Golf Course Management

JUL 2013

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 57 of 119

Bayer makes its case for plant health There is plenty of debate when it comes to defning plant health. Bayer Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience, has every intention of getting to the bottom of it. Bayer announced May 8 it was launching its frst annual Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Academy. It is a four-pronged initiative done in collaboration with GCSAA's Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG). Bayer has committed to a minimum $100,000 investment annually for three years. The goal: Train GCSAA superintendents to study plant health and transfer what they learn to their own golf courses. "We wanted to do more in the industry regarding plant health," says Scott Welge, head of marketing for Bayer's turf and ornamental business. "We really wanted to further defne it and also support it as far as generating data within the industry. Everybody talks about plant health, and very little is known within the industry about plant health, so what we wanted to do was have an outreach with multi dimensions." Here's how it'll work. Part I: The Plant Health Academy. Twelve GCSAA member superintendents had until June 12 to apply for a spot in the academy, which includes a two-part immersive plant health curriculum with in-the-feld training Sept. 25-27 this year at Bayer's Training and Development Center in Clayton, N.C., followed by classroom training March 3-5, 2014, at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan. Participants' travel, accommodations and meals are paid for through the program. Part II: Plant health demonstration courses. The plan is to generate and collect data from one cool-season golf course and one warm-season golf course and develop case studies. Two of the 12 academy participants will have their courses chosen as living labs, where chapter meetings and plant tours will be held. Part III: Webinars on plant health. Bayer, in conjunction with GCSAA, is going to sponsor two webinars annually. "We're working closely with GCSAA and industry educators and innovators to arm superintendents with the latest tools and research they can use at their courses to optimize resources and turf health," Welge says. The frst webinar, held last month, focused on moisture- and light-monitoring technology. Part IV: Scholarships. Bayer will fund each year a select number of scholarships for superintendents to advance their educations in plant health-related studies. "Combine all four of these opportunities, and we really have something for everyone that's out there," Welge says. — H.R. 52 GCM July 2013 aerifcation holes close; how effcient a plant is when you stress it by withholding water or subjecting it to intense heat; and whether they can affect roots and improve the rooting so that the turfgrass is healthier and possibly have seedlings or sod get off to a better start. BASF also has an 85-page brochure outlining university trials it has done in the past six years for its Intrinsic brand. Syngenta's research includes taking into account what happens above ground. "One of the reasons there's a lot of confusion about what plant health means is a lot of the claims that are being made are based on processes or results that cannot be seen, and that aren't visible to the golf course superintendent," Tredway says. "I think we ought to focus on visible results, on results you can see above ground, and the quality and the health of the turfgrass plant because, at the end of the day, that's what's important." In April, Virginia Tech professor of turfgrass culture and physiology Erik H. Ervin, Ph.D., wrote an article for the Virginia Turfgrass Journal about why plant health products may boost summer tolerance. Ervin tells GCM that he has conducted his own research on phosphites, pigments, salicylic acid, seaweed extracts, etc. Ervin's conclusion in his fndings was that plant health products can be "complex and confusing" and "it is no wonder that the spray tank often ends up with three or more products in it." Yet he says there is some substance to plant health claims, and using those two not-so-simple words isn't necessarily dangerous. "Not if it's used in the context of replicated science that is done in comparison to the proper positive and negative controls," Ervin says. On the horizon So what is the future of plant health? Rossi, for one, is concerned. "The concept of plant health may stay, but what I think is going to come in the years ahead is more of an alignment of what these products are actually doing," Rossi says, "and so then the question is going to be — and I don't think anybody is asking yet — how do these things interact? Are we driving these plants crazy? Are we overstimulating them? Are we putting them into a roid rage because we've given them so much boost in Products promoted as benefcial to plant health have been thoroughly tested at both a company and university level. Still, questions persist. Photos courtesy of Syngenta

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