Consider the alternatives

We receive many calls, letters and e-mails here at Grounds Maintenance, and they reflect a wide range of viewpoints. I once I received a note from an anti-pesticide advocate who accused me of selling out to the chemical industry, sarcastically noting that I must equate the "green" in Green Industry with dollars. This struck me as ironic, and I'm not sure whether he actually intended it to be. After all, money is very much what the Green Industry is about. That's why they call it an "industry."

Obviously, there's much more than money involved in grounds care. Working outdoors, the satisfaction of cultivating healthy, attractive plants and turf, getting "dirt under your nails"...these are aspects of the business that appeal to many landscape professionals. But they come with the territory.

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Profitability, by contrast, doesn't happen automatically. If you forget to keep your eye on profits, you might as well forget about staying in business, too. In contracting, profit is, literally, the bottom line. So, yes, money does matter. Money concerns aren't confined to contracting, either. Every grounds-care operation must contain costs, even if profitability, per se, is not the goal. Efficiency always matters.

That's why chemical tools are so valuable. They do exactly what technology is supposed to do: they make people more efficient. Herbicides, for example, allow one applicator with the right knowledge and tools to be as productive as several manual laborers. Taking issue with those who would deny our profession of such valuable tools is not "selling out." It is an effort to help keep the Green Industry...well, green.

Most of you reading this don't need to be told that herbicides are important in your line of work. But like many things we may take for granted, it's worth remembering once in a while just how significant they are. As with the automobile you drive, you don't think about how vital they are because you've never known life without them. But the next time a customer with a dandelion-infested lawn asks you to "whip it into shape," you'll almost certainly do it with herbicides and you probably won't stop to ponder the alternatives. Perhaps that's because, for practical (read, profitable) purposes, there often are none. With that in mind, the focus of this issue is weed control.

Our cover story, "Take a shot at broadleaf weeds," is an in-depth look at selective broadleaf herbicides. This group includes 2,4-D, the oldest and still the most widely used broadleaf herbicide, as well as some newer products. They all kill broadleaf weeds, but does that mean they're all the same? Rutgers University's Steve Hart tells you.

Grassy weeds are a real pain. Selective control is not quite so simple when you're trying to remove one kind of grass from another. Different strategies are called for. Dr. Jeff Derr of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University explains in "Pain in the grass,".

Methyl bromide, an extremely important tool for establishing turf "with a clean slate," is on its way out. Within a few years, this chemical will no longer be available for use in the United States, as stipulated in the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. Are there any good alternatives? The University of Florida's J. Bryan Unruh explains in "Banned in the USA," a review of the fumigant options you'll have once methyl bromide is gone.

To help pull it all together, you'll find our annually revised "Turfgrass Chemical Update" compiled by Grounds Maintenance technical editor James Houx.

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