Featured photo: The 2016 Nufarm/Valent Pest Management Workshop was held at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park.

It was a meeting of the turfgrass minds on June 14 and 15 at Grand Teton National Park, site of the 2016 Nufarm/Valent Pest Management Workshop. For two days, some of the turf industry’s top scientists and experts gathered in a conference room at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Moran, Wyoming, to discuss topics such as new management for problem pests, resistance management, industry and government trends, new technology, among other matters.

Bill Kreuser

Bill Kreuser

The brain trust included Bruce Clarke of Rutgers University; Shawn Askew of Virginia Tech; Bill Kreuser of the University of Nebraska; Pat Vittum of the University of Massachusetts; Jim Baird of the University of California-Riverside; Benjamin McGraw of Penn State University; Jim Brosnan of University of Tennessee; and Chris Williamson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A team of experts from Nufarm/Valent, including Jason Fausey, director of technical services for turf and ornamentals; Rick Fletcher, technical services manager; Joe Chamberlin, field development manager; David Frye, marketing and alliance manager; Steve Jedrzejek, marketing manager; and Greg Mattern, director of regulatory affairs, were also on hand.

Clarke, one of the nation’s top turf pathologists, said he was impressed that many of today’s fungicide labels dedicate adequate information on fungicide resistance to help educate turf managers.

“[Turf managers] realize that alternating chemistries and tank mixing is not only good for resistance management but also improves efficacy for a lot of diseases,” Clarke added.

Askew, a noted weed scientist, said that turf managers have made an extra effort to “figure out” resistance management with fungicides because of the cost associated with some of the products.

“But in the world of weeds, I still see a lot people using the same [herbicides],” he added.

Mattern noted that resistance management is one of the top issues being discussed at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The EPA is sensitive to the fact that we need resistance management, and we need to protect the tools that we have,” he said.

Bruce Clarke and Shawn Askew

Bruce Clarke and Shawn Askew

The EPA’s status and the direction the agency is heading in the near future made for popular discussion during the workshop. Mattern said there are many new people working at the EPA because of turnover. In addition, he said the EPA staff is down about 30 percent in the last few years, although the workload isn’t.

“We run into a lot of inconsistencies with how things were looked at previously compared to how they are looked at now,” Mattern said.

In light of increased regulatory pressures that could soon come the turf industry’s way, the impact of biopesticides was also discussed. Clarke said he has evaluated several biofungicides over the years that are “fairly effective” at controlling specific diseases, especially when tank mixed with conventional fungicides. Clarke noted that a biofungicide he has evaluated is “very effective” for summer patch suppression. When combined with certain strobilurin-based fungicides, it works better than the strobilurin alone when treating certain diseases.

“But most, if not all, of the biofungicides that we have evaluated break down under high-pressure situations,” Clarke added.

Vittum discussed using nematodes to biologically control white grubs.

“Various kinds of nematodes are specific to the kinds of insects they will attack,” she said. “You can have success with one of those species of white grubs but you have to pay attention to all the details.”

Giving an example of paying attention to details, Vittum cited Golf Course Superintendent Jeff Carlson’s grub control program at the Vineyard Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard, where Carlson isn’t allowed to use pesticides.

“Jeff has figured out what it takes to make those nematodes work in the field,” she said. “He applies at least a quarter inch of water right before the application. Then he makes the nematode application and follows with another quarter inch of water. That’s what you have to do to make it work.”

Pat Vittum

Pat Vittum

On the second day of the conference, scientists and experts convened in small groups to talk about specific issues related to certain pests. Brosnan, Baird and Askew talked about the trend of Southern weeds moving into Northern regions because of warmer temperatures.

“We have far more kyllinga in Tennessee than we ever have,” Brosnan said, noting the weed is mostly found in South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi.

Askew said kyllinga and goosegrass have crept into the upper Mid-Atlantic states.

“I had one [mid-Atlantic-based] superintendent tell me (jokingly) that the South was getting back at them because of the Civil War,” Askew said with a chuckle.

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