- What Will We Do Without Them
the next 5-10 years much is set to change with regard to disease suppression on
our golf courses. How dramatic the changes will be depends on the legislators
and the legislation they impose, but "as sure as eggs are eggs" every
golf club in the land will be affected to some degree.
clubs whose dependence on chemicals is minimal will prosper. Those who rely on
an arsenal of fungicides to control rampant disease on a regular basis had better
watch out! Many of the products that such clubs have come to rely on might not
be available for much longer, and whether you like it or not, the way the course
is managed will have to change. As a general guide, if a club is spending more
than £1,500-2,000 a year on fungicides there is something wrong and they
need to put it right while they still can.
was a time when British golf courses were managed without recourse to pesticides
- before WW2 there were very few available. However, over the last 30 years the
over zealous pursuit of "the perfect green golf course" has made many
a club too reliant on the chamical. Prudent use is, of course, perfectly acceptable
and forms part of a well developed Integrated Pest and disease Management (IPM)
programme. Flagrant over use ofen through the mis-diagnosis of disease has got
us into the current situation where many of these products are now under legislative
is that the well-managed British cours suffers minimally from disease - indded
I visit many clubs wehre disease has not been encountered for 8-10 years. When
diseases do strike they are few in number and rarely severe. Yet inappropriate
use abounds - it was only last week that I encountered a popular contract fungicide
being use for Red Thread!! What cost to the pocket and the environment!
Thread and Anthracnose are perfect examples of fungal diseases that occur quite
regularly in the Uk but can usually be controlled without recourse to fungicides.
Indeed, one can argue that in these two cases cultural control is more appropriate.
Red Thread is a low fertility indicator and its presence is a sign that you have
a sward composition of some worth. It rarely needs to be controlled chemically
and can usually be overcome with an application of nitrogen. Anthracnose can be
alleviated by aeration to overcome surface compaction. The disease is a basal
rot of annual meadow grass and its presence is indicative of moisture retention
at the base of the turf. Chemical control of Anthracnose is never effective.
Patch is probably the most common disease in the UK and arguably the most aggressive.
Nevertheless, it is still relatively rare on many courses where annual meadow
grass is controlled by good management. Avoiding the twin evils of over watering
and over feeding reduces the likelihood of Fusarium attack. So does completing
the autumn aeration and top-dressing programmes early. Making applications of
bulky top-dressing to wet autumn greens and smothering the turf is a recipe for
disaster! Autumn and winter Fusarium outbreaks can be controlled using sulphate
of iron. Summer outbreaks rarely require fungicide inputs - the grass is growing
and the fickle British climate means that conditions which favoured the disease
in the first place rarely persist.
Spot appears on all the fungicide labels and the manufacturers would have you
believe that it is a common disease. I have seen it one in 12 years advisory work
in the UK and that was on a tennis court. Do not worry about it - if you get it,
a low does of nitrogen is the answer again.
only other disease that might be encountered is Take-all. This disease is now
more common that it was becuase of the perverse popularity of using bent grass
monocultures on high pH sand root zones during the construction of new golf courses.
None of the fungicides available on the UK market will control Take-all and their
use might well make the disease worse. We are forced in this case to use cultural
techniques to control the disease and they might well involve root zone acidification
and using fescues for over-seeding purposes.
are fortunate in the UK because we experience few of the aggressive fungal pathogens
that attack turf elsewhere. Further more, many of the outbreaks we do get can
be managed culturally at minimal cost, provided of course tht you have the information
to do so.
possible revoation of fungicides over the next few years means that those who
have chosen to manage disease in an integrated manner will have a distinct advantage
over those who have not. Until now there has been an element of choice about how
to manage - in the future this may no longer exist.
2001 we sit at a crossroad. In Europe, many countries already experience severe
restrictions on the use of fungicides and other chemicals on the golf course.
In Denmark, for example, there are plans to outlaw all chemical use on golf courses
by 2003. In Holland and Germany, fungicide and lumbricide use is restricted as
I write. Paradoxically, the US market continues to use massive quantities of fungicide
to sustain monoculture systems (not only on greens but fairways too!!) and this
seems to fundamentally ignore biological reasoning. Such systems which have gained
favour in the UK because of the short term excellence associated with them will
prove to be nothing short of unsustainable if European style directives reach
knows when this will happen but it surely will. Clubs are recommended to make
the most of the time left to get back to basics and re-develop turf systems that
are inherently more resistant to disease. Your golf course, your members, and
the wider environment will all benefit.
J Beggs BSc Hons, STRI Manager / R&A Agronomist