May 31, 2013

As summer approaches, lawn care companies are gearing up for calls on summer diseases. But before you reach for a pesticide, consider what Richard Buckley, Plant Diagnostic Laboratory Director at Rutgers University, has to say about turfgrass diseases: “Poor turf is not the result of disease, disease is a result of poor turf. Be a good turf disease manager by becoming a competent agronomist. Then you can grow turf that tolerates, resists, or quickly recovers from pathogen attack.”

Prevention is the key to disease management in turf.

Cultural conditions that predispose turf grass to diseases include close mowing, improper nitrogen applications, light and/or frequent irrigation, soil pH, excessive thatch and poor drainage. In fact when you look at most recommendations for disease control, the first thing that is mentioned is correcting cultural procedures first.

In addition to adjusting cultural practices to favor healthy turf, research has shown the use of organic matter and inoculants to be effective in reducing turf diseases. Eric Nelson and his colleagues at Cornell indicate that compost derived from poultry litter was effective in controlling the soil-borne fungal disease Pythium, because it contained high populations of disease suppressive organisms. However, compost derived from municipal biosolids, while as effective in controlling Pythium did so by providing appropriate nourishment to disease suppressive organisms in the soil

Read Article “Compost-Induced suppression of turf grass diseases.”

Read Article “Microbial mechanics of compost-induced disease suppression.”

Biologically enriching the soil with mature compost will produce a vigorous, disease-resistant turf. And while spreading compost may not be acceptable to most lawn care companies, it is no longer the only way to add organic matter containing beneficial organisms. There are several good granular compost and liquid inoculation products available to the professional lawn care provider that are just as easy to apply and as cost effective as traditional fertilizers and fungicides.

Keith Haitz, President of Blades Landscaping/Hydro-Green in Mount Laurel NJ states, “Since we began implementing organic based fertilizers 3 years ago, we have seen a significant decline in turf grass stress and disease, and deeper color as well”.

Taking preemptive measures means fewer customer complaints and higher retention rates. And as the public asks for safer, effective ways to treat their lawns and government regulations keep getting tougher, what better way to be ahead of your competition than by meeting these demands as business opportunities rather than as roadblocks?

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