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Management of Annual Bluegrass on Golf Courses: Improved Practices for Maintenance Pest Conrol and Viable Techniques for Transition to More Desirable Grasses

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Project Description: 

Annual bluegrass (Poa annua) is a highly invasive weed on short-mown golf course surfaces (fairways, tees, putting greens) where it often becomes the dominant species despite extensive attempts to suppress it. Superintendents often resort to managing it instead of more pest-tolerant bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.). P. annua can provide an acceptable playing surface for putting greens and fairways when properly maintained, but this requires extensive chemical inputs due to its lack of stress tolerance and susceptibility to many diseases and insect pests. P. annua maintenance on golf courses in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic has become increasingly complicated by two emergent pests. The annual bluegrass weevil (ABW) (Listronotus maculicollis) and anthracnose diseases (anthracnose basal rot = ABR) caused by the fungus Colletotrichum cereale have become in recent years the most severe pests of P. annua. Their control often depends almost entirely on chemical pesticides with multiple applications required throughout the growing season. However, the general public is increasingly concerned about the potential for pesticide exposure and long-term effects to humans and pets and the possibility of ground and surface water contamination.

There is an urgent need to refine our understanding of the biology, ecology, and pathogenesis of these pests, develop better IPM tools to assess and monitor their impact, discover and deploy more effective pest management practices, and gain a better understanding of the stresses that affect P. annua and how to mitigate them. Our interdependent research strategies will lead to improved exchange of information among turfgrass management specialists, entomologists, weed scientists, breeders, pathologists, and physiologists throughout the United States. The information will lead to improved management practices being adopted by golf course superintendents including the use of new biological, biorational, and chemical strategies, and new cultural and ecologically based control techniques. Adoption and implementation of this information by practitioners will result in improved management of P. annua and its major pests, or the transition of P. annua-dominated areas to more sustainable turfgrasses with reduced pesticide requirements, and ultimately enhanced economic and environmental health benefits across the region.