Integrated Pest Management Update

Second in a continuing series

Parks & Rec Business Report Yields Results!

Editor’s note: This article is part of an on-going series focused on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs aimed at minimizing, not eliminating, the use of pesticides on sports fields. The author, Randy Gaddo, is Director of Leisure Services in Peachtree City, Georgia, and is taking us play-by-play through his efforts to formulate an effective IPM program for his sports fields.

I’ve learned first-hand that advertising in Parks & Rec Business really works. After my first IPM series was published in the July issue, I received calls and e-mails from all over the world. One of those calls came from Tanya Steffler, full-time IPM Program Technician for the City of Oshawa, Canada.

As it turns out, the City of Oshawa (pronounced OH-SHAH-WA) is the second city in Canada to implement a formal, budgeted and staffed citywide IPM program. The city is so serious about making IPM work that they hired two full-time maintenance staff to help Steffler implement the program (on-time mowing, aerating, product application, fertilizing, etc.). Here’s her story…

Oshawa, Canada – A Case Study

Steffler, who has a degree in environmental technology and plant biology, has been on the job for just under three years. She said that, when she arrived in the city, the 42 soccer fields quickly became her priority.

“The fields had not been sprayed with insecticides since 1999,” she said, “and they were not in the best of shape. Essentially, weeds had taken over the fields.”

Steffler decided to take first things first and conducted a professional audit of the sports fields. (See IPM. What does it mean?, written by Sean McHugh, page XX, for more information on conducting your own site assessments/audits.)

The audit highlighted the problems with the fields and made recommendations to correct them. These recommendations formed the base of her IPM program, which includes the use of synthetic herbicides to get the weeds under control (she said they still use synthetic herbicides if the weed infestations are over a predetermined threshold limit).

Steffler believes that once the weeds are sprayed and under control, she will be able to implement an aggressive maintenance schedule that will avoid her having to resort to spraying again. As Steffler notes, healthy turf really prevents the infestation of pests, insects, weeds or diseases.

She also uses more natural means of improving soil quality. For example, she adds kelp, which introduces beneficial micronutrients and trace elements to the soil, and is a food source for soil microorganisms.

Field-Use Policies

As with all municipalities, Steffler is also struggling to develop a field-use policy that will keep user groups off the fields in very early spring, late fall and in rainy periods during the season. As we all know, these are the times when most of the damage is done to sports fields. Predictably, Steffler says, her user groups aren’t very interested in adopting the policy.

Sound familiar? I know that, if she’s successful, I want a copy of it because we have the same problem here in Georgia. Teams get on the fields before the Bermuda grass has a chance to green up, and they tear up the thatch. By the time May comes, there’s no thatch to green up. Fall is the same. Our teams play game after game on grass that has gone dormant. And, try as we might, it’s nearly impossible to keep everybody off the fields when it’s raining.

However, she’s not giving up. She believes it’s an integral part of her IPM program.

Time Is Slipping, Slipping, Slipping…

She did confirm one thing I’ve heard before – IPM is a time-consuming process. I know those two maintenance people are moving all the time, working to keep up with all 42 fields. And, it’s Steffler’s job to stay ahead of them. She needs to inspect every field regularly, monitor the weed growth and turf health and decide what actions need to be taken.

Steffler is also charged with educating the public about pesticide reduction/alternatives and hopes to conduct more public sessions as time allows.

Going forward, I will be using what she offers to help implement an IPM program here in Peachtree City, Georgia. I am going to interview her and write a complete account of what I learn for an upcoming issue of Parks & Rec Business — so, keep an eye out for that report.

Peachtree City, Georgia

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