BTME: Integrated turf management now crucial

Eliminating a "firefighting" approach to turf disease is critical for amenity users now that EU rules have been passed to regulate pesticide use, according to experts at Harrogate Week last week.

Golf course managers need to be thinking about every aspect of disease control, said Sports Turf Research Institute senior scientific officer Ruth Mann.

Mann told visitors to the show on 20-22 January: "We are going to have to put integrated turf management systems in place and look at all the methods we have at our disposal to control diseases."

The process covers elements including: cultural practices, such as regulating surface and rootzone pH at 5.5, controlling irrigation and improving airflow; disease resistance of the chosen grass variety; biological control; and using fungicides. Cultural practices can help because "the quicker greens dry, the less chance of disease", Mann explained. In addition, choosing more disease-resistant grasses may be effective.

Biological control, using antagonistic fungi and bacteria, helps take up space where disease pathogens could grow, Mann added.

Pesticides Safety Directorate environmental policy adviser Grant Stark said: "People in Brussels are keen on an integrated approach. It is seen as being able to reduce pesticide use by around 20 per cent and also bridging the gap in the loss of pesticides through the (Placing of Plant Protection Products on the Market) regulation."

Mann said one of the most effective ways of reducing pesticide use was by ensuring timing of applications was correct. "One of the things we do very poorly is our application timing," she warned. "Most of the products we have are best when they are used preventatively or at the very first sign of disease."

She advised greenkeepers and course managers to use an "indicator" green, which is the first one to get disease, to highlight problems.

Syngenta's online system Greencast shows the risk of disease in different areas of the country, along with weather conditions, said Mann. "I am trying to get people away from firefighting disease because that uses a lot more fungicide," she explained.

"If we can get it right and spray during that high-risk period, we can get so much more from it."

Amenity Forum chairman Jon Allbutt added: "It is important to remember the decisions we take for the future will be judged according to EU indicators. We must continue to develop integrated strat- egies for pesticide use and we can expect there will be monitoring."


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