Editor’s view

I recently attended the RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) annual meeting in Half Moon Bay, Calif. RISE is the national trade association representing manufacturers, formulators, distributors and other industry leaders involved with pesticides and fertilizer.

Many heavy-hitters representing suppliers to the golf course maintenance industry attended the event. The marching orders from the meeting were clear: Among other things, representatives of pesticide and fertilizer companies and the people who use their products – you – must educate the general public that these products are safe when used according to their labels.

The backlash on pesticide and fertilizer use is nothing new to the industry. But it’https://www.superintendentmagazine.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=530&action=edits growing along with the green movement – just ask the neonicotinoid pesticide suppliers about the bee issue – and it’s never going away.

But, as golf course superintendents, you must ask yourself if you and your crew members are part of the problem before you begin touting the benefits of pesticides and fertilizers in achieving healthy turfgrass – and all in the name of environmental friendliness. So my question to you is: Are you applying the pesticides and fertilizers you use according to the label’s directions? If not, you might be part of the problem.

I’ve talked to enough pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers over the years to conclude that there’s a problem with people who don’t apply products according to the label’s directions. These people range from homeowners to superintendents and their crews.

In June, 50,000 bumblebees were killed after a landscaper sprayed 55 flowering linden trees with Valent’s Safari pesticide. But Valent pointed out that the Safari label includes language to protect pollinators, specifically directing applicators not to apply the product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are present in the area. Did the landscaper read the Safari label?

I recently heard a story about a superintendent who mistakenly sprayed his course’s greens with Roundup. He thought he was spraying a wetting agent on the green because someone told him the unmarked jug in the maintenance facility was just that.

It wasn’t. You can guess what happened, and you can assume the superintendent didn’t read the label, because there wasn’t one to read in the first place.

This column isn’t an indictment on all superintendents and their crews for not using pesticides and fertilizers according to their labels. My guess is that most superintendents instruct their applicators to read labels carefully before applying such products.

I spoke with Trevor Thorley, president of Engage Agro USA, about this issue during the meeting.

“Label is king,” Thorley said. “A lot of work goes into the label from the manufacturers, the Environmental Protection Agency and states. But when you have the issue of people not reading the labels or doing things outside of the labels, it’s the manufacturers that gets the blame.”

When people don’t read labels, it’s usually because they’re in a hurry. I agree with Thorley, who says superintendents are better trained than other green industry professionals, and most of them strictly adhere to reading labels.

But, as in any industry, there are always a few bad apples who bring the others down. And if something goes wrong on a golf course because a pesticide or fertilizer wasn’t applied according to the label, there could be hell to pay for all golf courses, not to mention pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers.

The golf course industry has come a long way in promoting its environmental prowess.

There’s no turning back now.

Three words: Read the label.

Read more: These tips can help you properly apply pesticides.