Integrated Pest Management for Turf
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a system which entails using common sense and good cultural practices in the maintenance of turf. The elements of a successful IPM approach to turf
- identification of the source of any "problems"
- if a problem is caused by an insect, disease, or weed, knowledge of the life cycle of the pest
- determination of the tolerance level for a pest, (i.e., how many is too many? How much damage to the turf is acceptable?)
- regular scouting of the site to determine the pest population level and whether or not the tolerance level is being exceeded
- determination of whether or not pest control is necessary
- identification and implementation of cultural techniques to manage a pest or problem situation when appropriate and effective
- use of pesticides only when other options and alternatives are not sufficient to manage a problem to the extent necessary
- selection of pesticides which will minimize disruption to the environment and potential exposure to applicators and others
- communication of findings, intentions, and actions to all parties involved
- evaluation of action; did the course of action followed alleviate the problem?
To identify the source of any problems, the turf manager must be familiar with the turf use, customer or client expectations and local conditions. Many poor turf conditions are a result of unadapted species and/or cultivars, agronomic imbalances or improper cultural practices, rather than pest activity. So the turf manager must be familiar with specific site conditions. For example:
- is it compacted?
- does it drain well?
- does the irrigation system provide even coverage?
- has there been adequate rain or irrigation?
- is too much water being applied?
- is the timing and amount of water being applied correct?
Turf Type; Mowing patterns and height
- is the species or cultivar adapted to the site and to the use of the turf?
Use of the Turf
- is it an ornamental front lawn?
- is it a heavily used municipal athletic field?
If the turf is infested with an insect, disease, or weed, the turf manager must be knowledgeable about the life cycle of the pest. For example, when is damage most likely to occur? What is the most susceptible stage for control? How much pest activity can be tolerated before action must be taken? It is critical to set up a program which incorporates scouting or inspection of the turf regularly, to watch for pest outbreaks or agronomic problems.
Once it becomes apparent that a pest outbreak is likely to occur or that a tolerance level for a pest is going to be exceeded, the turf manager must seek management options. Sometimes cultural manipulations and controls are sufficient. For example, raising the mowing height, even for a few weeks, can sometimes enable a turf to tolerate disease or weed activity. Fertility adjustments can sometimes stave off damage from certain kinds of diseases.
Sometimes a traditional pesticide must be used to control a pest which has developed beyond the tolerance level. When this happens, a turf manager must be familiar with the pesticide options, and if at all possible, use a material which will not interfere with various environmental concerns. For example, if the site is near surface water, (lakes, ponds, or streams) or in sandy soil in an area with a shallow water table, then mobile or persistent pesticides would be less appropriate to use than less mobile or less persistent materials. In other words, read and follow the Environmental Concerns and all other parts of the pesticide label!
There are several biological control options available now for controlling insect pests. Some of these alternatives (for example, bacteria, nematodes, growth regulators) are applied through traditional sprayers and handled like traditional insecticides but behave differently. In an IPM program, a turf manager must know what to expect from these biological control options and how to maximize their effectiveness.
One area of an IPM program which is often overlooked is communication. It is very important that lines of communication exist between supervisors, crew, and clients or customers. This will ensure effective monitoring and scouting, and will enhance management decisions and results.
IPM, Integrated Pest Management, or Intelligent Plant Management, can be considered a form of stress management. Turf may be able to handle one or two stresses at a time, but perhaps not three or four stresses at once. Putting together a formal IPM program is a commitment, but it is also, to a large degree, common sense. Most successful turf managers are already practicing several key parts of IPM. A little more attention to detail (scouting, identifying options, keeping records, evaluating results) will result in healthy, functional turf and a minimum of environmental impact.