By Mike Jiggens
Practisingâ€ˆintegrated pest management (IPM) and keeping documentation
of observations made, products used and strategies enacted were things
already happening at the Credit Valley Golf &â€ˆCountry Club in
Mississauga, Ont. in advance of the provincial cosmetic pesticide ban
which was implemented in 2009.
As a condition of the legislation, golf courses in Ontario were granted exception status provided they become IPM-accredited and that they presented their documented practices once a year at a public forum.
Credit Valley superintendent Jeff Stauffer and his staff have been fully engaged in the documentation process, he told his colleagues from across the country in February at the Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show in Calgary.
The documentation process is more involved than dealing solely with pest management, he said. It includes managing the golf course property, from cultural controls, irrigation and fertility, and how they impact pests.
“Were we at our facilities documenting everything that we needed to demonstrate our practices and responsibilities of managing the property?” Stauffer said that became the question after much of the IPMâ€ˆprogram’s components had been completed.
Observations made by Stauffer and his staff during their travels on the golf course were recorded onto paper for future reference. He said collecting and assessing the data helps him to make good decisions in property management.
Maintaining a focus around IPM brings all involved parties into that one focus. He said that not only involves his staff, but also members, boards and committees as well as legislators.
It’s an integrated team approach and one in which he relies on the efforts of his assistants and technicians.
“This is not something I can do myself.”
Collectively, Stauffer and his staff will ensure all observations made and data gathered is inputed. The more collected and observed, the more tools will be used, and that information will demonstrate the decision-making process.
Each member of his team carries a pocket sheet on a daily basis. As they go about their normal rounds, an individual assigned to change pin locations is apt to notice things on the golf course differently than one who is fertilizing tees. Stauffer said each crew member is to document anything he sees which is out of the ordinary.
“That allows somebody else to investigate what they see.”
All notes from each crew member are transferred into spreadsheets. The information is fed into a computer and is accessible by all key personnel.
Everyone, including student employees, are urged to document their findings while engaged in their daily tasks. Stauffer said if one who is mowing sees something out of the usual, he can bring it to the team’s attention for investigation which it can be determined if the matter is pest-related or not.
If, in fact, the matter is pest-related, an assessment will be made as to what happened, the pest itself will be identified and other pertinent information will be documented, including the infestation level, counts and size. The data, originally noted on pocket sheets, will be transferred to spreadsheets.
Stauffer said weather documentation is a fundamental component of all information gathered. Weather data is collected from the Internet, including Environmental Canada’s website, as well as from local sources such as an on-site weather station. Other weather-related data is collected manually such as from soil temperature probes and air temperatures.
Anything which promotes plant health, conditioning and playability is also documented because it’s all tied in together, he said. Pest control applications are fully documented in detail to show why a decision was made to apply a particular product.
Stauffer said one of his staff members developed a series of spreadsheets which are interrelated and interconnected whereby if a fertilizer application is entered it is tracked down from the greens until the annual summary. If someone makes a note of a pest on one spreadsheet, it gets tracked from daily tracking to whether it was a weed, insect or disease.
“It’s kind of neat to utilize that technology.”
Four years ago, Credit Valley entered into an agreement with a Mississauga company with the installation of a weather station on the golf course property that served both parties’ needs. Data collected from the weather station has proven invaluable. Everything related to irrigation management is tracked including evapotranspiration data, rainfall, air temperature, local weather for the day and historical information. The data is then used as a reference point in decision-making around disease management and irrigation scheduling.
There is a section of irrigation requirements for the day which benefits the other party involved in the weather station arrangement. Stauffer said the other party manages irrigation systems for commercial properties throughout Mississauga and has three other stations throughout the municipality. The information is calibrated with data from Credit Valley to run the irrigation programs on his commercial properties.
Documentation is all about putting down information on paper and referring back to it at a later time, Stauffer said.
Since 2003 he has been water auditing on a three-year rotation in which six greens and six fairways are documented at a time. As a reference point, it’s reflected through the database of the golf course’s irrigation central software for the delivery of irrigation. To deliver one-tenth of an inch of water, there are various run times required on those zones. Stauffer has been irrigating based on volume and has moved away from runs times for the past several years.
“So when we go to water greens at 100 per cent, I know I am putting down a tenth of an inch.”
Fairways, which are about 23 acres in total size, have seen significant water savings over the years. Stauffer said he has also seen a reduction in the number of wet spots and dry spots and the hand-watering requirements of staff because he’s been able to deliver water more uniformly and efficiently.
He began experimenting with soil probes in the summer of 2011, admitting he didn’t think much of it after the first couple of weeks. He said he couldn’t get his head around the numbers and information the tool was providing him.
“Because I was so entrenched in my water auditing, I thought I had my finger on the pulse with the soil probe as to what the water levels were in the soil, and the number that were coming out of this machine just didn’t jive.”
He said he eventually got over his indifference with the probe, and the numbers he’s getting are valuable.
Tied in with his water auditing, Stauffer knows how much water he can deliver based on the time and how quickly it is moving through the soil profile.
“It’s very important to know how quick that water is moving down through your root zone based on your rooting depth,” he said, adding it is also key information for use in disease management.
In spite of his early feelings for the soil probe, it’s now always with him.
“I like the feel, and that’s where a soil probe comes in.”
Stauffer said that by pulling out a core, one can feel and smell the soil for health. Its moisture level can be felt, and those findings can be correlated back to the data collected. The soil profile is checked for its rooting depth to ensure water is being delivered as deep as the roots.
“There’s no point in watering down only a quarter-inch if the roots are down two or three inches. Conversely, there’s no point in watering down six inches if your roots are three inches.”
The soil probes are used regularly at Credit Valley to help ensure water is getting to the plant where it is needed.
Because of the golf course’s unique geography, five holes are situated on top while the remaining 13 holes are located in the Credit River valley. Weather extremes differ from elevation level to the other, prompting staff to monitor the variations in moisture evaporation.
“It’s interesting to see the differences.”
Soil, air and surface temperatures are important in managing turfgrass. Soil temperatures are tracked daily at Credit Valley from two defined areas on the golf course. That information will be helpful for tracking insect development and some disease evaluation.
“It’s important to track on a consistent area. We want to make sure we have two defined areas on the property that we check everyday so that we’re always monitoring on a consistent basis.”
With the soil probes, rooting depth is checked, and moisture and soil temperature readings will be utilized.
“I’m getting down into the surface and checking what’s going on.”
All information gathered is good and leads to good decision-making, Stauffer said.
The term “tolerance” level is one he said he prefers over “threshold” when communicating with club members.
“I like to use the word tolerance because that’s what tries to bring into the members’ perspective.”
Stauffer said that when thresholds are discussed with members, there is some disconnecting, “but as soon as you talk about a tolerance level, when you explain what the damage could be and what are they going to tolerate, then it starts to come into terms, and I’ve had good success with this word.”
When discussing situations with members, it is to the superintendent’s advantage to have photographs to show, especially when it comes to budgeting decisions in which certain products are needed. In his presentation, Stauffer showed a photograph of an area on the golf course that wasn’t treated for grub control. That area was let go for the course of the season and was subsequently dug up by skunks and raccoons. Another photograph was presented which showed an adjacent area that had been sprayed for grubs. It was plain to detect where the edge of the boom sprayer was in the boundary line between the treated and untreated areas.
Although Stauffer was careful to leave an out-of-play area untreated, he said the visible difference between the two areas generated plenty of discussion among members and helped to justify why such tools are needed if damaging insects are to be controlled.
Other information documented included things that may go awry, such as sprayer malfunctions leading to misapplications in the treatment of snow mould.
Decisions made regarding whether or not to allow carts on the course are documented along with photographs. Stauffer said if carts are permitted on days following heavy rainfall, yet it’s a decision staff might reluctantly agree to, photographs will be taken of any damage that might occur so that they can be shown to members at a future time when a tough decision may have to be made about possibly cancelling cart use.
Predicting what might happen is important for staying on top of issues before they may occur, he said. Stauffer said he frequently visits a Michigan State University website which allows him to key in on specific matters, such as crabgrass, which alerts him to things that might be coming his way. The growing climates of the Detroit and Toronto areas are similar, and if crabgrass or another pest is present in Michigan, it is apt to find its way to the Toronto area in short order.
Growing degree days are tracked at Credit Valley so that information on that particular number is referenced for the following year. This allows Stauffer and his staff to keep on top of a pest that might come about on a particular growing degree day.
“Circle that growing degree number as a reference for next year.”
He admitted he was unsure there was anything to be gained by the strategy, but figured it could suggest certain trends regarding certain pests. He said it involves a considerable amount of work, but if it’s able to help with his IPMâ€ˆprogram, “then I think it’s time well spent.”
Stauffer said his way of doing things at Credit Valley may not be the be-all and end-all, and it’s a process that is still evolving.
“There are things we stopped doing at certain times, but there are new things that we’re trying to do and find out what works for us.”