Ban the pesticide abusers

01 01_11_ipm_logoby Mike Riva.  As a golf course superintendent/turf manager of more than 30 years, I agree that so-called cosmetic grass/turf pesticides should be banned, but only for people who are not trained to use them in a safe, effective and responsible manner.

Pest control products are a tool that professional turf/grass and horticultural managers use as a last resort to help them when chronic situations arise, and in reality, professional managers of plants use very little pesticide to manage turf grass and other plant pests. Professional turf grass managers integrate the management of pests, be they weeds, fungus or animal, as part of a broader plan to grow and cultivate healthy plants that will overcome threats posed by pests. Occasionally weeds need to be sprayed and fungus controlled in certain situations. When it is deemed necessary, certified pest applicators know how to use pest-control products safely, effectively and responsibly and the products used have been researched, tested and approved as safe for use in human environments by the most stringent approval body in the world, Health Canada. A total ban on turf pest control gents would result in a significant loss of turf grass in the urban community and made people may not be aware of the importance natural turf grass has in the health of our urban environment. A typical single home lawn produces enough oxygen in one day to sustain four people, a sports field enough for 50, a golf course, 1,200. Natural turf grass cools and cleans the air of dust, smoke and other pollutants; it is proven to help people relax and absorbs noise. Landscape designs dominated by rocks and synthetic grass do just the opposite and while sparse plants are good, there are simply not enough of them to equal the benefit of a good, healthy stand of turf grass. Some of each is the best solution. The problem with weed infestation is that although weeds such as clover are green, they produce a far less dense ground cover than turf and will allow other noxious weeds to infest play areas and sports fields, reducing the quality and inherently the safety factor or recreation facilities and park areas. Using pesticides as a curative measure is not the answer to these issues but play an important role as a tool to the responsible manager in maintaining a uniform surface that will be safe and enjoyable for everyone to use. If you want to see the real abusers of pesticides, look to the people on your block that have the greenest, weed-free lawn ever in the middle of July, with no spots on their roses and no caterpillar tents. There is a good chance they have used far too much water and fertilizer to keep their lawn ultra-green and have cultivated a weak stand of grass. To deal with the weeds in the grass, mold on the roses and caterpillars in the trees, they can go to the local garden centre and purchase pest control products for use at their discretion, products that professional plant managers have been trained to use. People may say golf courses and recreation green spaces are weed-free, green oasis using cultural practices that are a detriment to the environment. However, I know as a typical caretaker of a large green space, golf courses are not weed free, but I do have the ability to select the types of grasses best suited to the climate in which they are grown. I make sure to apply the correct amount of water and fertilizer in the first place and then use pesticides only if it is warranted. I would agree that cosmetic pesticides should not be available to or used by the untrained general public, and if they are sold in retail centres, should be made available only to people who are able to prove that they are trained and certified to use them as they are intended. Discussion regarding the use of pesticides of all types in our community should be about developing as a green community. Turf grass and the sustainable management of it must be part of a plan for our parks, sports facilities, homes and gardens. Such a plan can be supported with an abundance of factual, scientific research data for the safe use of pest control products as part of responsible green space management to the benefit of the entire community. 

Mike Riva is currently co-owner and operations manager of the new Grounds Guys franchise in Vernon/Salmon Arm and  operates Lorwal Golf & Turf Solutions working as the course maintenance contractor at Canoe Creek Golf Course in Salmon Arm. Mike states, “last year our Superintendent there, Al Feenstra, and crew were able to achieve the most votes for best conditioned golf course by the readers of BC Golf Guide, without using hardly any pesticide!!”

Published in the Vernon Morning Star: February 03, 2012 1:00 AM.  Reprinted with permission from Mike Riva.