Researching Maintenance

Direct-injection sprayers I read recently that someone has come up with a way to load chemicals without actually having to handle the chemicals. Are you familiar with this?-Via the internet.

You may be referring to direct-injection (DI) units. These systems inject chemicals directly into the plumbing "downstream" of the sprayer's tank, metering the material out in the correct proportion. Thus, the main tank never contacts anything but water. These units can be designed to withdraw chemicals straight from the original container so that the operator never even has to pour the chemical. It's a great concept because it reduces the potential for accidental spills associated with loading and mixing. Plus, you don't have to worry about what to do with extra spray mix if you finish the job and have leftover material.

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Most people in the spray industry view DI as an idea with great merit, and one whose time will come. However, for various reasons, it hasn't yet been widely employed in the turf industry. Although a few of these units were marketed to turf managers in the late 1990s, no turf sprayers currently are so equipped by the original manufacturer. It is possible to retrofit with DI-sprayers in other industries use DI units and this equipment can be adapted to some turf sprayers.

Chuck Greif, manager of market development for the Golf and Turf Division of John Deere (Raleigh, N.C.), feels that golf superintendents are ready to embrace DI if manufacturers can improve the technology in a certain areas, such as with more highly automated controls and injection at the nozzle rather than into the plumbing. However, with current engineering technology, machines that satisfy the "wish list" of superintendents are complex, expensive and relatively difficult to maintain. In time, Greif says, technological advances should make them more feasible.

Other industry representatives offer somewhat different perspectives on DI's delayed entry into the turf market. Terry Stone, of Spraying Devices Inc. (Visalia, Calif.), feels that superintendents "basically don't trust them," even though the technology is sound and other industries use them successfully. SDI manufactures a DI system that can be adapted to several manufacturers' turf sprayers. However, Stone explains that, "Superintendents have been indoctrinated on tank mixing and a proportioning pump is hard to trust. You can't see what's going on and whether they're working right."

A few years ago, a high-profile course using a DI sprayer experienced a particularly costly problem. According to Stone, this incident contributed significantly to the mistrust of these units among superintendents, even though the malfunction wasn't due to any problem inherent in DI.

Stone agrees that DI units eventually will become the norm, but that may be "down the road a ways." In the meantime, SDI is concentrating on other strategies to increase the efficiency of spray operations, such as loading stations where sprayers quickly can refill their tanks with premixed spray.

Jody Hinkle, a marketing representative with Toro Co. (Bloomington, Minn.), concurs that DI may be "an idea ahead of its time." Hinkle explains that in the near term, Toro's development efforts will focus on other advancements such as more sophisticated controls without abandoning the traditional setup of mixing chemicals in the tank.

Hank Moser, a sales engineer with Raven Industries (Sioux Falls, S.D.), which manufactures sprayer controls, says that the technology for DI sprayers is sound. "There are units [such as Toro's now-discontinued DI sprayer, for which Raven supplied controls] still out there, and they're working well."

However, Moser admits that the units "are a little ahead of turf operators." Plus, the cleaning and flushing needed after each use is fairly extensive, further dampening enthusiasm for the units.

Weedy paspalum I have 4 acres of seashore paspalum and was wondering what options, if any, there are for broadleaf weed control.-Hawaii

I am not aware of any post-emergence broadleaf herbicides specifically registered for paspalum. However, several products containing common active ingredients-2,4-D, dichlorprop (DCPP), mecoprop (MCPP) and dicamba, and combinations thereof-have labeling for generic sites such as "lawns" or "turf." These should be okay (legal) to use on paspalum. Seashore Paspalum, The Environmental Turfgrass, by University of Georgia researchers R.R. Duncan and R.N. Carrow (Ann Arbor Press), lists these chemicals as non-injurious to paspalum.

Dr. Bert McCarty, of Clemson University, notes that the Georgia researchers also found quinclorac (TopPro's Drive) to be non-injurious to paspalum. Quinclorac controls certain broadleaf weeds and grasses, and McCarty says that the spectrum of control can be expanded by tank mixing with a phenoxy herbicide.

Whenever using a chemical on a turfgrass not specifically listed on the label, it's wise to test-spray a small area to check for safety.

Ants can be troublesome pests on turf, especially on golf courses. Their mounds disrupt putting surfaces, dull mower blades and can even smother closely mowed turf. Evidence suggests that ant problems on turf have been increasing, though it isn't clear why. Dr. Daniel Potter, a University of Kentucky entomologist, speculates that shifts in pesticide usage to more-selective and shorter-residual products may be partly responsible. Regardless, turf managers increasingly are in need of effective ant controls to reduce mound building as well the general nuisance of ants.

Several effective active ingredients are available for controlling ants. However, success depends on killing the colony's queen. That's why baits and slow-acting toxicants are such useful tools for ant control. However, ant species differ in their feeding preferences, so the type of bait is critical.

One of the primary ant pests of turf is Lasius neoniger, a widespread species that occurs throughout much of the United States. In many locations, this species is responsible for most, if not virtually all, mounding on turf. However, research evaluating the effectiveness of insecticides against this species is lacking.

To evaluate the effectiveness of various baits and active ingredients available to turf managers, Potter and other researchers at the University of Kentucky conducted trials on golf course greens and tees. The products tested included the active ingredients abamectin, hydramethylnon, fipronil and spinosad. All of these are currently registered pesticides, though not necessarily for ant control.

In Potter's trials, all of these active ingredients were effective against ants in at least some cases, depending on the bait with which they were formulated and how they were applied. However, two products were particularly effective in these trials. The first, Advance Granular Carpenter Ant Bait (Whitmire Micro-Gen), consists of abamectin with a bait of soybean oil, corn grit, meat meal and sugar. Maxforce Granular Ant Killer Bait (Clorox Co.), is a hydramethylnon product (the same active ingredient as in BASF's Amdro fire ant control) consisting mainly of ground silkworm pupae. That these two products performed especially well is consistent with what is known of L. neoniger's feeding habits: it prefers insect eggs and small arhtropids. Thus, you'd expect the ants to prefer baits with proteins.

Fipronil is currently not available in the United States for ant control (it is marketed as Aventis' Chipco Choice mole cricket control). However, the researchers tested a European fipronil product with a sugar bait, which did not perform well. By contrast, a non-bait fipronil provided good control when applied as a broadcast spray.

Three spinosad formulations (spinosad is the active ingredient in Dow's Conserve insecticide) were included in these trials. Two showed relatively little activity; but a third, Dow's NAF 464 (not commercially available), performed fairly well. Not surprisingly, NAF-464's bait includes protein, while the other two spinosad products do not.

This research illustrates how important the proper bait is for obtaining good ant-colony control. It also shows that at least two currently available products provide good control. Advance and Maxforce, though labeled specifically for golf turf, have label language that does not exclude such use.

Tree topping has been thoroughly condemned by arborists. Unfortunately, unscrupulous or uneducated operators continue to top trees. In some respects, efforts to discourage tree topping have been "preaching to the choir." Most tree trimmers still willing to top trees aren't likely to be convinced by yet another article or talk on the topic, and some are so uninvolved in industry groups that they never hear the message at all.

Taking a different approach, a Missouri program is focusing on the consumers of tree-trimming services. If customers become more resistant to the practice, tree trimmers are more likely to change their ways. Unveiled this spring, the "Experts Agree: Don't Top Your Tree" campaign is a cooperative effort of the Missouri Community Forestry Council and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, funded by grants from the USDA Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation. It is the first coordinated statewide effort of its kind, according to Justine Gartner, forestry field programs supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The program seeks coverage in local media for educational articles and public service ads aimed at the public. Materials for publication are provided by the group at no charge, and posters and brochures also are available.

According to Gartner, the brochures-designed primarily for the general public-also are useful to tree-care professionals. Surprisingly, some find that their customers can be insistent on topping. When operators find that client education is necessary, the brochures provide useful support, says Gartner.

Though the campaign is limited to Missouri, Gartner hopes similar statewide efforts will catch on elsewhere. In fact, the campaign is willing to share editorial and artwork with others who might be interested in similar efforts. Their toll-free hotline is (877) 40-NO-TOP; their web site is www.moreleaf.org.

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