Monday, March 17, 2014

Researchers Testing a Better Way to Control Microdochium Patch on Putting Greens

Microdochium patch.
Microdochium patch, or Fusarium patch as it’s also known, is a problem for golf courses in cool-weather climates like the Pacific Northwest. The fungus creates dinner-plate-sized dead spots on putting greens that are both ugly and can send putts off course.

Control used to mean regular applications of synthetic fungicides – every three to four weeks nine month out of the year – or about 15,000 applications just in the Pacific Northwest alone. That costs the typical golf course about $20,000 a year.

However, new research conducted by Oregon State University’s Alexander Kowalewski and funded by the Western IPM Center is developing ways to manage Microdochium patch that are both better for the environment and far cheaper for course managers.

Kowalewski and graduate research assistant Clint Mattox found that combining a commercial crop oil developed for turfgrass disease and insect suppression, Civitas One, with sulfur or potassium phosphite was very effective at controlling Microdochium patch. They also determined that applications of iron sulfate plus light rates of nitrogen were equally effective.

“Our untreated test plots had about 40 percent disease,” Mattox explained. “The plots treated with Civitas One and sulfur, many of them had no disease, and some had just one percent disease. It’s as effective as synthetic fungicides.”

The research is being successfully replicated at Washington State University, as well.
Kowalewski said the research also showed a surprising finding – that nitrogen applications to greens through the winter can be good.

“The traditional recommendation is to stop nitrogen applications through the winter,” he explained. “What we’re seeing is that the turf is better off with some additional nitrogen.”

Further, the researchers estimate these treatments would save the typical golf course more than $14,000 a year, which translates to a savings of $4.5 million in Oregon, Washington and Northern California alone.

One part of Mattox’s research is recreating the foot traffic a typical putting green sees during the week, so for five days a week, he’s out walking over particular test plots in his golf shoes.

“One day I’m out for 86 minutes, one day 20 minutes, one day 10 minutes, one day six minutes and one day five,” he said. “It simulates 73 rounds of golf.”

Mattox, who came to Oregon State after several years as a golf course manager in Europe, said a non-synthetic management option is especially important there.

“Europe is really tightening down on pesticides,” he said. “We’re starting to see those pressures in the States as well, so another IPM option will be welcomed.”

Both Civitas One and the sulfur being used in the tests are approved for organic production. Potassium phosphite is labeled as a synthetic fertilizer, so is not organically approved.

Over time, the sulfur, potassium or iron would increase the acidity of the soil and eventually damage the greens as well, so the next step in the research will be to test ways to buffer the acidity of the treatments with various calcium sources and to make sure that these treatments for a winter disease don’t cause unexpected problems in the summer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

UC Davis to Host a Conference on the Economics of Ag Pests and Diseases Later this Month

“Pests, Germs and Seeds:  The Economics of Policies, Programs and Technologies for Managing Agricultural Pests and Diseases” is the subject of a conference that will be held on March 28 and 29 at UC Davis.

Pests and diseases of plants and animals impose major costs on the agricultural economy by reducing crop and livestock production, increasing food prices paid by consumers, undermining export potential, and potentially undermining resource values. Government and industry have adopted a range of policies and programs for mitigating the damage done by pests and diseases and containing the costs. These policies and programs include strategies such as exclusion, surveillance, control and mitigation programs. Underpinning all such programs is knowledge and technology derived from agricultural R&D. The purpose of this conference is to exchange information and ideas and present results from economic research into the costs and benefits of different policies, programs, and technologies for managing agricultural pests and diseases, including investments in agricultural R&D related to pests and diseases. 

Featured speakers include Pam Marrone, CEO and founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, speaking on “Trends and New Market Opportunities in Bio-pesticides” and Alan Olmstead, distinguished research professor at UC Davis, speaking on “Science, Policy and Animal Health in the United States: The Case of Texas Fever.”

For registration and program information, click here.