal is to eliminate this competition, allowing seeding to happen faster by reducing the competition from weeds that like the cooler temperatures.”
According to a research article published by Ohio State University, Dave Gardner and John Street, both associate professors of horticulture and crop science at OSU, report using Tenacity will result in nearly complete control of grassy weeds and some annual broadleaf weeds but will not affect the growth and development of the seedling turf.
“It’s been proven that pre is the way to go. Otherwise, you’re going to be out there three or four times to get weeds.”
“It’s more convenient to apply a pre-emergence herbicide the same day you are seeding,” Mosdell says. “With Tenacity, you can put it down just prior to seeing. So you apply it and seed right over the top.”
There is one caveat when using mesotrione on newly seeded cool-season grasses this fall: It doesn’t jive well with fine fescue. “Fine fescue should represent no more than 20 percent by weight of your total seed,” Mosdell warns. “That’s really the only restriction we have for seeding on cool-season grass.”
The use of pre-emergence herbicides can be broken down into two main categories, Mudge says. “You use them in the fall for Poa control on warm-season turf and for crabgrass control in the spring on cool-season turf. That’s 90 percent of the market.”
Considering that Poa annua, also known as annual bluegrass, has been described as the most common and widely distributed grassy weed in the world, it makes sense that manufacturers would target it with products.
According to experts at Michigan State University’s department of crop and soil science, “Turfgrass management professionals, including golf course superintendents, sports field managers, sod producers and lawncare operators, have spent years trying to eradicate annual bluegrass from their turf swards.
Annual bluegrass (Poa) is one of the most invasive weeds in typical turfgrass stands. It is also one of the most difficult to control.”
For all of the energy and effort that goes into trying to control Poa, indaziflam is the first new pre-emergence active ingredient to be introduced in the past 20 years to treat it. Bayer brought indaziflam to market in late 2010 in a product called Specticle.
Joining the ranks of long-time go-to pre-emergence herbicides such as Barricade (prodiamine), Dimension (dithiopyr) and Pendimethalin, the new active ingredient indaziflam is being touted for its residual control and its activity across both grassy and broadleaf weeds at a low-use rate (0.5-0.75 ounce of active ingredient per acre).
Labeled for warm-season turfgrass, Specticle has been embraced by turf managers in the south and southeast, Mudge says, who appreciate the flexibility it offers for application scheduling. Timing has always been critical for the efficacy of pre-emergence herbicides, but products like Specticle that offer some post-emergence control, as well, are more forgiving if you’re late getting them on the ground.
While pre-emergence herbicides are not targeted solely at broadleaf weeds, Mudge says using them in the fall does, in many cases, cut down on instances of broadleaf weeds in turf.
“All pre-emergence herbicides are used for grassy weed control,” Mudge says, “but some products will pick up winter annuals, as well. Any control of annual sedge is just icing on the cake. If you quit using a pre-emergence product, you would quickly find out you’d have a lot more broadleaf weeds than you had before.”
~~ By Cindy Ratcliff
If your turf didn’t pass the test, follow this prescription for fall.
As one of the hottest, driest summers on record for most states, the summer of 2012 has just given your turf the ultimate test.
“Heat and drought like this are really good for showing weaknesses within the lawn: compaction, bad species, bad cultivars, poor drainage. This is the perfect stress test,” says Zac Reicher, professor of turfgrass science at the University of Nebraska. “If your lawn didn’t pass the test, why not? Now’s the time to fix what’s ailing turf.”
Reicher says there are three main strategies that can help insure turf is as strong as it can be by next spring, but advises lawn care professionals to first discover any underlying turf problems. If plants didn’t make it, you first have to ask why, then create a plan so that turf can be healthier in the spring, but you can’t wait until then or it will be too late.
Some say that warmer winter temperatures could have indicated a warmer-than-usual summer, but no one predicted just how hot and dry it would play out. Winter transitioned easily into an early spring and long summer, which meant lawn care operators should have extended fertilizer application and weed control efforts.
“We are teachers. We need to be there with a smile on our face and say, ‘I can fix that for you,’ and have contacts at a nursery with good prices and plant knowledge.”
“Fertilization is based on growing days, so the longer the season, the more fertilizer plants will need to maintain the same quality,” says Reicher.
For crabgrass, it has been an exceptional year, and Reicher says that two applications of a pre-emergence herbicide for treatment of crabgrass is becoming the norm, especially in a season such as this—and even that may not carry you through a long season. Yellow nutsedge had another banner year. As turf starts to thin from heat, nutsedge start coming in with a lot of other sidewalk weeds and they are just hard to control.
“Those plants grow based on degree days and soil temperatures. They don’t look at the calendar and say they’re done in two months.
“It just makes sense to use two sequential applications as the most effective way to control crabgrass, especially if you look at the summers we’ve been having. Only one out of nine summers is an easy summer.”
The only good news about the summer of 2012: very little turf disease. “It was just so dry that we didn’t have enough moisture to breed disease,” says Larry Ryan, owner of Ryan Lawn and Tree in Kansas City. What he did see more of, however, is disease on ornamentals. From verticillium on redbuds to rust on pear trees, what turf lacked in the disease category, ornamentals more than made up for.
If nothing else, 2012 has been a year to discover what plants work best in your region, says Ryan, who calls the brutal summer “nature’s stimulus package,” and a good time to visit with clients and explain why plants are failing and offer alternatives to help insure a stronger fight against future heat waves and drought.
“A lot of plants that have little to no drought tolerance are dying out, and homeowners don’t really understand why. They know they’ve been watering, so we have to explain that there is extreme drought pressure,” says Ryan.
“The weather was so obviously bad this year that I think clients are cutting turf managers some slack,” says Reicher. “The last few years have been brutal, but 2010-11 were much more subtly bad where hot nights and lots of humidity beat up turf, but those conditions were not that obvious to the non-professional.”
Unusually hot and dry weather will spotlight anything that is already wrong with turf and ornamentals that under typical circumstances would remain unnoticed. “There has just been no tolerance for it this summer,” says Ryan. “We’re sorting out plants that aren’t highly adapted to this climate. Siberian Elm leaves are still fresh, but sweet gums are dead. White pines are dead.
“What we need to be doing right now is this: if a lawn needs reseeding, we need to be there with a smile on our face and say, ‘I can fix that for you,’ and have contacts at a nursery with good prices and show knowledge about right plant, right place. We are teachers. I don’t think we spend enough time encouraging clients to do the right thing,” says Ryan.
Focus on fall
Most years, two applications of a fertilizer in fall would be enough to ensure a healthy turf stand in the spring; however, Reicher is recommending three applications for those regions that endured an especially hot and dry summer.
“In years like this, I recommend a third application halfway between mid-September and that of the last mowing. Add maybe 25-50 percent more nitrogen,” he says. Instead of applying, say, a pound each for two applications, divide it into three applications of ¾ pound each.
“Those three applications go a long way to improve what’s left of the lawn. Don’t ever miss that final application near the last mowing, especially in years like this.”
Knowing that turf was stressed over the summer, it’s important to be on weed watch during the fall, so a fall application of a broadleaf herbicide well into October, even near the last mowing, will provide good control.
“On thin turf, there is a good chance for winter annuals, so the later that application, the better chance of collecting those weeds,” says Reicher.
“Don’t think that you can ride things out until spring and hope to
Mole crickets continue to be a problem in the areas stretching from North Carolina to East Texas. Recognized in many of those states as the No. 1 insect pest for home lawns, millions are spent each year trying to control them.
In Georgia alone, one report estimates statewide expenditures on mole cricket damage and control exceeded $14.8 million in a single year.
Despite that, new products for controlling and preventing mole crickets have been slow coming. “The market for this has been really sluggish for the past few years, with the economy where it is,” says Juang-Horng (J.C.) Chong, assistant professor of turf and ornamental entomology at Clemson University. “And we really don’t see that there is anything new on the way.”
While there may be nothing new on the horizon for mole cricket control, there are a handful of products that are completely capable. The key is knowing when to use them and keeping diligent track of mole-cricket populations.
Map It Out
Mole crickets (southern, northern and tawny) prefer sandy soils that they can tunnel in, and this tunneling on its own can harm turf by loosening soil around the root system – which causes the roots to dry out.
However, it’s the tawny mole cricket that also feeds slightly below the soil surface on roots and even on shoots that can really wreak havoc on turf. Obvious damage to turf will depend on the length and degree of infestation, according to Chong, but tunnels are a sure indicator of mole crickets.
“There are really not any other creatures that would create the same tunneling of mole crickets,” Chong says.
Keeping a record of the location of mole crickets will aid in efficacy of treatment. It’s unlikely they will infest a large contiguous area, so mapping the affected areas will aid in treatment later on, especially in instances where you can wait until summer and treat nymphs that are the most vulnerable to controls. One of the best ways to determine the presence of mole crickets is to perform a soap flush.
“Since the majority of nymphs hatch in June and July (earlier farther to the South), there will usually not be any visible mole cricket damage (during this time),” says Rick Brandenburg, professor of entomology at North Carolina State University. “This is the time when a soapy water flush is an effective tool to monitor cricket egg hatch and abundance in turf.”
He recommends using lemon-scented detergent for this, which seems to work best. Using two tablespoons of dish detergent in three gallons of water, soak a small area (3 x 3 feet) of turf, and mole crickets will pop up within a few minutes because thy detergent irritates them. “You’ll be able to see how many there are and how big they are, too,” Chong says.
Mole crickets are hard to control. Both the nymphs and adults are a threat to turf, and gaining control of both, ultimately, is best done by targeting them in the nymph stage in June and July instead of the adults in the spring.
“Spring treatment is not recommended, but some population reduction is possible,” Brandenburg says. “Unless the area is very isolated, spring treatments will have only a slight impact on reducing the number of adults that come into the area to lay eggs.”
Look for products containing these active ingredients: carbaryl, fipronil, imidacloprid and indoxicarb, which have proven effective on mole crickets, as well as pyrethroid products.
“Adults are just less sensitive to insecticide treatments,” Chong adds. “The nymphs are much easier to control using a product like Talstar (bifenthrin). But adults, they will hardly touch it. For adults, you have to whip out the big guns, like fipronil, to deal with them.”
Reducing the chances of attracting mole crickets to turf could be as easy as flipping a switch, according to Chong. “One thing that seems to make a little difference is light. Mole crickets are attracted to light, and leaving lights on outside at night can increase your chances for mole crickets — grubs, as well,” he says. Plus, it can mess up turf physiology, too.
While porch lights and home spotlights don’t create enough light to trigger photosynthesis, it causes turf to burn more sugar over the long term, Chong adds.
Watch out for warmer winter temperatures, like those experienced in 2011-2012. They appear to have an impact on mole cricket behavior and could mean additional monitoring for lawn-care professionals.
“We don’t really have any data for it, but from my observation, winter temperatures make a big difference. With the warmer winter last year, we actually had mole-cricket activity all winter long,” Chong says. “When it freezes, this drives mole crickets further underground, where they become inactive. Without the freezing temperatures, they stay active all winter long, and damage can carry over into next spring.”
Can plant growth regulators find a home in the residential market?
For decades, plant growth regulators (PGRs) have been helping turf and ornamental professionals work more efficiently. These products, which slow down plant growth, have been a welcome tool in plant production, along roadsides and on golf courses – reducing labor and equipment costs. Yet, the market for PGRs on the residential side of the industry has shown, well, slower growth.
“We’re still barely scratching the surface,” says Jim Goodrich, product sales specialist, professional turf and ornamental products for PBI/Gordon Corp. While landscape contractors have been slower to embrace PGRs, Goodrich says they are beginning to show more interest in them, especially as more states pass laws prohibiting disposal of yard wastes in landfills. This could be the extra incentive needed to give landscapers the chance to work with PGRs.
“It’s all about comfort. Many landscapers are reluctant to use anything that is new, even in instances where it can be helpful,” says Yan Chen, researcher and associate professor of horticulture at Louisiana State University. “With the knowledge and hands-on experience, they will begin to use PGRs more. The best scenario is using them for shrubs and hedges — anything they need to prune regularly.”
Goodrich says they’ve already seen some steady growth in the purchase of PGRs for landscape ornamentals, including shrubs and hedges, but he predicts the biggest area of growth will be using PGRs for fruit and bloom suppression in residential, as well as commercial, areas.
“Most of our growth is focused here,” Goodrich says. “It’s surprising to me, when I conduct seminars, to hear that so many people haven’t heard of using PGRs for fruit suppression. Some have never even considered it, but when they learn that PGRs can be used for things like suppressing allergenic blooms, they want to know more. Our biggest increase has been in that niche, and with the more frequent warm winters promoting a longer season (for fruiting and blooming), we’re going to see even bigger demand for PGRs that can be used for this.”
Taking care of business
On the surface, PGRs may seem to be a conflict of interest for landscapers who often negotiate payment on a per-visit business model, have monthly or yearly contracts and want to maintain a certain amount of visibility so clients don’t doubt they are getting premium service for their money.
There is a place for PGRs even in these scenarios, according to Chen, who says she believes PGRs are substantially underutilized by landscape contractors in the residential market.
“I’ve heard this concern in theory, but all of the landscapers I have talked to would rather prune less and have time to work on something else,” Chen says.
“Trimming less, but maintaining the more visual aspect by adding other services, is a great way to implement PGRs in your business,” Goodrich says. “You can reduce labor costs or reallocate labor, depending on your needs. They afford you the time to do what needs to be done without straining labor
availability and budgets.”
Just how much time and effort can you save by using PGRs on ornamentals? Depending on the product you use and the target species, you could be looking at six to eight weeks of growth regulation. For ornamentals to hold their shape, it would be up to 12 weeks, according to Goodrich. With some species, it can be even longer.
“When used correctly, you will see a lot of control, but it does vary between species and your region,” says Goodrich, who lives in Kansas City. “Here in the Midwest, ginkgo biloba is controlled all season, but in California, the control isn’t as long because there, it produces flowers all year long.”
In this scenario, season-long control looks like this: If a landscaper typically pulls nine (55-gallon) bags of debris off that ginkgo biloba in a season, introducing PGRs would cut it down to half of a bag. “You may not experience 100-percent control, but you’ve greatly reduced what’s coming off the tree, and we consider that a success,” Goodrich says.
In addition to fruit and bloom elimination and reduction in growth of trees, ornamentals, shrubs and ground covers, PGRs have proven to offer other benefits, as well. The active ingredient dikegulac-sodium (Atrimmec) suppresses shoot elongation in plants but promotes lateral branching, which can help give shrubs and groundcovers a fuller, more uniform shape.
There is also research to suggest PGRs can help plants weather a drought, Chen says.
“Previous research suggests several GA3-inhibiting PGRs improve the drought tolerance of treated plants,” Chen says. “This is an important potential benefit of Type II growth regulators,” especially for areas that are prone to drought-like conditions or are subject to water restrictions.