Where is the Data?

Posted by ANTHONY ASQUITH on February 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

As everyone knows who are part of the turf game, certainly in terms of those dealing with sports surface preparation and maintenance, that there have been some concerns of recent times with the release of turf products that have caused extensive damage to the surfaces that have been treated. Some of this damage has been dramatic in spite of the applications following label recommendations. From my point of view this raises some obvious questions both from the manufacturers/distributor standpoint and the turf managers who can suffer dismissal from their employer when severe damage occurs. It seems almost impossible to believe that a turf manager could put his or her job in jeopardy by applying a product to extensive turf areas for the first time without first conducting some small scale plot trials to determine the safety and the efficacy of the product selected. You know, on the basis of just about every guest speaker you have ever heard who express the opinion that you have to know what can be expected under your own conditions and on your own turf variety in order to have confidence before applying compounds of various types and herbicides in particular.

As an overall assessment, the example above and a multitude of other questionable decisions has to draw attention to the entire industry, or at least in part to shortcuts in the development of product labels when detailed assessment needs to be made in terms of factors such as cultivar reactions, climatic influences and many other considerations that can affect phyto toxicity and efficacy. An example that comes to mind is a popular insecticide where claims were made about the extent of the control claimed. Limited control over time resulted in extensive insect damage because the claimed length of insect control did not materialize. With this product, which is a good one when used on the basis of what it can do rather than what the claims are, it became very evident after detailed questions were raised that the field and laboratory work was scant at best when assessing various species of insects causing damage and what level of control could be expected on different life cycle stages. From my own experience, the methodology followed with the release of this some chemicals falls a long way short of the standards and the results in the field reflect that shortfall. There are many examples where chemicals are sold by a distributor to a turf manager for the control of certain pests that have absolutely no chance of controlling the pest in question and in any case, in most circumstances the damage has already been done. This is an indictment of the service industry to turf managers because there can only be two causes for this occurring, either the representative is completely ignorant of both the insect pest or the limitations of the product sold or both of these factors are in place. Unfortunately I raise this as a glaring example of ignorance in the industry but of course there are exceptions where people take a professional approach toward educating themselves and seek reliable and independent information and the data on the products they use.

I suppose the vast number of products sold into the industry that have questionable efficacy with very little, or at times no reputable data from independent sources fall into the muck and mystery bucket. It seems that for every product that gets promoted and then falls by the wayside, there are at least two to replace it. The blurb used to promote many of these products sounds like a rejected script from a Monty Python program, if it wasn’t for the fact that many people take this stuff seriously, it would give the potential of relieving a days tedium with a good chuckle. Phrases such as “promotes soil health,” and “increased plant health” are of course impossible to measure and what are they related to?

The way I see it after proper investigations are carried out on many products is just how gullible the industry is. The decision to buy or sell seems to be based on some sort of aspiration, be it profit, a magic bullet, blind faith or that Jack down the road thinks this stuff is the closest he has ever been to nirvana. I can speak from some misguided investigations that I carried out years ago using randomized plot assessment with another miracle product of umpteen bottles and containers that claimed increased organic matter reduction. After 12 months on this stuff and using control plots, the magic bullet had inferior turf quality, lower density, increased disease, reduced root mass and no reduction in organic matter when compared to the control plots. I obtained similar responses from another organic matter reduction product that had no influence after 2 years but did produce a trend towards increasing root mass but the company had no interest in following this possibility, probably because it involved some effort and work.

The story continues with attempts to increase soil pH levels, sometimes by a significant degree with the use of calcium applied in a liquid form. Anyone who is capable of doing some simple arithmetic at not much more than primary school level can soon fathom that the amounts of calcium being applied only have the effect of parting a fool and his money, or that money spent on behalf of others.

This subject deserves far greater exposure and it should be part of every turf management conference or meeting, then perhaps there would be more people deserving of the term ”professional”.


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