SHORT CUTS

GREENHOUSE GAS GIVES ADVANTAGE TO PLANTS VS. BUGS

Dr. Robert Balling, Jr., of Arizona State University, reports that two recent studies indicate that increased atmospheric levels of CO2 provide a relative advantage to plants over their herbivorous attackers.

A team from the United States and another from the United Kingdom both found that plants growing in chambers with elevated CO2 levels grew more vigorously but experienced much lower levels of feeding damage compared to similar plants growing in a standard atmosphere. The cause may be that the increased growth resulting from higher CO2 levels makes nutrients harder to obtain from the plants, which more rapidly use them for growth.

DEET STILL REIGNS SUPREME OVER MOSQUITOES

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DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), the most common active ingredient used in mosquito repellents for decades, continues to be the most effective product of its kind. According to University of Florida researchers who tested 17 repellents, DEET clearly was more effective than other products, including a number of alternative treatments such as the lotion SkinSoSoft. Given the growing concern over Lyme disease and West Nile virus, it's good to know that DEET is available. Despite recent reports of health concerns relating to DEET, toxicologists remain firm in their finding that this product is quite safe when used as directed.

QUEBEC TO BAN “COSMETIC” PESTICIDES BY 2005

The Canadian province of Quebec has announced that it will ban non-food-crop pesticides by 2005. The ban will include 30 pesticides. This regulation will apply to both private and commercial lands, in addition to public properties (which must stop using them this year), said Andre Boisclair, the Quebec Environment Minister.

According to Boisclair, fertilizer/pesticide combination products will be prohibited as early as next year. Golf courses also must cut pesticide use by 2005.

MOSQUITOES GET BUZZED OVER BEER

Researchers in Japan have found that alcohol consumption appears to attract mosquitoes and increase the likelihood of bites.

Counting landings before and after subjects each consumed one 12-ounce beer, the researchers found that Asian tiger mosquitoes were far more likely to land on subjects who'd imbibed than on those who hadn't.

The researchers don't believe that the mosquitoes are actually attracted to alcohol, but rather to some undetermined chemical present in sweat after alcohol consumption. They also caution that this doesn't mean that abstaining will prevent mosquito bites.

A BETTER SALAD DRESSING THAN HERBICIDE?

Steve L. Young, a staff research associate at the University of California's Hopland Research & Extension Center writes (in response to a June 2000, Short Cuts piece about vinegar as a herbicide):

“The article made reference to the scientific testing of vinegar (acetic acid) as a post-emergence herbicide. I have been conducting research for the past couple of years in northern California on the use of ‘natural-based’ products for vegetation control along roadsides…I did not find acetic acid to be very effective for total vegetation control even after several applications. I have been conducting similar studies this year and have found similar results.”

Young's research was recently published in the Western Society of Weed Science 2002 Research Progress Reports.

MORE TO THE STORY

In response to the June article by Lorne Haveruk, “To the Last Drop,” Dr. Phillip Allen, professor of horticulture at Brigham Young University, offered the following comments:

“We in Utah are experiencing another year of severe drought, and the need for efficient irrigation practices has never been greater. Locally, irrigation audits are receiving a great deal of attention.

“What is missing from Haveruk's otherwise excellent article is a discussion of how nonuniform soil hampers, and in some cases almost completely negates, irrigation efficiency. The best-designed and installed irrigation system can't overcome problems due to localized compaction and very heterogeneous soil, conditions which occur to a significant degree during most construction projects. Of course, we have all seen the challenges associated with compaction following landscape installation.

“While the practice of overwatering can mask the effects of nonuniform soil just as it can poor irrigation design, problems do surface when water conservation efforts begin.

“In my opinion, diagnosing and correcting soil compaction problems represents another lucrative activity for landscape contractors involved in irrigation audits.”

THE POWER OF SUGGESTION

Ken Murray, proprietor of the Turf King franchise in Ontario, Canada, recently received a call from his Sudbury office. His applicators had posted signs at a local school serviced by Turf King, noting that they were going to spray for weeds soon.

They later received an anxious call from a parent (the wife of a landscaper, as a matter of fact), saying that their child, and many others, had come down sick after returning to school where the lawn had been treated. Here's the rub: Due to adverse weather conditions, the turf had not been treated! Now, jokes Murray, “When I talk to people, I've begun to say ‘Pesticides don't cause illness, it's the signs that are toxic!’”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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