Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Snapshot of Pest Management

With the weather warming, the greens now open and more play, we are entering that frenzied time of year. Because of this and being away last week for training and testing, there was little time to add new posts. However, I found some time to write during the rain early this week. The training and testing refers to the renewal process for plant protectant applicator licensing, and I wanted to cover this topic while it is fresh in my mind.

In this and future posts, we’ll be covering many different topics and practices we routinely perform on the golf course throughout the year. One very comprehensive and technical practice that is performed in every season of the year, in varying degrees, is that of Pest Management.

The word “Pest” generally brings up thoughts of bugs to most, but on the golf course it means much more. The types of pests we’re concerned with are extensive and often include:
  • Diseases
  • Injurious & Nuisance Insects
  • Mites
  • Broadleaved & Grassy Weeds
  • Algae
  • Aquatic Weeds
  • Rodents
  • Nematodes
  • Undesirable Fish species
  • Undesirable Bird species
  • Some species of Mammals
We’ll likely write about these in detail at some point. For today’s post, let’s just say some of these are very difficult to manage, some are relatively easy to manage, but nearly all require specialized training, certification (satisfactory testing), and licensing by the State of Illinois to apply control products such as pesticides or plant protectants.

The term pesticide is any product that kills a pest. Some examples include:
  • Fungicides - control fungi (diseases)
  • Herbicides - control weeds
  • Insecticides - control insects
  • Algaecides - control algae
A more appropriate term we use for these products is "plant protectants". This is used because in many of our spray mixtures we apply, the actual pesticide component may be very small or even non-existent. Other products such as fertilizers, micronutrients, wetting agents, bio stimulants, vitamins, sea plant extracts, and plant growth regulators, often make up the bulk of our spray mixtures.

Knowing how to properly read a label is as important as the application of the material and understanding how it works. In addition to the info in this picture, other information found in labels include target pests, rates, restrictions, & environmental information.

Our strategy for controlling pests doesn’t begin with grabbing a product off the shelf and applying in to a given turf, tree, or landscape area. It begins with an entire integrated program we use called, Integrated Pest Management or IPM. IPM is the most efficient and environmentally safe approach to pest control. It includes non-chemical and chemical control methods such as:
  • Cultural control – improving plant health with proper mowing, fertility, irrigation, selecting resistant varieties, aeration, topdressing, pre-plant soil preparation, proper planting, mulching, and more.
  • Mechanical – physical elimination of the pests by; cultivation, pruning, manual removal, burning (prairie areas).
  • Biological – control utilizes living organisms such as predators (promoting insect feeding birds such as bluebirds), and using beneficial fungi that attacks certain injurious insects.
  • Chemical – control using approved plant protectants, at proper time and rate, and rotating with different mode-of-action chemistries to avoid resistance issues.
We consider these when we design our pest control programs but also consider many other factors including: Understanding Plant Protectants, Application Equipment (sprayers & spreaders), Calibration and Calculations, Product Labels, Drift Reduction (preventing movement of products to non-target areas), Applicator and Public Safety, Environmental Concerns, and Plant Protectant Laws and Regulations.

As you can see, Pest Management is quite involved and a critically important course management activity that we conduct regularly. The IL Dept. of Agriculture is the lead agency that regulates the various plant protectants we use to control pests, and they also conduct the training, certification testing, and licensing.

For a two day period every three years, we’re involved with this training and testing so we can not only retain our legal right to purchase and apply necessary products, but also to refresh our current knowledge, and remain informed of the latest pest occurrences’, control methods and products, and laws and regulations.

The importance of pest management education can never be over emphasized. This is what can happen when carelessness and a lack of education combine during a plant protectant spray - a lot of dead turf! (Don't worry... this is not Skokie CC!)

It was a long two-day period for me, as I was required to take 4 tests, to retain the appropriate licenses needed to manage the course and general club property. I’m happy to report I did pretty well with an average score of 94%. All I can think is that some of what the test writers think are the right answers, must be wrong!

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