Friday, 8 July 2016

No disease WTF?

I have been putting this post off for a while now. It seems that whenever I post about my success with disease management on my course I immediately get bit in the ass. Karma or something..
Who cares about the crooked flag when the greens are disease free?
So for this reason I am hesitant to write this post sharing my experience over the past 4 months battling turf disease on my course. Here's the problem, there isn't any. Maybe if I type it really small it won't be heard by mother nature and she will spare me in the coming months.

Here's the thing, since my last traditional pesticide application on Feb 22nd, there has been almost no disease on my greens. I'm the most surprised person really because never in my entire career have I seen something even close to this. Every day I venture out to inspect my greens I am expecting chaos, total destruction, disease apocalypse, but to my disbelief the greens continue to be more or less disease free. Aside from a few minor dollar spot outbreaks (requiring no action on my part) I have seen no disease on my greens this spring and summer.

Back in 2013 I had a similar story but it was quickly followed up with a reality check. The main difference here is that I'm not using Civitas and that it is on all my greens and the control I am seeing is unparalleled. Even when I was regularly using traditional pesticides I didn't have this good or consistent of control. This is despite coming out of a super wet winter, super hot and dry spring, and wet and cool summer. The weather has been all over the map yet the greens remain disease free. I'm really saying this too much and am now sure to find my greens covered in disease tomorrow morning. Damn.

So what am I doing that is resulting in the lack of disease? Well the honest answer is that I am doing everything. I am using every trick I have in the bag to keep my greens disease free. It's all part of my IPM plan.

Culturally I am mowing less, rolling more, watering early and following growth potential almost to the T.
Fusarium is still there, lurking just outside of where I manage for it.

Before I go into chemical controls I want to be clear in case any pro pesticide fanatics are reading this. I'm not saying that what I am using is controlling the disease. ISR products help the plant control the disease as does fertilizer, water and mowing practices. So go ahead and "rat me out" and see what that accomplishes.

Chemically I have continued my use of phosphite. This May I tried a new produce to me that contained silica. Oh boy, here comes the snake oil sales pitch. Nope, no sales pitch, you can figure out what to buy on your own.
Even the "stressed" poa during seed head production is disease free. WTF?
At first I was skeptical but was intrigued when John Dempsey said it might have merit. For the most part turf scientist dismiss the effects of silica on turfgrass health but John's tweet was the first time I had heard someone who studies ISR products on turf say something positive about it.

I did some digging online and found some interesting research articles showing silica's impact on other plants. All plants are different but hmmmm, maybe there's something here?

fusariumy weather,
So beginning in late April I starting using a phosphite produce that contained silica. And then I went through May and June without the need for a traditional pesticide application. This is something that has never happened at my course since at least 2007 (I don't have records going back any further). Add to this that we also went March and April without a traditional fungicide application and WOW.

Now this is despite the weather being very "fusariumy" out. In the past with only phosphite I had always seen some fusarium activity although it was highly suppressed. This year, nothing, absolutely nothing. Not a single spec on any of my greens. WTF!

Here's my fertilizer record showing exactly what and when I applied everything this year. All numbers are KG/100m2. Last traditional pesticide app was on Feb 22nd.

So now I start to wonder. Are phosphite and silica working together? Do they compliment each other in their ISR modes of action? Am I just seeing things? Will there be negative consequences of this approach? This sure as hell is better than covering your grass in gross green pigment.

As far as my pesticide use goal setting and tracking goes I am right on track for a repeat of last year's big reduction. This is promising because if something can't be reliably repeated it's probably not worth doing. So far so good. Just to be clear the following table includes all phosphite and silica products in the cost. I could not calculate the EIQ of the silica so it is not included in the calculation. This is for 0.4ha (~1acre) of greens.

Sustainability MetricYTD Total CostGoalPercent of Goal UsedYTDProgressDays ahead/behind goalPercent of YTDNext App Max
Cost Fusarium$1,400.71$3,000.0046.69%51.51%4.82%1890.65%$144.49
Cost Dollar Spot$0.00$0.0051.51%51.51%1880.00%$0.00
Total Cost$1,400.71$3,000.0046.69%51.51%4.82%1890.65%$144.49
Fusarium EIQ293.01560.0052.32%51.51%-0.82%-3101.58%-4.57
Dollar Spot EIQ0.001.000.00%51.51%51.51%1880.00%0.52
Total EIQ293.01561.0052.23%51.51%-0.72%-3101.40%-4.05

I plan to continue to use silica and phosphite through the summer and into the fall/winter. The next big test will be late August/early September as I have never made it through this period without a traditional pesticide application for fusarium patch. Fingers crossed and trying not to get too confident.

I would highly suggest that you give silica a try, a least to see if it makes a difference to your disease management strategy. This year it was the only thing I changed and I noticed a big difference. Remember, I'm not just relying on silica and phosphite and they are part of my overall IPM strategy to manage for fusarium patch on my greens.

So there, I said it, but now I'm done talking about it in case Mother Nature hears and tries to teach me a lesson about dead grass.

But then what am I going to talk about if there's no disease..... I'm sure it'll be back, it always is!

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