We asked representatives from pesticide manufacturing companies: Many golf course superintendents believe that climate change is real — whether it is cynical or caused by humans — and are concerned of its impact on turf maintenance, including turf disease and their fungicide programs. Should they be? Here’s what they had to say:
Jill Calabro | Technical Services Manager, Nufarm
One thing that is known and widely accepted is that photosynthesis increases in plants, especially C3 plants, under conditions of enhanced CO2 levels. It then follows that under the current climate trend of heightened carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which are at their highest levels in over 650,000 years, that cool-season turf will grow faster and bigger. So will weeds, especially nitrogen-fixing weeds such as clover and black medic. Fertilization is one strategy implemented to combat the impact of weeds but will also impact turf diseases. For example, heavy nitrogen applications encourage brown patch, Pythium and leaf spots. Furthermore, the trend of increasing temperatures will lead to a shift in the diseases most commonly observed on a particular golf course. For example, a different species of fairy ring may become the dominant species. Or perhaps the normal fairy ring complex will produce puffballs and/or death rings sooner and longer than normal. Increased soil temperatures also will favor summer patch.
Mike Agnew | Technical Manager, Syngenta
According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. A study by Bruce Clark, Ph.D., at Rutgers University found that diseases like dollar spot and anthracnose have been appearing earlier and lasting later in the year. So, regardless of whether these trends are cyclical or caused by humans, it is important to stay ahead of these and other diseases by scouting and paying attention to temperatures. Superintendents should also look to build a sound, preventive agronomic program early on, as curative applications can be more expensive and encourage resistance.
George Furrer | Director of Specialty Business, SipcamAdvan
Golf course superintendents have always been experts at managing the effects of climate change, whether it’s global climate change or the microenvironment change from one hole on the golf course that has unfavorable soil structure to another hole that has poor air movement. In either case, designing a disease management program is critical to their success and a key part of their responsibility. So, there should be concern about the everchanging needs of turfgrass management, whatever the cause. But a solid partnership between superintendents and fungicide producers will spur ongoing development of products that meet those needs.
Jim Goodrich | Product Manager PBI/Gordon
This really isn’t a concern in areas such as the Midwest and Northeast, where superintendents already use a fungicide program to control disease. These superintendents are used to the seasonal temperature and humidity fluctuations that bring about the need for preventive fungicide programs. However, in the Southern and Western parts of the U.S., where environmental conditions haven’t always been prime for disease development, supers could see an increase in the need for fungicide treatments as higher temperatures and wet conditions persist. Remember, the pathogen is always present, but the disease doesn’t occur until conditions are right. Be ready for it.
Rob Golembiewski | Green Solutions Specialist, Bayer
Providing quality golf course playing surfaces is more challenging today due to environmental conditions (e.g., climate change) and intensive maintenance practices. In my opinion, these factors have contributed to increased disease pressure as well as the occurrence of diseases not typically seen within certain geographic regions. As a result, superintendents are implementing fungicide programs to manage turf diseases but are also searching for products that provide additional plant health benefits beyond disease control. Fortunately, through research, companies are incorporating new, innovative technology into their fungicides to bridge solutions for both biotic and abiotic stresses.