A case in point
Allen James, executive director, RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)
Absolutely! The responsible use of pesticides and fertilizers has enhanced and made safer the modern American landscape. Virtually all homeowners want attractive lawns and recreational areas for their children and pets, free from poisonous weeds, undesirable insects and turf diseases. And regardless of what activists might say, most people do not like the "natural" look for landscapes.
Pests, which attack landscape areas, are busy at work 24 hours a day, as anyone quickly learns when he or she takes the "natural" approach. It is virtually impossible for the typical family to devote the time required to maintain an attractive lawn using the "alternative" approaches that some suggest. Even when an individual devotes every available hour to manual yard work, insects, plant diseases and weeds quickly win out! The judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers, applied according to label directions, make it possible to enjoy the attractive and diversely designed landscaped areas we see so often.
As important, however, is the knowledge that-when you follow label directions-you are using pest-control products both safely and with concern for health and the environment. These compounds undergo the most rigorous testing regimen of any products available for use. Professionals and homeowners can only use those products that meet the extensive testing requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No other country has higher standards. You can use these products with confidence and knowledge that, when you apply them according to label directions, the results will be good, and safety is assured.
Jay Feldman, executive director, NCAMP (National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides)
The goal of pest-management systems is to achieve adequate controls without dependency on toxic chemicals. The systems should seek to avoid the use of chemicals by adopting practices that prevent pests.
This position stems from a concern about the chemicals' public-health and environmental hazards. The laws regulating pesticides do not provide sufficient protection for those handling pesticides or exposed as a result of their use. Most pesticides have not been fully tested for cancer, birth defects, genetic damage and reproductive problems such as sterility. Testing does not consider cumulative and synergistic effects, where combinations of chemicals increase their potency. For those that have been tested, the record is poor. Of the 36 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 cause environmental effects, 14 have contaminated ground water, 11 are toxic to birds, 12 are toxic to bees and 21 are toxic to fish.
There is also a hidden story to pesticides: their inert ingredients. Everyone that uses pesticides knows that the majority of most product ingredients are labeled inert or trade secret, even though they may be very toxic. Inerts can include chemicals such as xylene or toluene that may be more toxic than the active ingredient.
In light of this, the key to landscape management is the maintenance of healthy, vigorous soil and lawn that can resist pest problems. Without good management practices, the landscape will become dependent on chemicals, with pests showing increased resistance to pesticides over time.
>T1 Pesticides in jeopardy
Most grounds managers have some idea of what a pesticide label looks like. Seeing one, it's fairly obvious that pesticides are heavily regulated. We've all heard the statistics: It takes an average of 8 to 10 years and $30 million to develop a pesticide. However, few people have more than a vague notion of what the process actually entails. Making it even more difficult to understand, the requirements manufacturers must satisfy change frequently, and recent legislation may result in some of the most encompassing changes yet. It's natural to view regulatory bureaucracies as abstractions far removed from day-to-day realities. But pesticide regulations have real, far-reaching effects on your pest-control operations.
For many years, the government has required pesticide manufacturers to complete a battery of testing to demonstrate that a product is safe enough to market and use. It has never been easy or cheap. FIFRA-the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act-is the legislative basis for these requirements and for much of the pesticide regulation in this country.
FIFRA actually dates back to 1947, so it's hardly new. Over the years, various amendments to FIFRA have made it more inclusive and stringent. The 1972 FIFRA revision was probably the most comprehensive amendment, establishing much of the regulatory framework that exists today. But with more sophisticated technology available to evaluate pesticides, heightened public concern and pressure from environmental groups, Congress reacted. In 1988, Congress amended FIFRA, mandating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reevaluate all pesticides whose active ingredients received registration before 1984. FIFRA 88 was the result, and it has had a serious impact on the turf and ornamental industry.
Briefly, FIFRA 88 mandated five steps for reregistration: *EPA published lists of chemicals affected by FIFRA 88 and asked registrants to state their intentions regarding reregistering their products on these lists. *Manufacturers of all active ingredients registered before Nov. 1, 1984, had to respond with their intent to reregister their products or to drop support for products they no longer wished to produce and make a commitment to completing reregistration requirements. Manufacturers had to pay initial fees at this time. This step was complete in 1990. *Registrants had to submit studies, recommit to fulfilling data requirements and pay the remainder of the fees due. This step also was complete in 1990. *EPA reviewed all submissions and issued demands to manufacturers for additional data it felt was necessary for product reregistration. This step was complete in 1994.
The last step entails a decision by EPA to reregister, or not, the product under review. According to FIFRA 88, EPA was to complete all such registration decisions this year. However, EPA now says that it cannot complete reregistration before 2002 due to its work load and lack of funding. Since 1988, all registrants also have paid an annual maintenance fee for each product and now must do so through 2002.
The reregistration process has sent chemical manufacturers scrambling to perform studies, pay fees and supply documentation for the reregistration of their products. While not yet complete, the process is nearing its conclusion-much to everyone's relief.
Is something wrong with this process? Yes. Perfectly good products have been and are being dropped, altogether or for specific uses, because satisfying the applicable regulations costs more than the product may be able to earn. It may be an effective and reasonably safe product, but the manufacturer has to prove it. If it costs more to do this than the product can earn, it's a money-loser -- a direct result of legislation and regulation. This has been a serious issue throughout the reregistration process mandated by FIFRA 88 and has resulted in fewer chemical options.
Dr. Kenneth Racke, a product regulatory manager with DowElanco, provides a recent example that, while not directly affecting the turf and landscape industry, illustrates the point clearly. DowElanco has spent more than $16 million since 1986 for studies to support the reregistration of the insecticide chlorpyrifos (Dursban). In spite of this investment, DowElanco recently canceled certain uses in direct-application pet products such as dips and shampoos. "We received initial reviews from EPA that additional and expensive exposure studies would be needed to support reregistration of this use pattern, and DowElanco elected to withdraw chlorpyrifos from use in pet shampoos and dips rather than generate the additional data. The economics did not justify the cost involved with the additional research," states Racke.
Unfortunately, the public, with no knowledge of the details, often suspiciously views a "voluntary" withdrawal as an indication that a company would rather pull a product from the market than face increased scrutiny. In fact, it may simply be a matter of economics, not safety.
Food Quality Protection Act In August 1996, FQPA -- the Food Quality Protection Act -- became law. It created new safety standards and methods of setting food tolerances for pesticides and could have more profound impacts on our industry than FIFRA 88. Manufacturers will have to show data demonstrating their products' safety according to the new FQPA standards. This includes chemicals that have recently been reregistered per FIFRA 88 requirements, as well as post-1984 registrations (that FIFRA 88 did not cover).
Why did Congress require new testing on products that have already demonstrated their safety according to FIFRA 88 standards? First, it's worth pointing out that FQPA covers a lot of ground, much of it not directly related to the turf and ornamental industry (see boxed information "Who's in charge?" page 20). Some provisions were much-needed and long overdue. But a look at the language of FQPA reveals some of the environmental buzz words we hear a lot of these days. A document issued by the Office of Pesticide Programs states that, in considering pesticide tolerances, FQPA mandates that EPA consider: *"The aggregate exposure from the pesticide; *"The cumulative effects from other pesticides with a common mode of toxicity; *"Whether there is an increased susceptibility from exposure to the pesticide to infants and children and *"Whether the pesticide produces an effect in humans similar to an effect produced by a naturally occurring estrogen or other endocrine effects."
What this all means: *Children. FQPA states that, "An additional tenfold margin of safety for the pesticide chemical residue and other sources of exposure shall be applied for infants and children to take into account potential pre- and postnatal toxicity and completeness of the data with respect to exposure and toxicity to infants and children." The additional tenfold margin of safety accounts for what EPA calls the uncertainty factor. Manufacturers must prove that some other margin of safety is adequate, or the tenfold margin is in effect by default.
Why single out children? The ostensible reasoning is that children may consume proportionately more of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that result in dietary pesticide exposure. Further, their behavior-crawling, putting things in their mouths, etc.-may lend itself to greater exposure as well. Some also feel that because children are actively growing, they may be especially susceptible.
Let's hope it doesn't sound too cynical (after all, we do want to protect our children) to say that much of the concern over pesticides and children's health, as an issue distinct from human health in general, is scientifically questionable. Regardless, the political mileage that politicians gain from feel-good legislation whose stated purpose is, in part, to protect children, is obvious.
* Endocrine disruptors. In evaluating risk, EPA will look closely at endocrine disruption, a popular cry of modern environmentalists. Endocrine disruption is not a well-understood phenomenon. However, EPA seems smitten with the recent much-touted but highly controversial book, Our Stolen Future (written by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and John Myers). The authors promote the notion that many substances (the book does not single out pesticides) mimic estrogen and other endocrine-system components. In this way, as the thinking goes, certain materials disrupt developmental and reproductive physiology (among other things) in people and animals. As stated in a document issued in January 1997 by EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS), "EPA agrees with many of the concerns raised in Our Stolen Future and has already taken steps to address a number of its recommendations."
Nevertheless, EPA admits that "with few exceptions, a causal relationship between exposure...and an adverse effect on human health operating via an endocrine disruption mechanism has not been established." Further, most of the chemicals of greatest concern have long since been banned in the United States. So what can we expect with regard to currently registered chemicals? That remains to be seen. After episodes such as the Alar debacle, we cannot comfortably assume that EPA will act with steady deliberation based on sound science-especially when an OPPTS background paper states, "We are not waiting to learn all the answers before taking actions to reduce exposure to chemical risks and help prevent problems from occurring."
* Aggregate exposure and common modes of toxicity. One mandate of FQPA is consideration of aggregate risk when setting a food tolerance. This means that for a pesticide to retain registration, EPA must find "that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures [from residues on and in food] and all other exposures for which there is reliable information."
Actually, the EPA has not yet developed a formal method for arriving at a product's aggregate risk potential. In the interim, the agency will create a "risk cup" for each chemical, in which various allowances will be set for each source of risk with the total risk for each product being measured as a percentage of the risk cup. The potential effects of this provision on the turf and ornamental industry are troubling. It's too early to say what specific changes will result, but we can make some guesses.
The first effect is fairly easy to anticipate. According to EPA's Pesticide Regulation Notice 97-1, "In addition to dietary exposure, such sources as drinking water, residential and lawn-care use need to be considered" as a percentage of the risk cup. "For most pesticides, EPA has insufficient information on specific exposures through these routes." It's clear from this statement that still more studies will be necessary. In the meantime, EPA is making percentage allowances based generally on best guesses to determine the proportion of the risk cup it assigns to each use of a chemical.
The risk-cup total (100 percent) is equal to the reference dose (RfD), which is "the level of exposure to a specific pesticide that a person could receive every day over a seventy-year period without significant risk of a long-term or chronic non-cancer health effect." However, EPA "will use a similar logic to assess acute risk and cancer risk." A "full" risk cup is equal to the RfD. If EPA determines that the risk cup for a given pesticide is already full, it will approve no new uses unless manufacturers can somehow lower total risk. Presumably, EPA would ban some uses if it determined that the risk cup for a chemical was already "overflowing."
Some active ingredients are used in a variety of applications, and EPA must consider all of them to determine aggregate exposure. For example, dicamba is a widely used agricultural herbicide but also an ingredient in many broadleaf herbicides registered for turf. How much of the risk cup will each type of use get? We don't know. EPA's "default assumption" is that 5 percent of the risk cup will be reserved for "outdoor residential exposure." However, this figure is open to revision pending further information.
Now it gets even more complicated. In reassessing pesticide groups with a common mode of toxicity, including the organophosphate and carbamate groups, EPA will use a process "similar to the decision logic for aggregate exposure." In other words, tolerances for individual uses and products will, in part, depend on aggregate exposure to whole groups of pesticides.
This enormously complex approach to setting tolerances raises many questions. If the risk cup for a pesticide is not full, but turf and ornamental products already use 5 percent, will EPA refuse to grant additional turf and ornamental uses, even if the additional use would not cause total exposure to exceed the RfD? What if the risk cup for a pesticide is full? Will it be possible for companies to buy and sell shares of the risk cup, in the way that companies buy and sell the right to emit a certain amount of air pollution? Until EPA clarifies how it intends to implement FQPA provisions, these and other questions will remain open. (EPA plans to release additional information regarding implementation early this year.) However, FQPA clearly holds the potential to drastically affect pesticide use in our industry.
The chemicals that FIFRA 88 forced through the reregistration process must go through still more evaluations to satisfy FQPA requirements. In some cases, existing data will be adequate. In most cases, however, more studies will be necessary. With the risk cup established as a working reference, EPA will base subsequent aggregate-risk assessments for each chemical on sound science rather than educated guesses. Unfortunately, no one knows how long the interim period will last. FQPA requires this review to be complete 10 years from enactment (by August 2006), though EPA has not yet finalized the procedural specifics. If that doesn't sound so bad, remember that EPA was supposed to complete FIFRA 88 reviews by 1997, and it now appears that 2002 is the likely completion date. Will FQPA-based risk assessments take until 2011 to complete? That's a long time for risk-cup (guess-based) tolerances to be in effect.
If it was true of FIFRA 88, it will be true of FQPA: Every time regulations change to require additional research or testing, the cost of maintaining registration of a product goes up, and the potential profits go down. At some point, the manufacturer is better off not to market the product. As we've pointed out, this is how legislation and resulting regulations whittle away at the chemicals available to turf and landscape managers.
Serious scientific controversies exist about the validity of some of the science being applied to pesticide regulation. However, even if you agree with the science, such as it is, it seems fundamentally unfair that regulation can be so onerous that manufacturers are dropping good products simply because it won't pay to keep them registered.
Specialty products hit hard As important as they are to our industry, specialty pesticides are a relatively small part of the overall pesticide market. Agriculture is the main engine that drives the development of pesticides. This often has been beneficial to the turf and ornamental industry. In many instances, pesticides would not earn enough in the specialty market alone to justify their development.
However, the potential profits for agricultural uses may be much larger. If a manufacturer already is developing a chemical for agricultural uses, much of the groundwork is in place. Thus, many turf and ornamental registrations "piggyback" on agricultural development. That's why many turf and ornamental pesticides have agricultural counterparts with the same active ingredient.
Agricultural pesticides will probably always be a benefit because of the spin-offs they create for the turf and ornamental industry. Unfortunately, FQPA could potentially turn this relationship into a mixed blessing. As we already discussed, if the risk cup for a chemical is already full, a manufacturer may have to cut some uses simply to retain its most valuable registrations. Or, it may wish to add new uses and, in so doing, be forced to cut others. In either case, a manufacturer would have no choice but to drop the least profitable use. This is unlikely to be an agricultural use, because this is the largest market for most active ingredients. So guess who loses? The specialty market. Dr. Joe Yoder, director of research and development for turf and ornamentals with Novartis, agrees, stating his belief that "the aggregate exposure assessment will force companies to focus their labeled uses to their most profitable markets. Minor uses will, in some cases, be even more difficult to support."
Before vilifying EPA, remember that for all its shortcomings, it is merely doing what Congress has mandated. After all, Congress passed FQPA unanimously. In the abstract, no one argues with Congress' good intentions or the merits of a health-based regulatory system.
Unfortunately, fewer people are as confident in EPA's ability to resist knee-jerk reactions to the health-scare du jour or what some perceive as an anti-pesticide agenda within EPA. However, beneath these broader issues lies a less-recognized problem: Specialty chemicals-the tools on which you rely-may be hit disproportionately hard by pesticide regulations.
2,4-D is the most widely used herbicide in the world and the third most-used herbicide in the United States. Though it now appears that 2,4-D has satisfied all the requirements to maintain registration, the process that 2,4-D manufacturers have had to endure is instructive.
Manufacturers were already conducting 2,4-D studies as a result of 1981 EPA data call-ins. Because so many companies manufactured or formulated 2,4-D, they formed an industry task force to jointly fund, as the law allows, the studies necessary to meet EPA data requirements. When congress amended FIFRA in 1988, this created the need for still more data. In the meantime, two epidemiological studies from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that received considerable media attention seemed to link 2,4-D to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a rare form of cancer) in humans.
The result? EPA issued demands for 270 new studies. The cost threatened to be so high that 7 of the 13 members of the 2,4-D task force dropped their support. The remaining members (eventually just four) constituted Task Force II and committed themselves to satisfying EPA requirements.
For technical reasons, some of the studies were delayed. For example, EPA wanted an analysis that required detection of 2,4-D at levels so small that the technology to do so did not exist. Two years and $1 million later, the technology was literally invented just to perform a particular study.
Because of this (and a few other technicalities), some studies were about 3 years late. EPA has the authority to issue a Notice of Intent to Suspend if manufacturers are not meeting reregistration requirements on time, and this is exactly what EPA was discussing (thus the industry rumblings that something was afoot with 2,4-D). Fortunately, EPA and Task Force II came to a compromise with a Temporary Exposure Reduction Program (TERP). This required manufacturers to, among other things, change labeling to reduce potential exposure to humans. In addition, the TERP also stipulated a public-education program to publicize the changes that the TERP mandated. The cost of this publicity campaign alone exceeded $500,000.
What about those studies linking 2,4-D to lymphomas? NCI used highly questionable methodology for these studies, which examined cancer incidence in farmers. Regarding one, NCI issued a correction, which did not receive the same media fanfare of the initial findings. After NCI released the results of the second study (which was cited as strong support of the first), a much larger follow-up study designed to resolve some concerns over the methodology showed no association between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, NCI failed to publish this information with the study. Indeed, Task Force II had to file under the Freedom of Information Act to even obtain it (NCI is a taxpayer-funded agency). To cut short a very long story, it is sufficient to say that the two epidemiological studies that suggested a link between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma do not hold much weight and certainly are not consistent with laboratory toxicological studies, which show little reason for concern (as an EPA Science Advisory Panel Special Joint Committee pointed out). But this example shows how a red flag can set in motion a bureaucratic process that many products do not survive, even if the original concern was unfounded.
By 1995, the studies necessary for reregistration were complete, and it looks like 2,4-D will pass through the necessary evaluations intact. In fact, 2,4-D is remarkably free of toxicological hazards. This sounds like a happy ending and, in a way, it is. But it wasn't cheap. The cost of the studies necessary to keep 2,4-D on the market: $34 million. This includes $25 million for Task Force II studies, $4 million for Task Force I studies and an additional $5 million spent by companies performing independent testing for their own proprietary versions of 2,4-D. All this for a chemical that has always come up clean in toxicological studies. (2,4-D may be the most thoroughly studied herbicide ever. Unfortunately, EPA often disregards existing scientific literature.)
Let's suppose that you're the manufacturer of a less widely used product that doesn't have the economic clout of 2,4-D. Would you commit to this kind of investment to keep your product registered? Probably not. You probably couldn't afford to.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), by design, has the most direct effect on pest-control professionals and pesticide registrations. However, many other legislative acts include amendments that apply to FIFRA. The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) is one example of this. It amends FIFRA as well as the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (which addresses food safety). The Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act also control pesticide use to the extent that it may affect these aspects of the environment. The Toxic Substances Control Act and several other pieces of legislation also apply to certain aspects of pesticide use, transportation and disposal.
These are all legislative acts of Congress that guide regulatory policy. But who actually implements and enforces pesticide regulations? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for pesticide registrations, setting food pesticide-residue tolerances, enforcing environmental regulations and drinking-water quality standards, among other aspects. The Food and Drug Administration has enforcement authority over food residues. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration addresses workplace hazards (for example, making MSDSs available in the workplace), and the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over the transportation of hazardous materials, including pesticides. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also governs some aspects of pesticide use, such as application records. However, state-rather than federal-inspectors often have the primary enforcement responsibilities for regulations governing pesticide applicators.
Even international agreements can affect products. Methyl bromide, an alleged ozone depleter, is being phased out in the United States by the year 2001, according to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement that calls for a reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals.
A flaw of "the system" is that regulatory agencies, in effect, create law when implementing legislation. This is particularly true in highly technical fields, where Congress leaves the details to the appropriate agency. This is usually acceptable because politicians typically do not have the expertise (or time) to decide the finer points of technical or scientific matters. But in this way, the responsible agency effectively writes the specifics of the law. When some controversy exists regarding scientific questions of risk, the leanings of the individuals within the agency make a great deal of difference in how they implement the legislation. This is a troubling characteristic of government generally, because of the influence of people who are not directly accountable to the voting public. Admittedly, however, no one has a good solution to the problem.
>T1 Don't suffer from irrigation breaks
Breaks in an irrigation system are common, costly and not always immediately recognizable. That's not anything you haven't heard before, of course, but it's important to emphasize that you should perform routine maintenance on a regular basis, including complete system inspections.
Obviously, irrigation-system breaks waste water. And, considering the rising rates for water, this is incentive enough to seek out and fix damaged heads, connectors and pipes. A leaking system also performs at a handicap. You can be assured-unless your system runs at a very high pressure, like some golf courses-that, somewhere, water is not getting where it's needed.
However, less obvious liabilities also are likely, which can be potentially much more devastating financially to a site.
Erosion spells lawsuit-a serious problem resulting from leaking systems. Leaking water causes both rutting (gullies that form down the side of a graded hill, creating the potential for landslides) and undermining (sinkholes created just under the surface, covered by a thin layer of soil). In addition, in areas of the country where freezing occurs regularly, surface breaks can create hazards if water freezes on roads or pedestrian walkways. Even in "sunny" states, a wet sidewalk can mean a trip to claims court.
Considering these hazards, you need to identify and immediately repair a break. You then must take steps to avoid the situation that caused the break. Here's an overview of what to look for, how to fix it and how to avoid breaks.
What causes most breaks? Most breaks occur at the surface and involve the sprinkler heads and connectors. The four most common causes of damage are: * Lawn mowers * Edgers * Hit-and-runs (by vehicles) * Vandalism.
Below the surface, pipe damage can result if a surface break creates a crack below the connector or if the pipe experiences extreme weather. Freezing conditions are notorious for breaking pipe, particularly polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Winterization is the best defense against freezing breaks. And, when spring rolls around, it takes an experienced touch to start up the system without blowing out pipes and sprinkler heads. (For more specifics on both, see boxed information, "Winterization and spring start-up," page 26.)
Finding the break Finding a break can be as simple as looking for a geyser of water or as subtle as recognizing dried-out areas of turf or landscaping. The best way to find breaks before they hit you in the pocketbook is to walk the site regularly and inspect it both while the system is running and while it is off.
Geysers occur when an errant mower blade shears off a head. The unscheduled fountain display also results from wayward edgers, runaway maintenance vehicles or vandals. Other signs to look for are washouts, where you can see that water has been escaping from the system in a stream.
Pressure disparity also can signal problems. A break is likely to affect the system's pressure, which is evident by the significant reduction of some sprinkler heads' throw. And, if you don't notice the shortened throw, the resulting dry spots are your second warning sign.
Repairing those breaks Irrigation repairs typically don't require a lot of hardware. For repairs, you'll need: * A shovel and pick (to excavate the area around the break) * A saw or pipe cutter * PVC cement or replacement fittings (depending on whether you're repairing PVC pipe or poly pipe) * A rake, so you can cover up your work neatly.
Once you're armed with the proper tools, determine the extent of the break. Is it the head? The connector? Or has the break traveled down to the bottom of the connector and cracked the pipe? Maybe the break doesn't involve the head or connector at all but is somewhere in the piping.
* Sprinkler-head repairs. If damage is limited to the sprinkler head, simply get a new head and replace the broken one. If you can screw the head into the connector, you can repair the problem in about 15 seconds.
* Connector replacements. Replacing a connector is slightly more involved than fixing a head, but not much. A great tool to have on hand is a stub wrench or riser extractor. This time-and aggravation-saver is designed so you can push it down into the broken connector and screw it out from the pipe. Once you've removed the connector, replace it with a new one.
* Pipe repairs. These can be tricky, but are-for the most part-fairly straightforward. First, shut off the system for a couple of hours. Dig out the soil around the pipe to expose the break. Next, cut out the broken section of pipe. The replacement piece is called an expansion coupling. The couplings are designed to telescope, allowing you to position them in small areas and then expand them as needed. Be sure to dry the ends of both the coupling and the cut pipe before brushing on the PVC cement and positioning the two into place.
Repairs to poly pipe are a little different from repairs to PVC pipe. Poly pipe is more flexible than PVC. You'll commonly see it used in areas affected by freezing conditions. Its replacement fittings are barbed and require clamps to retain the fitting-similar to a radiator-hose clamp. Plus, poly pipe doesn't require rubber cement.
It is important to keep dirt and debris out of the system during any repair jobs. Because it's a strong possibility that a break allowed dirt into the pipes, you should always remove the insides of the last head on the line and flush the system to rid it of this dirt. If you don't, and debris gets into the system, it will clog sprinklers downstream, stop rotation of sprinklers and possibly damage valves.
Preventing problems during installation You can address several causes of breaks when you are installing a system. Remember these tips:
* Install sprinklers level with grade. Often, contractors don't do this because it is difficult to keep the system free of debris when installing at this level. However, this is the best prevention against lawn mower and vandalism damage.
* Install sprinklers 1 to 2 inches from hardscaping to provide sufficient room between the sprinkler head and an edger.
* In areas where a sprinkler is exposed to vehicle traffic, use a swing joint or flexible piping. Their up and down motion acts like a shock absorber.
* Avoid installing above-ground irrigation. Use 6- to 12-inch pop-ups instead. They are more effective at thwarting vandalism and pedestrian accidents.
Breaks are going to happen, and it's important to stay on top of your irrigation system's status. It's evident which turf managers make this a priority from the condition of both their landscape and their bottom line.
Jim Wright is the principal product manager for the Irrigation Division of The Toro Co. (Minneapolis).
In areas where soil freezes at a 6-inch or greater depth, you must take steps to prepare the irrigation system for the winter season. You can do this in two ways: via air compression or drain valves.
* Air compression. Use this method when freezing affects the soil more than 1 foot deep. Simply put, you hook up an air compressor to the main line and blow water out of the system. A general rule of thumb is not to exceed 50 psi of air pressure in the system.
More specifically, the first step is to close off the main water-supply valve. Next, hook up the compressor to the fitting downstream of the main water-supply valve. Start each automatic valve manually from the controller, allowing each valve to remain open until you expel all water from the zone.
It is extremely important to ensure that the air compressor's cubic feet per minute (cfm) rating is appropriately sized for the system. Contact your irrigation-system distributor and request specific winterization procedures. Improper procedures can send a pocket of water through the pipes at such high speeds that it blows a head off completely.
* Drain valves. For areas where the freeze reaches less than 1 foot deep, it's common to place drain valves at the system's lowest points. Two types are available: automatic and manual. The automatic valve opens every time you turn the system off. Therefore, it's important to provide adequate sump (gravel or other drainage material) to collect the drained water and prevent backflow into the system, which could contaminate it with debris. If using manual drain valves, place them at the lowest point of the main line and circuit lines. They perform the same function as automatic valves, but you must open them by hand. Manual valves also require a sump to allow proper drainage of the pipes.
At the other end of the seasonal cycle is the spring start-up. Letting water back into the system takes a great deal of finesse. Two feet per second is a widely accepted velocity. You should adjust the valves slowly so the sprinklers rise gradually and emit a steady stream, as opposed to the sputtering spray that results when you let water in too quickly. If you turn on the zone and then open the valve all the way, the compression of air remaining in the pipes can boost the pressure in the pipes by as much as five times, creating the potential for sprinkler heads to fly.
>T1 Control broadleaf weeds with posst-emergents
Weeds in a home lawn can mar the appearance of turf but, more importantly, they compete with turfgrass for water, nutrients and light. Failure to control these weeds often results in deterioration of the turfgrass stand over time as the number of weeds increases.
However, controlling weeds is not, by itself, enough. A weed problem often is symptomatic of a more basic cultural or soil problem. Any problem that thins a turfgrass stand or reduces the vigor or overall health of turf can shift the competitive edge to weeds. If these conditions persist, weeds will be a continuous problem. Thus, weed control not only includes removing existing weeds but also taking corrective measures to remedy the factors causing the poor lawn. The principal causes for poor lawns are:
* Poor-quality seed. Many lawn-grass seed mixes contain turfgrasses that may not be well-adapted to your area or contain excessive weed seed. When seeding lawns, use cultivars recommended by your local cooperative-extension office. Buy certified seed to ensure you obtain that for which you're paying.
* Close mowing. Mowing too closely may reduce stand density and help create an environment more conducive to weed-seed germination and weed competition. Further, insufficient turfgrass leaf area from frequently mowing the turf too closely discourages a vigorous root system. You should maintain Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass lawns at a height of 2 to 2.5 inches, whereas fescue lawns do well at a height of 2.75 to 3.5 inches. Do not allow lawns to get more than a third taller than the desired height before remowing. For example, if the desired height is 2.25 inches, you should mow the lawn before it exceeds 3 inches in height.
* Too little or too much fertilizer or lime. A variety of problems arise from improper fertilization and liming. Improperly timed fertilizer may favor weeds more than turf, particularly in the summer. Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season grasses.
Too little fertilizer or lime results in poor turf vigor, which decreases competition against weeds. Too much nitrogen fertilizer can increase drought and disease injury, which results in a breakdown of turf density and, therefore, a decrease in the ability of turf to compete with weeds. Use soil and tissue testing to determine the fertilizer and lime needs of the lawns you service.
* Improper watering. Frequent, shallow watering usually does more harm than good by increasing chances of disease, restricting rooting depth and encouraging the germination of weed seed. When your turf needs water, irrigate the soil until it's wet to a 4- to 6-inch depth. Never apply water so fast that it stands on or runs off the surface.
* Droughty or poorly drained soils. These soils may not be able to support a dense turf. Certain ornamentals or ground covers may be better choices.
* Lack of sunshine. Many turfgrass species will not tolerate shade. Even shade grasses grow slowly with insufficient light. If the area receives less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, you should consider certain ornamental ground covers.
* Too much traffic. Heavy lawn use or concentrated traffic across one section of turf, particularly when the soil is wet, compacts the soil and weakens the turf. Under these conditions, certain weeds will be highly competitive.
* Insect and disease damage. Unchecked diseases or insects decrease vigor and cause thinning of lawns. As a result, weeds rapidly invade damaged areas of a lawn.
Cultural control of broadleaf weeds Management and cultural practices greatly influence the numbers and types of weeds found in lawns. For example, close mowing and inadequate nitrogen favor white clover. Close mowing also favors low-growing weeds such as carpetweed, spurge, plantain (see photo, at left) and dandelion. Poorly drained or shaded areas favor weeds such as ground ivy, wild violet, wild strawberry and chickweed, while compacted sites favor knotweed.
Correcting improper management practices so that a dense, vigorous turf develops is the best and most lasting method for broadleaf control. Of particular importance are proper fertilizing, mowing and irrigating. Although chemical control of most weeds is possible with the proper use of a labeled herbicide, weeds will remain a recurring problem if you continue poor management and cultural practices. Plus, a few broadleaf-weed species occur that you cannot control satisfactorily with herbicides, so proper management is necessary to reduce the opportunity for their establishment and spread.
Think of post-emergence herbicides as an aid, not a cure, for broadleaf-weed problems in lawns. After you eliminate large weed populations with herbicides, you sometimes can effectively check re-invasion by hand pulling or digging as new weeds appear. Spot-treating small pockets of resurgent weeds can eliminate the need for blanket post-emergence herbicide applications for long periods.
Post-emergence chemical control of broadleaf weeds In lawns where broadleaf weeds have become a problem, an approved herbicide may be necessary for their removal before you can improve the turf with better management and cultural practices. Several materials are available for broadleaf weed control, but different weeds are susceptible to different products. Thus, proper identification of the weeds is essential before you can choose the most economical and effective herbicide.
Many materials are available from several manufacturers, often under different trade names with different formulations and concentrations. Therefore, you should not generalize about application rates. Read and follow the label directions on the herbicide container carefully. Applying rates that are too low may result in inadequate control, while applying rates that are too high also can reduce control and may injure the turf as well.
The following herbicides are available for selective removal of broadleaf weeds from cool-season turfgrasses. Frequently, manufacturers formulate two or more different herbicides as pre-packaged mixtures. * 2,4-D is the oldest, most widely used turfgrass herbicide, providing broad-spectrum control. This chemical is particularly effective for controlling taprooted weeds such as dandelion, broadleaf plantain, mustards and shepherdspurse. Amine forms are most common. However, recommendations often suggest the low-volatility ester form of 2,4-D for control of wild garlic and wild onion. Some notable weeds that 2,4-D alone does not effectively control are white clover, chickweed, purslane, ground ivy, wild strawberry and violets. MCPA is closely related to 2,4-D, but its spectrum of control may not be quite as wide.
* MCPP is effective for controlling several perennial or winter-annual turf weeds with a spreading habit. Important examples include chickweed, clover, pearlwort and young lespedeza. * Dicamba controls many different weeds, several of which are not highly susceptible to 2,4-D or MCPP. Of particular importance are some summer-annual weeds that have a prostrate growth habit, including knotweed, purslane and spurge.
* Dichlorprop (2,4-DP) and triclopyr are available in pre-packaged mixtures with 2,4-D and help provide broad-spectrum weed control.
* Triclopyr + clopyralid is a non-phenoxy, pre-packaged mixture that DowElanco markets as Confront. This mix provides broad-spectrum control of many common broadleaf weeds including creeping oxalis.
Combinations of these herbicides are common. Combination products allow for the control of a broader range of weed problems than single herbicides. In addition, some combinations control certain weeds not susceptible to the individual components alone. Some typical combinations are: * 2,4-D + MCPP * 2,4-D + dicamba * 2,4-D + MCPP + dicamba * 2,4-D + dichlorprop * 2,4-D + triclopyr * Clopyralid + triclopyr.
These herbicides effectively control many broadleaf weeds that grow in lawns. Table 2 lists several weed species and their susceptibility to the most common broadleaf post-emergence turf herbicides. Table 1 lists sources for these products.
The best times of the year to control most broadleaf weeds are fall (especially late September) and spring (especially May). Wild violets, wild strawberry, wild onion or garlic, and ground ivy are extremely difficult to control. Normally, two fall or two spring applications of a broad-spectrum mixture of herbicides are necessary to significantly reduce these weeds. You should apply the herbicides on a 30-day interval. Some discoloration of turf is likely to occur.
Dr. Peter H. Dernoeden is professor of turfgrass science at the University of Maryland-College Park.
* Always read and follow the label directions carefully. * Spray when the temperature is above 70øF and the weeds are actively growing. However, do not spray when the temperature is higher than 88øF-turfgrass damage may result, and volatilization of esters is more likely.
* Ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, vegetables and fruits can be susceptible to these chemicals. Do not spray around homes and gardens when it's windy. Even a slight breeze can carry spray droplets to susceptible ornamental and garden plants. Ester formulations are more volatile than amine or salt formulations and, therefore, are more likely to injure nearby ornamentals and other plants.
* Treat only when soil is moist and plants are growing vigorously. Do not apply herbicides during droughty periods when soil is dry.
* Avoid mowing one day before and after spraying.
* Spray formulations (liquids) are generally more effective than granular forms of broadleaf herbicides (although newer granular formulations have been developed that are as effective as liquids for many broadleaf weeds). However, granular products are easier to handle and apply. Apply granular formulations when the turf is moist, such as during early morning hours when a heavy dew is present.
* Dicamba is a component of many herbicide combination products and also in some "weed-and-feed" (fertilizer + herbicide) combinations. While several broadleaf herbicides are mobile in soil, dicamba seems to be more often associated with injury to ornamentals as a result of root uptake than other herbicides. Therefore, avoid using broadleaf herbicides in general, and products containing dicamba in particular, near the dripline of trees or around sensitive ornamentals.
* Do not use any of these herbicides on newly seeded lawns. Wait until you've mowed the new lawn at least five times before treating. Use only the lowest label rate when treating young turfgrass for the first time with herbicides.
* The herbicides listed in this article are safe to use (according to label instructions) on established tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass lawns. All herbicides have the potential to cause some foliar yellowing. However, most of the herbicides in Table 2 can discolor or severely injure bentgrass or roughstalk bluegrass. Manufacturer labeling provides this type of information, so read labels carefully.
* Thoroughly clean your sprayer, including hoses and booms, after using these herbicides. Use one sprayer for lawns and another for ornamentals. Do not allow spray mixtures or sprayer-wash solutions to spill or leak onto areas where trees or ornamentals could contact them.
* Keep herbicide containers closed, properly labeled and safely stored. Always keep a pesticide in its original container.
Most herbicides pose little risk to humans and pets when you handle and apply them carefully and according to label instructions. Because the greatest risk of exposure is to the applicator during mixing and loading, use extra care while mixing concentrates. Applicators should wear rubber gloves and boots, long-sleeve shirts, long pants and eye protection. Avoid prolonged or repeated exposure of the skin to chemicals, and be sure to wash thoroughly after using them.
>T1 Integrate your strategies for managing brown-patch
Brown patch is a common and highly destructive disease on both cool- and warm-season turfgrasses. Rhizoctonia solani, a soil-inhabiting fungal pathogen common in soils throughout the world, is the causal agent. In cool-season turfgrasses, this fungus is responsible for foliar blighting and injury, particularly during hot and humid weather conditions in the summer months.
Brown-patch symptoms vary depending on turfgrass species and cultivar, level of turfgrass maintenance, soil and environmental conditions, and Rhizoctonia species or strain. Infected turfgrass areas display roughly circular patches of blighted leaf tissue. On an individual leaf blade, infection centers can appear as tan lesions with a dark border, indicating the point where necrotic and green leaf tissue meet.
On closely mowed cool-season turfgrasses such as creeping and colonial bentgrass, circular or irregular-shaped patches of blighted turfgrass occur. During early morning hours, you may be able to see a darkened, grayish-black border at the patch margin. This is called a "smoke-ring". A smoke-ring indicates the presence of mycelium (the filamentous, vegetative portion of the fungal body) actively colonizing leaf tissue. A close visual inspection shows water-soaked, infected, necrotic leaf blades.
On high-cut cool-season turfgrasses such as fine fescues, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, a light-brown, irregular-shaped patch of blighted turf is the primary symptom. Patches often lack a smoke-ring (see photo, page G 37). You easily can detect leaf lesions or infection centers on wide leaf blades (such as tall fescue), and you often can see fungal mycelium covering wet leaves during early morning hours.
Researchers first identified brown patch on creeping-bentgrass putting greens near Philadelphia in 1913, and superintendents applied Bordeaux mix (CuSO4 + lime) to putting greens at that time as the primary method of control. Since that time, management practices for this disease have continued to focus almost exclusively on the use of fungicides. Today, many effective fungicides are available for managing brown patch (see "Turfgrass Chemical Update: Fungicides," Grounds Maintenance, March 1997).
Although brown patch was among the earliest documented turfgrass diseases, limited information exists regarding brown-patch management through cultural practices or the integration of cultural methods with targeted fungicide inputs. Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecology-based, multidisciplinary, systematic approach to managing turfgrass pests. We felt that an IPM-based integration of fungicide use with cultural practices might enhance turfgrass protection and subsequent regrowth and recovery from diseases. Plus, we hoped it might reduce fungicide use while maintaining acceptable quality.
We initiated a research program at the University of Maryland to investigate the impact of mowing, fertilizing and irrigating practices on brown patch in high-profile, fairway-maintained perennial ryegrass. We subjected the turfgrass study sites to various cultural practices and applied the fungicide iprodione (Chipco 26019 50WG) at the recommended label rate of 2 ounces of product per 1,000 square feet. However, we used an extended 21-day application interval, rather than a more typical 10- to 14-day interval. We employed this approach to identify cultural practices that would provide acceptable brown-patch control alone or in conjunction with a reduced fungicide-application frequency.
Mowing-height and N-source study We began this 3-year study in 1991 on a mature stand of 'Caravelle' perennial ryegrass to determine the effects of mowing height and various nitrogen (N) sources on disease incidence. We mowed the turfgrass with a reel mower three times weekly to a height of 0.7 or 1.8 inches and removed the clippings. At each mowing height, we maintained turfgrass plots using N from several sources: two quickly available, three slowly available and three natural-organic products. We applied these fertilizers from May through November for a total of 4 pounds N per 1,000 square feet per year. * Mowing height. In non-fungicide-treated turf, brown patch was more severe under low mowing in 1991, but we observed the opposite in 1992 and 1993 (see Graph 1, page G 40). In a recent study in Georgia, researchers noted a similar yearly difference on tall fescue. It is likely that frequent rains, especially during early season epidemics (as was the case in the University of Maryland study), result in more severe injury to low-cut turf. This could be due to extended leaf-wetness periods that enable the R. solani mycelium to rapidly bridge adjacent leaves and cause blight lower in the leaf canopy. In the absence of so much moisture, however, a higher turf canopy provides a microenvironment more favorable to infection and blighting by R. solani.
* N-source. In non-fungicide-treated turf, none of the N sources consistently reduced blighting in all 3 years at the Silver Spring site or on a perennial ryegrass fairway we observed at Pikesville, Md. For Graph 2, we averaged all N sources together because no significant differences in brown-patch blighting occurred between N sources.
In non-fungicide-treated turf, the level of blighting in unfertilized plots was comparable to blighting in plots receiving N. However, in the 1995 Georgia study, researchers noted more blighting in plots receiving N (0.5 or 1 pound N per 1,000 square feet per month) than in unfertilized plots. In the Maryland study, we applied less N during the summer, which may account for the relative lack of blighting in the N-treated plots. Still, N-treated plots almost invariably had better quality than non-fertilized turf. Chlorosis, low vigor and stand thinning as a result of N deficiency caused poor quality in the unfertilized turf, regardless of fungicide use.
The use of fungicide and N reduced blighting and increased turf quality to a "fair" level. The level of summer quality provided by the fungicide on this extended spray interval, however, would not be acceptable for high-quality fairway turfgrass. Still, because the perennial ryegrass showed good recuperative ability during September, the fair summer quality with the extended fungicide-application interval might be acceptable for some situations.
N source and N-application timing study We conducted this 2-year study starting in 1992 to determine the influence of N source, N-application timing and fungicide use on brown patch in 'Caravelle' perennial ryegrass. We mowed the turf three times weekly at a height of 0.7 inch and removed the clippings. We compared Ringer Lawn Restore-a slowly available, organic N source-to water-soluble urea. We applied each N source according to a spring (March, May, June and September) or fall (September, October, November and May) schedule, for a total of 4 pounds of N per 1,000 square feet per year.
In fungicide-free plots, fall-applied Ringer reduced brown patch compared to spring-applied urea in both years. N generally enhanced brown patch's foliar mycelium growth during the initial infection periods (from late June to late July). By mid-August, however, extremely high levels of blight occurred in all fungicide-free plots.
Blighting was generally higher in fungicide-free turf when the N was spring-applied, partly due to spring applications of N enhancing the development of foliar R. solani mycelium. This could be a result of increased nutritive leaf-surface exudates caused by spring-applied N.
In fungicide-treated turf, N source and N-application timing had no effect on the level of blighting. The fungicide reduced blighting, but the level of disease suppression and resulting turfgrass quality with the extended spray interval was not acceptable for turfgrass intended for high-quality golf-course fairways.
This field study showed that, when brown-patch pressure was severe, N and fungicide applications were necessary to reduce disease and improve summer quality. A more efficacious fungicide program, however, would be necessary to provide for the high level of quality that is desirable for most golf-course fairways. In regions where brown patch is not a chronic and severe disease problem, fungicide application frequency may not be as important as it was under the severe disease conditions of this study.
Irrigation and fertilizer study Irrigation practices definitely influence the severity of some turfgrass diseases. While the impact of irrigation on brown patch is not completely clear, one researcher has suggested that early morning watering may reduce brown patch on putting green turf. Also, numerous investigators have shown that N fertility, phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) also influence disease development in turf. To test these ideas, we initiated a 2-year study in 1992.
In this field study, we used 'Caravelle' perennial ryegrass, which we mowed three times each week to a height of 0.7 inches, removing the clippings. We irrigated the ryegrass plots three times per week from June through August according to a morning (5 a.m.) or evening (10 p.m.) schedule. With each irrigation, the plots received 1.2 inches of water. We compared sodium nitrate (NaNO3)-a quickly available, non-soil-reacting N source-to sulfur-coated urea (SCU), a slowly-available soil-acidifying N source. We applied these N sources at 3 (May, September and October applications) and 6 (March, May, June, September, October and November applications) pounds N per 1,000 square feet per year. We applied the N sources alone and with P and K for a 3:1:2 N-P-K ratio. We applied all fertilizer treatments alone and with a fungicide and in plots receiving both morning and evening irrigation. * Irrigation. In non-fungicide-treated turf, brown-patch severity was consistently lower with morning irrigation compared to evening irrigation (see Graph 4, below left). Night irrigation increased leaf-wetness duration, creating a wet microclimate which probably enhanced the disease. Morning irrigation appeared to physically knock down foliar R. solani mycelium, which may have helped to further reduce disease injury.
* Fertilizer treatments. SCU plots generally had lower blight levels than NaNO3, regardless of N rate or fungicide applications (see Graph 5, below). By the second year of the study, brown patch was more severe in plots fertilized with the high N rate, but P and K reduced blight for both N sources. SCU (at the high rate) + P + K resulted in blight levels equivalent to the low N rates without P and K.
Morning irrigation, SCU + P + K and fungicide reduced brown-patch severity. However, we did not see excellent summer turfgrass quality using the extended fungicide-application interval. Fungicide-treated plots receiving the high rate of N from SCU + P + K had the highest summer quality.
While low soil pH may have slightly lessened brown patch severity, the slow-N-release characteristics of SCU were probably a more important factor in disease reduction than soil acidification.
NaNO3 treatments, particularly the March and June applications in the higher N-rate program, greatly enhanced brown-patch infection. The mechanism of enhanced blighting by a quickly available N source may be due to turfgrass plants' resulting production of thinner cell walls, enhancement of leaf-surface exudates that stimulate R. solani growth or stimulated turfgrass-shoot growth, which diverts resources that plants could use for defense to leaf production. The addition of P and K can apparently suppress some diseases. However, the mechanism of this suppression is unknown, and a balanced N-P-K fertilizer generally provides greater reduction of diseases in turf than P and K alone.
Our studies do not suggest that turfgrass managers can maintain turfgrass at high fairway quality without the aid of fungicides. However, attention to proper cultural practices (see "Helpful cultural practices," below) reduces the level of brown-patch blighting at any level of management. Thus, lower-quality turfgrass maintained without the benefit of fungicides can show improved quality, and intensively maintained turfgrass, such as golf-course turf, can be less vulnerable to pathogens.
Dr. Michael A. Fidanza was formerly a graduate research assistant at the University of Maryland (College Park, Md.), where he conducted the research on which he based this article. He is currently conducting research and development for AgrEvo USA (Wilmington, Del.).
Use regionally adapted turfgrass cultivars. Overseed or renovate chronically poor stands. Maintain mowing height within the best range for the species. Avoid mowing when turf is wet and fungal mycelium is evident. Apply 75 percent of the total N applied during the year in the fall. Consider a slow-release form of N for fall fertilization. Use a balanced N-P-K fertility program (3:1:2 ratio). Irrigate in the morning, not in the evening. Reduce thatch and alleviate soil compaction. Improve air movement and reduce shade. Improve soil drainage. Monitor and adjust soil pH to a suitable range for the turfgrass species.
>T1 Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards Call for entries
This is your official invitation to enter the 25th annual Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards program co-sponsored by Grounds Maintenance magazine and the Professional Grounds Management Society.
The Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards is an annual program designed to bring national recognition to grounds maintained with a high degree of excellence. The program complements other national landscape award programs that recognize outstanding landscape design and construction. This program salutes the grounds superintendent responsible for maintaining a well-manicured landscape year-round.
Grand and Honor Awards are offered in 13 categories, covering all types of private, public, commercial and industrial landscapes. To qualify for entry, a landscape must be at least 4 years old and under your continuous maintenance for at least 2 years. See the entry form (on page C 36 or at grounds-mag.com on the GM web site) for complete details of eligibility, categories and awards.
The awards will be presented during the Professional Grounds Management Society Annual Meeting, Nov. 15-18 at the PGMS Conference, which is held in conjunction with Green Industry Expo '97 in Charlotte, N.C. Grounds Maintenance magazine will feature Grand Award winners. Honor Awards winners will appear in the PGMS Forum newsletter.
The deadline for entries is Aug. 8, 1997. All entries must be submitted to the Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards, c/o Professional Grounds Management Society, 120 Cockeysville Road, Suite 104, Hunt Valley, MD 21031. For questions, call PGMS at (410) 584-9754.
The award's purpose The aims of the Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards program are: * To bring national recognition to grounds manicured with a high degree of excellence. * To recognize individual professional efforts leading to high maintenance standards and high-quality appearance of the landscape. * To challenge those responsible for maintaining grounds throughout the country to achieve a higher level of excellence. In sponsoring this award program, Grounds Maintenance magazine and the Professional Grounds Management Society wish to extend their mission in promoting well-maintained landscapes throughout the country.
Who's eligible to enter Entrants must professionally engage in, and be responsible for, maintaining the grounds for a site described in the boxed information, "Entry categories". Projects for which an entry is submitted in other design or construction award competitions are eligible to enter the Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards program, even if the project won an award, because maintenance is the criterion upon which an entry is judged in this award program.
Grand-Award-winning projects in the Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards program are ineligible to re-enter the program for a period of 2 years. For example, 1996 Grand-Award-winning projects are not eligible to enter again until 1999.
Any size landscape for which the entrant has the primary responsibility for maintenance and beautification may be entered. The amount of money in the landscape operating budget is not a criterion for judging, except in the Small Site (budget less than $80,000) category. Rather, the judges will consider the quality, challenge and performance in maintenance of the grounds for a period of at least 2 years, beginning at least 2 years after construction.
Awards Awards will be made in two classes: Grand Awards and Honor Awards. Only one Grand Award will be presented for each of the categories listed. However, the judges may grant as many Honor Awards as they deem deserving, or they may decide no entries are deserving in a given category. Awards will be in the form of certificates mounted under Lucite on walnut plaques.
How to enter Your entry must include: *Fifteen color 35-mm slides-10 showing the overall beauty of the total landscape project and 5 showing the crew at work. Do not use "posed" shots. Furnish a descriptive caption for each slide. Put your best scenes on the slides. This is critical for both judging and final banquet showing.
*Ten 5- by 7-inch color prints-five showing the overall beauty of the site and five showing how the grounds crew works in areas that are difficult to maintain. Do not use "posed" shots. Label each photograph with a descriptive caption containing all pertinent information.
*One recent photograph of yourself, as the person in charge, working in the landscape-not smiling for the camera.
*Individually labeled slides and photographs with the name of the entrant and the site. Do not use ball-point pen. Put photographs in an envelope and slides in a plastic or metal slide mount. Do not use tape to mount photographs or slides.
*A cover letter releasing the material for publication at the discretion of Grounds Maintenance magazine. All entries become the property of the sponsors and may be published in Grounds Maintenance or used for other purposes the magazine deems appropriate. No entry material will be returned.
*A check for the entry fee: $125 for members of the Professional Grounds Management Society or $180 for non-members. For a reduced rate of $250, non-members can join PGMS and enter the contest. An organization can enter as many categories as it likes. However, you must send each entry, accompanied by the entry fee, in a separate envelope.
* Include all elements of the entry in one mailing envelope or your entry will be disqualified.
* Submit entries to: Professional Grounds Maintenance Awards c/o Professional Grounds Management Society 120 Cockeysville Road, Suite 104 Hunt Valley, MD 21031 * Other questions: Call PGMS at (410) 584-9754 * Make sure PGMS receives your entry by Friday, August 8, 1997.
1. Industrial or office park 2. Condominium, apartment complex or planned community 3. Hotel, motel or resort 4. Amusement or theme park 5A. Park, recreation area or athletic field 5B. Multiple park sites under same management 6A. School or university grounds 6B. Urban university 7. Government building or complex 8. Shopping center 9. Hospital or institution 10. Small site budget less than $80,000 11. Residential landscape 12 Cemetery or memorial park 13. Public works sites (including parkways and intersections)
>T1 Preventing and managing cancellations
Handling client cancellations is not always a pleasant experience. However, if you take the time to listen to the client regarding his or her reasons for canceling, you can learn how to minimize future cancellations.
Preventing a cancellation As a lawn-care operator, you want to prevent cancellations whenever possible. Ideally, you provide your services professionally, and the thought of canceling doesn't even occur to your client. When clients feel they need assistance, they will ask for your help before they consider canceling. As a professional, you want to solve their small problems before they become big problems. You can resolve most small problems. A big problem often results from a small problem getting out of control, which is when cancellations most frequently occur.
The primary way to prevent a cancellation is to deliver excellent care-always. Train your office, field and management staff to be professional and friendly, as well as to answer client questions and get the job done. Little benefit results in having an answer without being able to solve the problem.
With a well-trained staff, you're better prepared to meet the client's needs before a problem begins. A professional, friendly staff puts clients at ease and allows them to gain confidence in your company. When you do what you say you'll do, and on time, it shows clients you're trustworthy and dependable. But be practical. It's smarter to tell a client you'll be there in 1 to 2 days3/4weather permitting3/4than to say you'll be there tomorrow. If the weather doesn't cooperate, the client may feel you lied or are unreliable.
You can prevent a cancellation in advance by tracking information concerning the account. If, for example, the client started care because of weeds, administer good weed control. Inform the client of the results he or she can expect and when. Emphasize that difficult weeds take longer to control, and do not promise anything you cannot deliver.
List any areas of concern on the field work order for the applicator. This will ensure improved results and reduced cancellation. You'll also minimize cancellations if your client's concerns are the same as your company's. Clients need to know you are willing to "go the extra mile" to maintain their business. When follow-up visits are required, let your applicator know that he or she has your support to take the initiative and schedule the work.
Handle with care When a client does call to cancel, your office staff is your first line of defense. How they handle the call will determine the client's expectations. The following steps will aid you in handling-and possibly saving-a cancellation: * Listen. If a client is angry, be patient and listen while they vent. Find out what you can do to help and if the client has any other reason for canceling. Some clients may offer financial excuses for canceling. They may feel the cost is not warranted because they still have weeds in their yard. In this case, try to place the cancel on "hold" and visit the property. Inform the client about what you saw and did, and then call back in a week to check on the results. This may take more time, but it will make the client happy. A dissatisfied client may tell 20 people, while a satisfied client usually tells only five.
* Respond immediately. If your office staff is unable to handle a particular client cancellation, your field person should call the client when he or she returns to the office. When you promise a call from your field person, always ask the client when is the best time to call back. If the client is unavailable, always leave a message and try again later. Returning a call must be a priority, because it's a test of your client commitment.
* Keep records. It is a good idea to provide a beeper and an instant camera to specific field people who handle cancellations. These people should prioritize problem accounts, and a camera is a great tool for helping toward this end and accurately documenting a site. Your field person should fill out a written report for the client as well as the office. If the client's not available, your field rep should leave the report and call the client later in the day. The more a client feels that you're trying to make amends, the more they'll cooperate with you.
* Compromise. Sometimes a client wants to decrease the care you provide rather than canceling altogether. Decrease the work you perform for the client, making sure the client understands that results will decrease as well. This way, you'll still maintain part of the account, and later, you can try to regain the particular service(s) you lost. As the client sees a reduction in the quality of results, he or she may be open to returning to the previous level of care. When dealing with the initial request, your field person should be the one to suggest what care to eliminate.
* Educate. Inform clients about what expectations are realistic beforehand. For example, at the onset of a drought, mail your clients a flyer educating them about how lawns and landscapes may suffer as a result. That way, they'll expect some damage and may even be pleasantly surprised if little or none occurs.
* Guarantee. Make your guarantee policy realistic and less prone to be a source of cancels. For example, without rain or irrigation, you cannot guarantee germination of a newly seeded site. If germination is poor-even if it's not your company's fault-you may receive a cancellation and no payment for the services you've already performed. Therefore, be clear on what you can and cannot guarantee. If you present your guarantee policy in advance, you're clients will know you are being honest and upfront with them. Don't guarantee "complete satisfaction or it's free," unless you plan to have people take you up on it.
Why clients cancel Clients cancel for many reasons. Your staff should know the common reasons and understand your guidelines for handling cancellations. Train your people to stay in tune to clients' requests. Keep track of why clients do cancel, and periodically run reports to both examine your canceled accounts and to call them back. * Appearance. If a client says he or she is not happy with the appearance of the property, go there and improve it. If you can't, educate the client on why, or the costs that would be involved to do so. Explain that landscapes look better in spring than during summer drought. Note that it also may look very good but not great. Under normal weather conditions, the landscape may look as if it is in good condition, and the client may feel additional care is not necessary. Educate your client that preventive care is always cheaper and keeps the landscape looking better. Stopping care would result in the client becoming even more dissatisfied. Plus, it would take more time and greater expense to remedy.
* Building and construction. This reason for cancellation can actually be the eventual cause for more business. For example, it can produce additional services for you to repair any damaged landscape. You also may be able to continue service on the portion of the property not affected. If your client is moving or building a new home, offer to continue service until the family moves, and then, if possible, start care at the new address. Also ask the client for the new buyer's name, address and phone number so you can call them and offer to continue service without any lapse of care between owners.
* Chemicals or pesticides. An article, TV show or another company can raise concerns your client may have about the use of chemicals. Be honest with clients and educate them. Offer them literature from the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) or mail it to them. Pursue sources of untruthful information, and report fraudulent activity to both PLCAA and your state's attorney's general's office. Confirm the soundness and safety of your program with your client. Use integrated pest management and stress improved cultural care to ward off other problems. If this does not satisfy the client, offer a pesticide-free program or an organic-care option.
* Diseases. Remind your clients that disease occurs both as a result of growing susceptible varieties of plants plus the occurrence of uncontrollable weather conditions. Confirm the disease first, then apply fungicides to remedy the immediate problem. Suggest seeding at the appropriate time with more resistant varieties of turfgrass.
* Incorrect treatment. An office or field error can occur when wrong information gets passed along or an application gets made incorrectly. Clients may blame you if their plants or turf are dying instead of thriving. Visit a property if you or your client suspects incorrect treatment, and take your camera. If you are responsible, replace or repair the damage. Consider a quality landscaper to do it if it is beyond your capability. An alternative is to reduce the cost of the application fairly. Give the client a choice.
* Insects. Some insects are beneficial to the lawn, but most clients see insects and suspect damage. When a client is concerned, visit the property and assess the situation. You may find that grubs-or another pest-have the client concerned, yet you initially recommended grub control, but the client declined it. To cover this, always document recommendations. If a client refuses your recommendations, offer another solution until you find one that's acceptable. You may want to offer a free grub-control application, but then set up one annually for the future. You also might sell a seeding program for damaged areas.
* Weeds. This major reason for canceling is common. In fact, clients may feel one or two weeds warrant cancellation. Educate them that 100-percent perfection is not possible. At best, try to postpone the cancel and provide a weed re-treat. Then call back in about a week to see how the weeds are dying.
* Financial. Clients may feel that the cost of regular care is too much, and they can do the work themselves. Also, if you've helped solve an initial problem, such as brown patch, clients may feel they can maintain the lawn cheaper on their own. Thus, you must stress your professionalism and guarantees, and reduce care or adjust the price, if appropriate. In other cases, clients may feel that, with a drought, why continue? Educate them that preventive care is superior care. Emphasize that you can solve problems before they start and provide care so the property recovers well when the weather does change. An additional option is to extend terms from 10 to 30 days, especially for larger commercial accounts. Other options include reducing the number of visits a year or treating a smaller area. These techniques will help you keep the account and allow you to regain the service of offering additional care later. Offer qualified clients a senior-citizen discount.
* Miscommunication. The client may perceive that one of your employees caused a problem. It may be an impolite individual, a promise not kept, an incorrect billing or any other reason. Place yourself in the client's shoes, find out the problem and act accordingly. Support your staff too. Often, a problem results simply from an innocent communication problem.
* Competitors. If your client contracts service from another company, find out why and address it. Is he or she dissatisfied with the service you provide? Does another company offer care the customer feels is better than what you offer? If the other company offers a broader range of services, explain how more services doesn't necessarily mean the quality is better. Take pride in your work, and have trusted vendors to whom you can refer clients for care you don't provide. If another company approached your client with a lower price, ask about the price. If it is similar to yours, ask whether the client is considering accepting it. It is possible the client does not have complete confidence in you. If so, find out what areas of concern your client has and offer to go the extra mile to keep him or her. Resell them on why you're worth the added cost or consider matching your competitor's price, as appropriate. Have a clear policy so your people can handle such problems quickly and professionally. When resold, drop a note in the mail to thank the customer for their continuing with you.
Ensuring a safe return Reasons will always exist for account cancellations. Be aware of client concerns, learn from them and train your staff to handle them appropriately.
In general, recommend that the client skip an application or two if he or she has a valid concern. Then try to get the client back into a schedule of care at an agreed upon time. Consider visiting canceled accounts to find out the specific reason they quit. Keep records accurate for later follow-up.
With so many reasons for cancellations, you need to have a plan in advance. Educate the client, and train your employees to act truthfully and quickly. When you do this well, you'll know you've done your best to retain your clients.
As our industry matures and customer expectations increase, cancellations may increase. A staff with excellent training and commitment will be critical in preventing cancels and retaining clients. It's less expensive to keep a client than to obtain a new one.
Bill Harrigan started and managed his own lawn-care operation for 17 years. Now based near Frederick, Md., he trains, writes and consults within the green industry.
>T1 The pros and cons of biological control, Part II: Microbials, extracts and IGRs
Biological control has always been an attractive approach to managing pests, particularly those that occur in intensively used landscape settings. Making it work has been another issue, however. The tremendous number of plant species in landscapes-and their associated pests-have proven to be a major problem in finding biological-control solutions for landscapes. Plus, biological controls can be slow-acting and usually require that you tolerate some level of pest infestation-a condition that is not always acceptable.
However, biological controls also have their advantages. Many are highly selective, effectively sparing non-target organisms. In some instances, natural predators and parasites become established permanently, providing ongoing suppression of pests.
Another important advantage, especially in the grounds-maintenance industry, is the favorable impression that the use of "natural" controls leaves on many clients. Justified by science or not, many people are more comfortable with biological products. You may be able to use this as a marketing tool with certain clients.
Biological control involves many techniques. Most familiar is the use of natural enemies-the predators and parasites of the pest. Releasing purchased lady beetles or green lacewings are common examples of this approach (see related article, "Part I: Bugs for hire," March 1997 Grounds Maintenance). However, other biologically based methods for managing landscape pests are at your disposal, such as manipulating their growth or harnessing diseases that naturally infect them. Let's weigh the advantages and disadvantages of these controls. The table on page 56 lists some of these materials, along with their manufacturers.
Microbial insecticides Like most living organisms, insects and mites naturally suffer from diseases that viruses, fungi, bacteria and protozoan parasites cause. Naturally occurring diseases sometimes have tremendous beneficial effects in reducing pest problems. However, harnessing diseases for use in landscape-pest management has proved an elusive goal.
Many microbes are difficult and costly to manufacture. Viruses and some bacteria only reproduce in live insects. In addition, attempts to exploit fungal diseases have generally been unsuccessful because they depend on specific environmental conditions to infect insects.
Producers have made some progress, however, and at least two companies currently market formulations of the fungus Beauveria bassiana. Although this product is labeled for turf and ornamentals, its main use has been in greenhouses to control whiteflies. However, a wide variety of insect species including various aphids, webworms and beetles, are susceptible.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) remains the best example of success in microbials. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterium common in soils, and several strains can kill insects. * Advantages of Bt insecticides: 1. Bt insecticides are quite selective in their environmental effects. Essentially non-toxic to mammals, birds, fish and other non-target organisms, they also have few effects on most insects, except for select groups (usually caterpillars) that chew leaves or needles. 2. Manufacturers have developed methods of producing Bt economically, making it competitive in the pesticide market. 3. Bt application is similar to many conventional insecticides, requiring no unusual equipment or methods.
* Disadvantages of Bt insecticides: 1. Insects must ingest Bt insecticides for control. This limits its uses for pest management, particularly for borers and bud feeders that only feed briefly on the surface of plants. 2. Bt insecticides tend to break down rapidly when exposed to sunlight and moisture, which can allow re-invasion of mobile insects from adjacent properties. As a result, the primary uses of Bt insecticides are for area-wide management of gypsy moths or control of caterpillars on various crops.
Microbe-derived pesticides Pesticides derived from microbes, rather than the microbes themselves, have proven more adaptable to landscape-pest control. Several microbes produce natural antibiotics or other compounds that control insects and mites. The first commercial product of this type was abamectin, a substance produced by the soil actinomycete Streptomyces avermitilis. Sold by Merck under the trade name Avid, it is an effective miticide/insecticide with registration on ornamental plants. Another actinomycete is the source of spinosad, a new turfgrass insecticide coming to market this year as DowElanco's Conserve SC. It controls turf caterpillars such as sod webworms and cutworms, as well as leaf beetles, sawflies, various caterpillars, gall midges and other pests.
Although these all are "natural" products of microbes, they don't necessarily share performance features. Each is effective against specific types of pests. Characteristics such as persistence or systemic movement in plants is variable. Also they range widely in their toxicity to humans, birds and other non-target organisms. Thus, you should avoid the common temptation to generalize about "natural" products such as these.
Plant-derived pesticides Plants are the oldest sources of pesticides, and development of new plant-derived products continues. Due to its high toxicity and re-registration costs, nicotine-a botanical insecticide long used to control mites and aphids-is no longer available. This illustrates that "natural" does not automatically mean "non-toxic."
* Pyrethrins, an extract of the pyrethrum daisy Chrysanthemum cinae- riofolium, are the most widely used botanical insecticide. They are the active ingredient of many household sprays and home vegetable-garden preparations. Pyrenone is the primary pyrethrins product used to control landscape pests.
Chemists have built upon the basic pyrethrins molecules, producing a whole new class of useful pesticides-the pyrethroids. These are synthetic pyrethrins with improvements, such as extended persistence or the ability to control other pests, that make them more suitable for pest management. Pyrethroids have been the fastest-growing class of new insecticides over the past decade and include products such as permethrin, fluvalinate, lambda-cyhalothrin, bifenthrin and cyfluthrin.
* Advantages of pyrethrins: 1. Pyrethrins is highly irritating to insects and provides rapid "knockdown." This is why it often is the active ingredient in "wasp and hornet" sprays. 2. Many insects are susceptible to pyrethrins, especially certain caterpillars and leaf beetles, yet it poses little hazard to humans.
* Disadvantages of pyrethrins: 1. Pyrethrins insecticides have a short residual effect, breaking down in sunlight in just a few hours. In some respects, this is preferable to environmental persistence. However, short residual action probably is the greatest limitation to greater use of pyrethrins insecticides in plant protection. Treated surfaces only control insects for a few hours, and re-invasion can be rapid. Thus, it is not suitable for situations where extended persistence is an essential performance requirement, as for borer control.
* Insecticidal soaps also are plant products-the basic ingredients are vegetable oils. Manufacturers combine them with a bit of potassium hydroxide and convert them into "soft soaps" that control insects. * Advantages of soaps: 1. Small soft-bodied insects such as aphids and leafhoppers are very susceptible to soap sprays. 2. Soaps are easy to use and relatively safe, with few non-target effects.
* Disadvantages of soaps: 1. Like pyrethrins, one of the greatest limitations of soaps is their short persistence. 2. Because the application must cover the insect to be effective, control can be irregular under field conditions where complete coverage can be difficult. 3. Performance of soap sprays can decline if the spray mix uses "hard" mineral-rich water.
** Neem insecticides. The latest plant that manufacturers have tapped for pest management is the neem tree, Azadirachta indica. Extracts of neem-tree seeds contain a mix of oils and alkaloids that affect many insects, often in unusual ways. For example, neem insecticides have a repellent or anti-feeding effect on some insects, causing them to avoid treated plants. In addition, neem insecticides kill some insects by interfering with their internal hormones, disrupting their development. Several neem-derived insecticides are available-as neem oil or the active ingredient azadirachtin. * Advantages of neem products: 1. Perhaps the most attractive property of neem insecticides is their low toxicity to humans. People have used neem extracts as pharmaceuticals for hundreds of years-from diuretics to burn ointments to toothpaste. 2. They are more persistent than most botanical insecticides, affecting insects for up to a week after application.
* Disadvantages of neem: 1. Unfortunately, neem insecticides are reliably effective against only a few turf-and-ornamental pests in field conditions (including elm leaf beetle, Japanese beetle and certain tent caterpillars). 2. Neem acts subtly, producing effects such as reduced feeding and then death only as insects attempt to molt and grow. For a client that wants to see immediate, visible results, neem insecticides won't pass the test.
Insect growth regulators Insects and humans have nervous systems that are similar in many ways. Because of this, many traditional insecticides that act as nerve toxins can affect humans as well. Thus, researchers are interested in developing insecticides that act on physiological processes unique to insects. One example, though not a biological product, is imidacloprid (Bayer's Merit), a recent introduction that affects nervous systems in a way unique among insecticides.
Another promising group of materials are the insect growth regulators (IGRs) that work by upsetting the hormones insects use to grow and develop. For example, IGRs may hinder the ability of an insect to develop a new exoskeleton or interfere with development from larva to adult. As a rule, IGRs are highly selective. They generally do not affect organisms that develop differently than insects, which includes almost every other kind of organism.
IGRs were first identified in plants, where they naturally occur as a type of defense against leaf-feeding insects. The first commercial IGR-based products, such as kinoprene, were similar to these natural products. Many plant pests were susceptible to these products, but they had little commercial landscape use because of their short persistence. Thus, horticulturists mainly used IGRs in greenhouses, interiorscapes or other indoor environments.
Manufacturers are developing a new generation of IGRs with substantially longer persistence, and these are finding more use in landscape care. For example, fenoxycarb is now available for control of fire ants (Award), and whiteflies and soft scales (Precision).
IGRs also are entering the turf market with the expected 1997 registration of halofenozide. Marketed by RohMid as Mach 2, halofenozide shows excellent performance against white grubs and caterpillars, with nearly season-long performance.
Pheromones Clearly, the language skills of insects are marginal. Although we notice a few that communicate by sound (katydids and cicadas) or even light (fireflies), chemical cues-pheromones-are far more important. Insects use all kinds of pheromones: to help ants mark the path to food sources, to coordinate bark beetles in their attacks on trees or to let other aphids know that a predator is near. However, the sex pheromones-those that insects use to attract mates-are those that we know best.
Certain female moths use the most potent sex pheromones of which we know, reining in males from over 0.25 mile away. Several of these have important uses in ornamental-pest management, providing powerful lures for traps to detect when adult stages of insects are active. Such information is useful for determining when to treat for insects that are only briefly exposed and vulnerable, such as wood borers. Professionals now routinely use pheromone traps to better manage insects such as the lilac-ash borer, peach-tree borer, dogwood borer and carpenterworm.
Because these pheromones only attract males, traps are ineffective for reducing egg-laying by females-the surviving males are just a bit more sexually active. However, in some situations, managers use pheromones for mating disruption. This technique, sometimes known as the "male-confusion method," involves the use of large numbers of pheromone lures over a wide area. So much pheromone is emitting from so many sources that male insects become confused and fail to find females.
Commercial agriculture now uses mating disruption successfully. However, this technique is unlikely to be useful in landscape-pest management because you must deploy the pheromones uniformly over areas of at least several acres. Further, the small market for mating disruption in landscape settings discourages development. At least one company, however, offers a pheromone-based product (Stirrup) that enhances control when combined with a miticide. It stimulates activity in mites, thereby increasing exposure to the miticide.
By their very nature, no single biological control will ever provide a "silver bullet" to manage all pest problems. At present, we still have not found effective biological controls for many insect pests. Further, biological controls typically require more intensive management in their application.
However, when effective biological controls are available, they can provide substantial benefits. As we have seen, options already exist for many pest-management needs, and others are in development. It is likely that the next decade will usher in several new methods for insect management in landscapes, particularly in the areas of IGRs and insect diseases.
Dr. Whitney Cranshaw is professor and extension entomology specialist at Colorado State University-Ft. Collins.
Our readers are outspoken on the subject of biological controls. Some strongly favor their use, while others dismiss it as impractical and unnecessary. However, most expressed a more middle-of-the-road perspective, viewing it as just one part of an overall pest-management program. The comments that follow reflect the wide diversity of opinions about biological controls.
Some readers spoke positively about biological controls: Pests have less of a chance to build resistance to biologicals. Also, biologicals are specific...other organisms are not harmed."-Landscape contractor, Pennsylvania
You can reduce the total amount of chemicals in the environment, save money and get better public relations."-Grounds superintendent, Massachusetts
Biological control] is more challenging...anyone can mix up a bunch of insecticides."-Pest control foreman, Florida
Sometimes the target spectrum is too broad when dealing with chemical control. Chemical control may be part of a solution, but not necessarily the only solution."-Head groundskeeper, Ohio
Others were less enthusiastic: Their only advantage seems to be to pacify the environmental nuts. They are not as effective and do not work as fast as chemicals, if they work at all."-Turf management consultant, New York
Chemicals are a quicker and more permanent means of control."-Lawn care servicer, Michigan I believe it would be costly and very hard to sell to our customers because you do not get immediate results and you may not get acceptable control."-Landscape contractor, Delaware
Regarding clients: [You can gain] accounts that would not sign if biologicals weren't available. The words 'environmentally friendly' get a lot of attention."-Landscape contractor, California
Very few [clients] over the past 20 years [have requested biological controls]."-Grounds supervisor, Connecticut
More and more [clients request biological controls] each year."-Lawn care servicer, Minnesota
Due to preferences and/or recommendations, additional costs (if any) are usually agreeable with the client."-Landscape contractor, California
If people would develop a tolerance to a small level of pest infestation, the biological [approach] would be much more practical. As things are though, many people...tolerate no pests at all."-Landscape contractor, Pennsylvania
What worked best with biologicals? Several readers expressed their satisfaction with the efficacy of certain biological controls, but lack of non-target effects was the most-cited practical benefit. However, nearly all proponents of biological controls cited health and environmental issues as their primary concern.
What would make biological controls more acceptable? By a wide margin, readers cited lower price and improved efficacy as the changes that would make biological control more practical for their operations. However, several readers also noted lack of product availability as a problem. Others expressed the importance of education, stating that if customers or employers were more tolerant of low levels of pests or slow-acting products, it would be easier for grounds-care professionals to employ biological controls.
>T1 Use degree days to predict crabgrass emergence
Early cultures used the crabgrasses (Digitaria spp.) as grain crops for thousands of years before they gained a reputation as troublesome weeds in turfgrasses and agricultural crops. Crabgrass was an important food crop in China in 2700 B.C., and the U.S. Patent Office introduced large crabgrass as a forage crop in 1849. Unfortunately, crabgrass is a competitive plant in turfgrass environments, and today large and smooth crabgrass are the most destructive and invasive weeds in turfgrass sites.
Turfgrass managers effectively can control crabgrass with pre- or post-emergence herbicides. However, the ability to predict crabgrass seedling emergence may allow turfgrass managers to more precisely time and target their weed-control efforts.
Phenology is the study of the relationship between biological events, such as seedling emergence and plant growth and development, and the environment (specifically temperature). One of the first published reports on crabgrass-emergence timing noted that large and smooth crabgrass first emerged in mid- to late May, which coincided with the flower withering of Forsythia and the onset of bloom of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). These and other occurrences in nature that help predict stages in a pest's life cycle are phenological indicators. (For more information on using indicator plants to help predict pest activity, refer to "Using plants to time pest control," in the April 1996 Grounds Maintenance.)
Typically, phenology refers to the use of temperature as a basis for predictive methods because the growth and development of plants and other organisms depend on temperature. You calculate degree-days from temperature data (see "Calculating degree-days," page 70) and use them to establish a relationship between temperature and biological processes or events. Some other terms you may hear to refer to degree-days include: growing degree-days, heat units, heat sums or thermal units.
The study Researchers have already developed degree-day models for predicting annual-bluegrass seedhead formation, Kentucky-bluegrass root growth and growth-regulator application timing. Recently, we conducted research at the University of Maryland for the purpose of developing a reliable degree-day-based method for determining the onset of smooth-crabgrass emergence in turfgrass and the extent of its emergence through the season.
We initiated this 3-year field study in 1992 and used data from 1993 and 1994 to develop a degree-day model for smooth-crabgrass emergence (1992 data was incomplete). In 1992, we used a mature stand of 'Fylking' Kentucky bluegrass; in 1993 we used a mature stand of 'Sydsport' plus 'Merion' Kentucky-bluegrass blend; in 1994, the site was a mature blend of unidentified perennial-ryegrass cultivars. All sites had a history of crabgrass infestation. At each site, we mowed the turfgrass plots at 1.5 or 2.5 inches (some at each height) twice weekly and removed the clippings.
We monitored smooth-crabgrass emergence on a weekly basis from April 1 through August 31. At the test site at Silver Spring, Md., smooth crabgrass first germinates in bare-ground areas during late April to mid-May. Because soil temperatures typically are not favorable for crabgrass germination before April 1 in the mid-Atlantic and northern regions of the United States, this was a reasonable starting date for initiating degree-day accumulation. Obviously, the starting date would vary in other regions with different climates.
In each experimental plot, we counted and removed smooth-crabgrass seedlings from three permanent grids per plot on a weekly basis throughout each growing season. We used thermocouples to measure air and soil temperatures and a data logger-essentially a microcomputer-to monitor and record the data.
Although we measured both air and soil temperatures, we used soil temperatures at the 1-inch depth to calculate degree-days because temperatures at this depth correlated well with smooth-crabgrass emergence. Many organisms have a base temperature of 50øF. However, we determined that 54øF was the proper base temperature for smooth crabgrass at this site.
Results Actual seedling-emergence trends were similar in 1993 and 1994 (see graphs, "Crabgrass emergence," page 68). In both years, seedlings first emerged sporadically just before a short period of rapid emergence, after which emergence decreased. A second period of rapid emergence then occurred, after which emergence steadily declined through the rest of the season.
Seedling counts for plots with both mowing heights were similar. Although researchers have found that smooth crabgrass is less invasive under higher mowing heights, they typically reported on the amount of plot area covered with crabgrass, not actual seedling counts. Because we removed seedlings weekly from the fixed grids in 1993 and 1994, the weeds did not compete with the turf. This relative lack of competition was probably the primary factor responsible for the similar seedling counts under both mowing heights. Because of the similar counts, we averaged them across both mowing heights.
In 1992, we first observed smooth-crabgrass seedlings in bare-ground areas on April 26. We first observed seedling emergence in the study area (in turf) on May 4. In 1993, we first found seedlings in the turf plots on April 26, which corresponded to minimum and average soil temperatures of 51øF and 57øF, respectively. In 1994, crabgrass seedlings first emerged on April 29. (The table at left shows soil temperatures and degree-day accumulation associated with smooth-crabgrass emergence periods.)
Over the 3-year period, smooth crabgrass first emerged when minimum soil temperatures averaged 54øF, and the degree-day accumulation averaged 57. Using 1993 and 1994 data, the major emergence period began when minimum soil temperatures reached an average of 68øF and an average of 185 degree-days had accumulated.
We felt that cumulative germination as a percentage of the total season's crabgrass population was a more useful way of depicting crabgrass germination than simple seedling counts per square foot. When we depicted germination in this way, it yielded an "S" curve typical of seed germination for many plants (see graph, "Cumulative crabgrass emergence," page 69). In addition, no statistically significant differences existed between the cumulative percent-germination figures for both mowing heights or years. The graph's S-curve accurately describes the progression of smooth-crabgrass emergence.
Turf managers could use degree-days and the emergence patterns we've shown here as a guide for targeting pre- and post-emergence herbicide applications. For example, applying a pre-emergence herbicide at 300 degree-days would miss 25 percent of the germinating crabgrass. If you found yourself in this situation, a pre- and post-emergence herbicide combination would probably be a better choice, with the post-emergence herbicide targeting the 25 percent of the crabgrass population that had already emerged, and the pre-emergence herbicide targeting the 75 percent of the crabgrass population that had not yet germinated. However, you would do better to monitor degree-day accumulation through spring to determine when to put down pre-emergence herbicides so that you would not miss a significant number of seedlings.
Turf managers can use their own weather data and observations about crabgrass emergence at their site to develop their own degree-day prediction method. We conducted our study over a 3-year period, but the more seasons you include in the observations, the more accurate your degree-day predictions should be. It is important to realize that biological processes don't suddenly "turn on" when a specific degree-day total is reached. Rather, they occur within a range of degree-days. For example, in this study, crabgrass first germinated within a degree-day range of 42 to 78.
We need more research to confirm the relationship between degree-day accumulation and smooth crabgrass emergence in different regions. In addition, information on soil moisture might further improve the degree-day-based prediction methods. Nevertheless, our study shows that crabgrass germination, like other biological processes, reacts to environmental factors in predictable ways. Thus, the potential exists to use this to improve our weed-control methods.
Dr. Michael A. Fidanza was formerly a graduate research assistant at the University of Maryland (College Park, Md.), where he conducted the research on which he based this article. He currently conducts research and development at AgrEvo USA (Wilmington, Del.).
Phenology is the science that examines the relationships between the environment and seasonal changes, and the growth and development of plants and animals. Phenological timing methods are possible because both plants and pests respond to temperatures in a similar way. We call the accumulation of temperature over time degree-days or thermal time, and it dictates the rate of growth and development of organisms. We can use degree-day accumulation to predict pest occurrence. Also, by matching a particular stage of plant development with the activity of a pest, we can use some visible sign-onset of bloom, for example-as a cue that it's time to treat for the pest.
Below a certain temperature, plants and plant pests are essentially dormant, and growth and development stop. This temperature is the threshold or base temperature. For most organisms, the base temperature is around 50øF. In the smooth-crabgrass study we conducted at the University of Maryland, however, we used a base temperature of 54øF to calculate degree-days.
Degree-day accumulation is a sum of the number of degrees (referred to as degree-days or degree-day units) by which each day's average temperature exceeds the base temperature; and it is an easy figure to calculate. One degree-day is equal to 1 degree above the base temperature in a 24-hour period. See "Calculating degree-day accumulations," below, for a more detailed explanation.
You calculate degree-days daily and summarize them over time beginning with a specific starting date. A starting date of January 1 is typical for most insect-pest degree-day models. However, we used a starting date of April 1 to calculate degree-days for crabgrass emergence in our study because smooth crabgrass typically first germinates during late-April to mid-May at the test site in Silver Spring, Md.
You can determine degree-day accumulation on your own or use weather stations to monitor environmental conditions and calculate degree-day accumulation for you. Weather stations are available that can incorporate climatic conditions with temperature-based pest-prediction models. In addition, you can monitor indicator plants in your area that relate to plant-pest activity. Many cooperative-extension offices provide degree-day data as well.
>T1 1996 Salary survey
Ideally, you should only evaluate your salary and benefits package based on whether it meets your personal needs and expectations. However, in reality, who isn't interested in how you stack up against your peers and the nation as a whole?
Grounds Maintenance conducted a salary survey in March 1996 to determine how salary and benefits of various grounds-care professionals have changed from levels shown in previously conducted surveys. In the 10 years between 1986 and 1996, respondents said that median salary increased 42 percent. A 15 percent increase occurred between 1991-when we last surveyed our readership-and 1996.
If you wonder which area of the United States pays the highest salaries in our field, look for a job in the Pacific region. There, grounds managers said they received a median salary of $43,333. This region was followed by the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, East South Central and New England regions, respectively.
Not only does the region where you live affect your salary, but other factors-such as education and title-do as well. Grounds managers who said they had college and graduate-school degrees received the highest salaries. Institutional grounds managers reported the highest level of education among the surveyed groups. About 61 percent of institutional grounds managers indicated they were college graduates or had post-graduate degrees. Among golf-course superintendents responding, 52 percent were college graduates or had post-graduate degrees, whereas 46 percent of landscape contractors and 33 percent of lawn-care operators reported college degrees or higher.
About 39 percent of respondents were managers or superintendents, and 49 percent were executives or administrators. The remainder were government officials and specialists (arborists, horticulturists, agronomists, etc.). Among these groups, government officials appeared to earn a little more than the rest.
Customer base and acreage maintained The survey indicated that a typical landscape contractor served about 50 customers, and only 2 percent served 1,000 or more customers. Lawn-care operators, however, typically had a customer base of 76, according to respondents. And about 11 percent of respondents said they served 1,000 customers or more. Maintained acreage is about the same for landscape contractors who responded (50 acres) and lawn-care operators who responded (55 acres).
On fixed sites such as golf courses and institutional facilities, the mean maintained acreage of respondents exceeded 100. Specifically, the typical golf-course respondent comprised about 134 maintained acres, whereas institutional facilities respondents were 120 acres. Because institutions included parks, highway roadsides and other large facilities, the number of facilities reporting 500 or more acres was significant (18 percent). Only 4 percent of golf courses reported acreage of 500 or more.
Operating budgets Grounds managers at institutional facilities reported the highest operating budgets ($514,706) among the demographic groups that Grounds Maintenance surveyed. Golf-course superintendents were next ($354,167), followed by landscape contractors ($148,571) and lawn-care operators ($84,552).
In April 1996, Grounds Maintenance conducted a survey of 2,500 readers to determine: 1) Current salary levels for key management positions critical to the grounds-care industry 2) How demographics play a part in compensation levels 3) Benefits received in the grounds care industry.
Surveys were mailed to an equal number (500) of readers within the following five groups: * Golf-course personnel * Institutional-facility grounds managers (at facilities such as parks, schools, colleges, universities, cemeteries, rights-of-way, resorts, military installations and multiple government/municipal facilities) * Landscape contractors * Lawn-care operators * Others allied to the field (such as tree service companies/arborists, landscape architects, land reclamation and erosion-control specialists, extension agents and horticultural consultants, sod and seed growers, and dealers, distributors, formulators and brokers).
By June 1996, 1,174 usable surveys were received. This corresponded to a 47.5-percent rate of response.
Because of the divergent responsibilities and roles of "others allied to the field," their responses are not reported here.
Grounds Maintenance drew a composite of a typical grounds manager based on the median values of responses received and discovered that he or she: * Is one of five grounds-care employees at the operation * Supervises four employees * Has been in his/her present job for 9 years * Earns $37,410 annually * Manages 100 acres * Has an operating budget of $231,776 * Gets a 4.5 percent annual salary increase * Gets 14 paid vacation days after 5 years * Receives 8 paid holidays each year.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!
© 2015 Penton Media Inc.