Greenkeepers fear potential withdrawal of carbendazim will damage golf industry

The withdrawal of carbendazim is the biggest challenge facing the golf industry, attendees at a technology and sustainability seminar heard last week.

Greenkeepers raised their concerns at Sheriff Amenity's True Solutions Roadshow, where fine-turf maintenance companies presented their latest products.

Industry experts have warned the withdrawal of carbendazim, the use of which is currently under review, could cripple some golf courses because there is no alternative.

It is used by greenkeepers to suppress casting worms, which otherwise disrupt the surface of fine turf, leaving piles of earth.

British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association national chairman Peter Todd argued that without carbendazim, many golf courses would be in crisis. "On alkali soils, particularly, you will get quite devastating effects," he forecast. "It will make the game unplayable on some courses."

Applying large quantities of sand to the topsoil can help deter worms from the surface, Todd added. But the cost of applying sand to the fairways and greens of an 18-hole golf course could be too much of a barrier to some clubs.

"The courses that have big budgets might be able to afford £80,000 to £100,000 a year for sand, but that isn't going to happen at your average 18-hole course," he said.

He warned that the environmental impact of the extra sand extraction and transportation, along with the need to use more weedkiller should carbendazim be withdrawn, would cancel out any benefit of banning the chemical.

BALI technical director Neil Huck said: "We have been arguing that the loss of internationally valued playing surfaces through the withdrawal of chemicals is going to be severely damaging to our famous golf courses, but no-one seems to listen."

This problem has been an issue for nearly a decade, Huck added, but a recent change to the criteria against which chemicals are reviewed has heightened the risk that carbendazim will go.

The Chemicals Regulation Directorate, the body in charge of assessing carbendazim, is now judging it against the new criteria of environmental and human risk, which include how harmful it is to worms and bees.

Though there is no consensus on what decision will be reached or when, most are predicting that it will eventually be banned.

Sheriff Amenity sales manager Neil Pullen said: "I don't know whether it will go in six months or five years, but it will go in the end."

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