Turf & Rec

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Everyone’s talking right now about all things pesticide

February 11, 2009  By  Mike Jiggens

ALL the talk right now within the turfgrass industry, it seems, is based on the subject of pesticides or, more precisely, how turfgrass plots can continue to be maintained without the use of these products.

A number of speakers at Landscape Ontario’s Congress in January addressed the topic, not so much debating the politics of the issues but rather looking at how the lawn care and landscape contracting industry can move forward in a pesticide-free world.

The matter was addressed again a short time later at the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association’s annual conference. A cosmetic pesticide ban throughout Ontario will be officially enacted soon. Although golf, for now, has been granted an exception, that privilege may not be iron-clad. That point was addressed at the conference, and more can be read about it in our March issue.

Although the focus at this time is on Ontario, other parts of the country are watching carefully. New Brunswick is looking at legislating a ban of its own, perhaps using Ontario’s as its blueprint.

The Saskatchewan Turfgrass Association has even chimed in on the issue. In its January newsletter, a question is asked. “Are golfers at risk to pesticides? The answer is no. There is no scientific evidence that golfers face any chronic health risks from pesticides used to maintain golf courses. Once a liquid product is applied and the turfgrass is dry or the product has been watered in, there is very little chance of exposure to golfers or others who enter the area. Having said that, it is worth noting that a small percentage of people may be allergic to certain products, just as some are allergic to household cleaners, soaps or perfumes.”

In Ontario, the executive director of Landscape Ontario has said thousands of jobs within the landscape industry are at risk as a result of the coming ban. He notes the industry and activists aren’t that far apart on the issue and urges both sides work together to promote effective lawn care and encourage the introduction of better products.

There appears to be a division in the ranks of sorts within the lawn care and landscape industry. There are those who have embraced the ban and have already been offering effective pesticide-free programs to their customers. Their motto is essentially, “Let’s move on.” There are others working in the industry, however, who realize many of their current customers may not be able to afford the same level of lawn care delivered in a “green” format. These are the operators who are ticked off that the provincial government hasn’t allowed integrated pest management to be incorporated into the legislation.

It’s just a matter of time now that Canada’s two most populated provinces will be pesticide-free within the lawn care and landscaping industries. How much longer will it be before the rest of the country jumps on the bandwagon?

Be sure to read William H. Gathercole’s answers to a number of frequently asked questions about pesticides and their “green” alternatives, beginning on page 30.

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