If Clemson University’s Bruce Martin is impressed, nematode-battling golf course superintendents probably will be, too.
Martin, one of the world’s leading turf pathologists, said Bayer Environmental Science’s Indemnify, a new nematicide for nematode control, is “the most exciting product for nematode control that I have seen in my entire career.”
In July, Bayer held an event in Orlando, Florida, to roll out Indemnify to its distributors. Indemnify, which utilizes fluopyram as its active ingredient (AI), controls key root-feeding nematodes of turfgrass, including sting, root knot, ring and others. It also has activity on Anguina pacificae, a foliar-feeding nematode. Fluopyram, labeled for use on golf course greens, tees and fairways, is classified as a group 7 fungicide and represents a new mode of action for broad-spectrum control of nematodes.
Considering that Martin has been studying nematode control for much of his near 30-year career at Clemson, his statement about Indemnify speaks volumes.
“Nematodes are a major problem in Southern states like Florida and South Carolina,” Martin said. “We haven’t had a good solution for them in years. Until now.”
Many superintendents formerly relied on Bayer’s Nemacur, an organophosphate that has been phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency. Superintendents can use existing stocks of Nemacur through Oct. 6. Indemnify became available to superintendents last month.
“What we had before were old chemistries that had pretty much run their lifespans and had a lot of warts, such as high toxicity and negative environmental effects,” Martin said. “So the need [for a new nematicide] was there.”
Nematodes have historically been hard to control and kill, especially sting and root knot, the two most problematic nematodes on Southern golf courses, Martin pointed out.
“That’s why harsh chemistry is what worked [previously],” Martin added. “The thing about Indemnify is it’s not a harsh chemistry; it’s a soft chemistry. It has low rates, high efficacy and long residual activity.”
Nematodes have been the bane of superintendents for years. The roundworms thrive in sandy soil. They feed on turfgrass roots, disabling them from their ability to take up water and minerals for nutrients. Alas, turfgrass is stressed and killed.
Jake Doskocil, Ph.D., product development manager for Bayer Environmental Science, said fluopyram’s activity on nematodes was discovered about six years ago. The AI basically blocks nematodes’ cellular respiration and limits their ability to produce energy. When introduced to fluopyram, the energy-drained nematodes straighten out and can’t move, Doskocil said. They stop feeding on roots and eventually die.
Indemnify features a long half-life – about 460 days in the soil. “The take-home message is: This is a very stable molecule,” Doskocil said. “The product moves into the active zone and stays there.”
Indemnify can be used preventively and curatively on warm- and cool-season grasses, according to Derek Settle, Ph.D., a member of Bayer’s Green Solutions Team. Preventively, it can be used in the fall to control nematodes and optimize root health prior to dormancy or to ensure healthy roots during semi- dormancy. It can also be used preventively in the spring to control nematodes and ensure normal green-up and transition of turfgrass. Curatively, Indemnify can be used anytime of the year when nematodes are a problem.
Using the signal word “Caution,” the liquid product offers a friendly environmental profile at low use rates. Considering that it’s a softer chemistry, Settle and others at Bayer expect Indemnify to be around for a while.
Bayer is also touting the plant health benefits of Indemnify. Because it kills nematodes, superintendents are able to grow roots deeper, meaning roots can take up water and nutrients more efficiently. And with healthy turf, superintendents can drive down additional pest pressures and decrease other inputs, Settle noted.
Historically, the nematode problem has been confined to the South, mainly because of the many courses built on sandy soils in the region. But Doskocil pointed out that nematodes can also threaten Northern golf courses, especially those with sand-based greens. Northern nematodes are less abundant and have less damaging impact on turf, but they can stress turf enough to allow disease to more easily set in. Hence, Indemnify can rid the nematodes on Northern courses, which can improve the plant health on those courses.
In addition, with nematodes under control, superintendents may be able to introduce faster and firmer conditions on greens knowing that the turf’s root structure is intact, said Mike Hirvela, Bayer’s fungicide product manager.
“If we can improve the efficiency of resources, then there is opportunity to potentially limit those resources at times when the situation calls for it, such as a member-guest tournament or during a major tournament,” Hirvela added.
With nematodes under control, roots growing efficiently and inputs having a more lasting impact, Hirvela said superintendents might be able to reduce hand-watering on the weekends, meaning someone on a golf course maintenance staff could take the day off.
“Imagine what that would do for the quality of life for a superintendent or his assistant?” Hirvela said.
While Indemnify controls the worst offending nematodes, it is not labeled to control lance and spiral nematodes.
“Does Indemnify have some weaknesses? Yes,” Settle said. “We don’t get all the nematodes.”
But the research is ongoing to improve the product to control them. The research, in fact, will never stop.
“Even though we have a product launched into the market, we don’t stop researching,” Doskocil added. “You never stop learning about a product, even those that have been in the market for 10 years.”