Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Grant, Ph.D., New York State IPM Program.

Richard Belowski, golf-course superintendent at Battle Island State Park in Fulton, New York, has received an Excellence in IPM award. He is receiving it for his commitment to the testing and adoption of biologically-based, ecologically sound approaches to golf-course management.

Belowski learned both his craft and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on the job. It was a “right place, right time” thing for Belowski’s immersion in IPM, says Jennifer Grant, director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYS IPM) Program. Belowski was on the crew at the Bethpage State Park golf course where the world’s first long-term research in reduced-input practices began in 2000. Grant, also a turfgrass specialist, spearheaded that work.

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Grant, Ph.D., New York State IPM Program.

Now at Battle Island, always a hot spot for white grubs, Belowski is working with Cornell entomologists Elson Shields and Jennifer Grant to test if augmenting native nematodes — microscopic worms that populate the soil — can kill grubs and persist over time so managers won’t have to pay for expensive annual applications. Tens of thousands of these nematodes can fit into a handful of soil, but not all types of nematodes are proficient white grub killers. In New York, the ones that hit insect pests hardest don’t have common names. Know them by their tongue-twisting Latin names: Steinernematids and Heterorhabditids.

“Rich is completely supportive of our work,” says Shields. “He’ll even close down entire fairways when necessary and willingly explain to golfers that the fairway is closed to allow cutting-edge research.”

Nor are grub-killing nematodes the only research that Cornell faculty have brought to Battle Island. Some of the projects Rich helps with are common to all state-owned golf courses in New York, and if Belowski’s careful scouting uncovers a sudden pest outbreak, says Cornell horticulturalist Robert Portmess, “he alerts people at other area courses.“

“Rich has a keen interest in teaching IPM concepts to his staff. It’s his outreach to players, to his staff, to neighboring golf courses that makes him such a pleasure to work with,” Portmess said.

“Rich is an avid learner,” Grant said. “And despite his lack of formal training, or maybe because of it, he is self-taught with an unquenchable enthusiasm for everything IPM.” Belowski received his award on November 17 at New York’s Turf and Grounds Expo in Rochester, New York.