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Integrated Pest Management for Turf

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Background

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic approach to problem solving and decision making for turf management. In practicing IPM, the turf manager utilizes information about the turf, pests, and environmental conditions in combination with targeted cultural practices. Pest populations and possible impact are monitored in accordance with a pre-determined management plan. Should monitoring indicate that action is justified, appropriate pest control measures are taken to prevent or control unacceptable turf damage. A sound IPM program has the potential to reduce the reliance on pesticides, because applications are made only when all other options to maintain the quality and integrity of the turf have been exhausted.

The key components of an IPM system for turf can be tailored to fit most management situations. The steps in developing a complete IPM program are as follows:

Assess site conditions and history

Determine and record site conditions, including current and past problems and potential future problems. The following should be included: a detailed site map including drainage and irrigation systems; a determination of functional condition and adequacy of drainage and irrigation systems; the age, condition, and species composition of the turf; the physical condition, texture, and variation of soils on the site; a current soil pH and nutrient analysis; the fertility history and a summary of the current fertility program; a pest history and current or potential problems. For information on how to obtain soil nutrient and physical analyses, refer to the UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab at http://ag.umass.edu/services/soil-plant-nutrient-testing-laboratory or 413-545-2311.

Determine client or customer expectations

What is the intended use and expected quality of the turf? The answer to this question will help in making strategic decisions in regard to cultural and pest management options. In general, as the level of quality desired and the intensity of turf use increase, the required level of management attention and the need for inputs increase in turn.

Determine action thresholds

How much pest activity can be tolerated before action is necessary? This question will help to determine the response, or ‘action’, threshold. The action threshold is the point at which a pest population reaches a level capable of causing unacceptable damage to the turf.

The higher the level of turf quality desired, the lower the action threshold and the more likely it is that a turf manager will need to make a pesticide application to manage a problem pest. Appropriate threshold levels may vary considerably based on management goals and user expectations. The Nematode Management and Insect Management sections of this guide contain information on specific population threshold guidelines.

Establish a scouting and monitoring program

The purpose of scouting and monitoring is to gather information on pests and other problems (weather, environmental, cultural, soil, etc.) that are either currently compromising turf health and/or function or have the potential to do so at some point in the future. Monitoring refers to the regular, non-specific observation of a managed site, such as a quick visual scan conducted while mowing, for example. Scouting involves more focused observation with a specific goal in mind, as in determining the population of a problem pest or the cause of an area of thinning turf. Managed sites should be checked on a routine basis for pest presence, pest population density, and pest damage. Other potential problems (i.e. heat stress, excessive thatch accumulation, etc) should also be noted and recorded. Consult the appropriate pest sections of this guide for pest occurrence information useful in scouting disease, nematode, insect, and weed pests. Refer to the Turf Pest Damage Monitoring Chart (Appendix A) for approximations of when damage is most likely to occur.

Identify the pest/problem

What is the cause of the problem? Is it the result of a biological pest (disease, insect, weed), an environmental stress (heat, drought, shade), or a mechanical stress (scalping, aeration, traffic)? If an insect, disease, weed or nematode population affects a turf area, the turf manager must be knowledgeable about the life cycle of the problem pest. For example, when is damage most likely to occur? What is the most susceptible stage for control? In addition to this guide, many excellent references for the identification of insect, disease, and weed problems are available. Consult the References page of this web site for a list of suggested resources and references.

Implement a management decision

Prevention and control measures do not always involve the use of a pesticide. Proper cultural practices promote the health and viability of turfgrass, making the turf less susceptible to pest damage. Cultural management techniques as part of an IPM program should include: correct turf establishment procedures; the use of appropriate turfgrass species and cultivars; a carefully considered, site-specific fertility program; efficient irrigation; proper mowing height, equipment and frequency; traffic management procedures; and the use of supplementary practices such as aeration, topdressing, or overseeding when appropriate and necessary.

If a pest control measure is needed, the manager should consider the options available. Pesticides should be used only when other options and alternatives are not sufficient to manage the problem to the necessary extent. A material should be carefully selected based on its effectiveness, its potential to impact the environment, and the potential exposure to applicators and others. For example, if the site is adjacent to surface water (lakes, ponds, or streams) or has sandy soil in an area with a shallow water table, then mobile or persistent materials would be less appropriate to use than less mobile or less persistent materials.

Preventive pesticide applications should only be used within an established IPM plan. That includes scouting for pest activity regularly, providing the best agronomic conditions for the turf (minimizing stress), and keeping accurate records. However, if an area experiences pest damage each year (i.e. crabgrass, or white grubs), and scouting in previous years has confirmed the presence of damaging populations, then a preventive application may be appropriate. In select cases, preventive applications are preferable to curative applications owing to factors such as lower application rates, lower non-target toxicity, greater effectiveness, lower cost and/or existing application restrictions.

There are biological control options available for managing pest problems. Many of these alternatives (for example fungistatic bacteria, entomopathogenic nematodes, and growth regulators) are applied through traditional application equipment and handled like traditional materials, but may behave differently. When employing biological control options as part of an IPM program, the turf manager must know what to expect from these products and how to maximize their effectiveness.

Evaluate results and keep accurate records

The turf manager should determine if measures taken to manage a pest or alleviate a problem were truly effective in protecting and maintaining the quality and viability of the turf. These evaluations should be maintained as a key aspect of the written record.

As an essential component of a complete IPM program, records should contain all relevant information including, but not limited to: weather and environmental data such as humidity, precipitation, temperature (air and soil), soil pH, etc.; pest problems and pest “hot spots”; pesticide applications and results; timing, frequency, and effectiveness of cultural practices; fertilizer and other material applications; soil and tissue test results; and uncommon occurrences such as flood, prolonged ice cover, etc.

Communicate

Communication of findings, intentions, and actions to interested parties helps to make an Integrated Pest Management program complete. It is vital that lines of communication exist between supervisors, crew, and clients or customers. Effective communication will help to promote effective scouting and monitoring, and will enhance the success of management decisions and subsequent results.