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Allturf seminar keeps superintendents up to date


January 16, 2012
By Mike Jiggens

An opening welcome by Allturf Ltd. president Paula Sheppard began a day of informative sessions for Allturf and Syngenta Canada at a professional turfgrass seminar in November at Brampton, Ont.’s Lionhead Golf & Country Club.

Pesticide registration consultant Dr. Brenda Nailor, using a new presentation software called Prezi, covered IPM regulations and refreshed users about container rinsing/disposal requirements. She explained new product label information that outlines buffer zones, gave details about the IPM audits, explained how to handle discrepancies and how to handle posting the annual report.

It is critical the auditor easily finds the annual pesticide report in a prominent place at the golf course. It is not acceptable to put it in a binder out of sight. Superintendents can make life easier by organizing files in the computer and practise accessing those files, ahead of the site audit day.

One superintendent set up two monitors to allow easy access for the auditor, while doing everything electronically. Ensure the files are backed up as they must be available for at least five years.  Utilizing Syngenta’s GreenCast program on the web for calibration pointers and active ingredient calculations can prove helpful in the process. The company also has an accurate turf disease forecaster.

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When scouting, complete a form for Primo Maxx by noting you observed excessive turf growth. This may not be needed now, but will be in future audits. Also note preventative applications of root and snow mould products on the scouting reports, even though they are not required now. The scouting reports must be done at least every seven days, not just once a week. 

Nailor gave detailed information on the public meetings that are mandatory, starting in 2012. Currently there is no guidance from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and golf courses will be free to arrange their own format. However, the MOE  is expected to soon publish on its website a technical bulletin. One will need to give notice of the meeting two weeks in advance and hold the meeting prior to Dec. 1, and to keep the notice on file for two years and to present the report.  One may wish to have and keep a sign in sheet to show who attended the meeting.

Some of Nailor’s suggestions were:

• keep it positive and make everyone welcome
• relay the message that properly trained people are using the products and golf is friendly to the environment
• take the opportunity to highlight other positive things tied to the golf course, including its involvement with Audubon, fundraising, school interfacing, etc.
• most importantly, don’t get pulled into a confrontation or scientific conversation.
As a final thought, Nailor encouraged all golf course management to attend the meeting and be supportive.

Human health and pesticide regulation

Dr. Angela Hofstra, Syngenta technical registration manager, spoke on human health and pesticide regulation.
Describing the discrepancy between a negative perception of chemicals, including pesticides, and their actual safety profile, she contrasted food and pesticide ingredients, as well as natural and synthetic chemicals.

Many natural compounds are much more toxic than synthetic compounds. For example, Banner MAXX® is less toxic than caffeine or mushroom toxin. Hofstra described how all registered pesticide products are thoroughly tested for potentially negative effects on vital organs, their cancer-causing potential, any possible impact on a developing fetus and the young, as well as the hazards from a spill/splash or accidental consumption. 

She also explained the process of developing  crop protection products.  It is a funnel system that slowly reduces options from hundreds of possibilities down to one potential product. This product is then subjected to a rigourous risk assessment by government agencies, including the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) a department of Health Canada, before ever getting to commercial use. The PMRA also has a re-evaluation program that looks at active ingredients every 15 years. 

Hofstra ended her presentation by describing the inaccurate perception that pesticides cause cancer in spite of the fact that the International Agency for Research in  Cancer (IARC) has concluded there is no evidence linking pesticide use to cancer. 

In summary, “What is there that is not poison? All things are poison and nothing is without poison. Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.”—Paracelsus 1493-1541. 

A good comparison is botulinum toxin which is highly poisonous to humans, but also used in miniscule doses as Botox® for cosmetic and therapeutic use in people.

Environmental, human safety of pesticides

Dr. Paul Hoekstra, Syngenta technical registration manager, spoke on research conducted to demonstrate the environmental and human safety of pesticides. At Syngenta, more than 5,000 employees are involved in the research, development and safe production of health-conscious pesticide products, taking eight to 12 years and costs of more than $250 million.

Misinformation on the Canadian regulatory system and the breath of rigorous scientific understanding of pesticide safety has turned pesticide usage into an emotional issue. Those in the industry need to be comfortable ambassadors on both the value that these products bring to the golf course industry as well as their safe use when applied according to the label. Product labels contain valuable information on simple steps that should be taken to minimize environmental exposure.

For example, vegetative buffers around water ways and other sensitive areas, avoiding application during heavy rains and reducing drift by being aware of spray quality (droplet size) and wind conditions all play an important role in reducing environmental impacts of pesticides.

Hoekstra also raised questions we may need to answer for the public, based on uneducated or fearful thoughts.  A proper science-based answer is critical. Reinforce the point that pesticides are thoroughly studied and strictly regulated by Health Canada, and, of course, follow label directions and limitations to ensure safety of workers and environment.

The morning sessions rewarded attendees with three IPM continuing education credits and increased awareness and understanding of the contentious, emotional topic of pesticide introduction use, and compliance. All those in attendance agreed it was a helpful, informative day provided by two industry leaders who continue to provide education, and direction in the area of turfgrass management.

For more information and access to IPM tools visit http://www.allturf.ca.