Golf Course Management

OCT 2014

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

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66 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.14 kills hemlocks by feeding on the sap of tender hemlock shoots. It has been decimating east - ern and Carolina hemlock populations up and down the eastern seaboard for nearly three de - cades. Gerdon, with the support of his staff, the Grandfather G&CC general management, club members and local entomologist Richard McDonald, Ph.D., has led the charge against the adelgid for the past 12 years, employing chemicals for the short term, but focusing on the long-term benefts of biological predators. The sweet success of their efforts is evident in an abundance of hemlocks thriving on the club's 1,100 acres and even miles beyond its borders. "We're excited to be on the cutting edge of a very successful approach to the HWA prob - lem," says Gerdon. "We've allocated a lot of funding and resources to save our hemlocks, and as a golf course superintendent, I feel for - tunate that our membership has chosen to be proactive in the saving of this giant." On the trail of a killer In the fall of 2002, Gerdon and his em - ployees noticed a white, waxy substance on hemlock trees on the course and surrounding property. The Avery County Cooperative Ex - tension Service identifed samples as hemlock woolly adelgid. This was the frst verifed out - break of the pest in the county. A native of China, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. Pacifc Northwest, hemlock woolly adel - gid was accidentally introduced into the east- ern U.S. in the early 1950s in shipments of weeping hemlocks from Japan. It was not con - sidered a pest insect until the late 1980s, when foresters began to observe hemlock death in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Today, more than 80 percent of the hem - locks in the Shenandoah region are dead, and hemlock woolly adelgid is in outbreak mode from Georgia to Maine, continuing its attack on hemlock trees and devastating natural eco - systems. "By the time HWA was recognized as an aggressive pest, it was already in outbreak stage up and down the East Coast," says Mc - Donald, owner of Symbiont Biological Con- trol and Pest Management. He's been involved with adelgid control efforts since 1999. "In the late 1990s I began hearing that HWA was going to be a terrible pest and a threat to the entire hemlock ecosystem," says McDonald. "Hemlocks are a critical keystone species, particularly in the Southern Appala - chians where some of the region's oldest and largest stands are located. There's no other tree that can replace the hemlock in this environ - ment." Hemlocks play an integral role in the health and stability of mountain ecosystems like those at Grandfather G&CC by provid - ing habitat for wildlife and botanical diver- sity. Their willowy, shade-producing branches help maintain cool mountain streams that are home to trout, other native fsh and a wide va - riety of aquatic life forms. The logical answer to Gerdon's question, "What kind of trickle-down effect would such a loss have on the biology of the creeks and wildlife?" is that it would be devastating. The U.S. Forest Service has warned of an ecologi - cal disaster comparable to the chestnut blight, The efforts of Peter Gerdon and Richard McDonald, Ph.D., at Grandfather G&CC show that a biologically based pest management program for hemlocks is practical and effec - tive for large-scale acreage.

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