January 15, 2010
By Pam Charbonneau
OMAFRA turf specialist

It is hard to remember back to spring at this time of year, but it was an early one in 2009. Golf courses opened at the end of March and lawn care companies swung into action in early April to get in a few applications before the cosmetic pesticides ban came into effect on April 22. The early start was possible because the snow was gone earlier than normal, but that didn’t mean that it warmed up early, or it was a particularly warm spring.

The weather was a blessing this season. Overall, there was plenty of rain and the temperatures were moderate. This resulted in great conditions for growing turf and fewer than normal problems, with the possible exception of weeds.  

In the spring, corn gluten meal was applied in record amounts and many of the suppliers ran out of product. We never did get the hot, monsoon-like weather that is needed to get a real explosion of crabgrass. The usual areas around driveways, where snow had been piled up and grass is thin because of high soil salt content, were a problem, but we didn’t have wall-to-wall crabgrass to the level that we get in some years.

This was the first year of widespread use of Sarritor for broadleaf weed control. The spring applications were fraught with some difficulty, because of the short period of dry weather during the Sarritor application window. Homeowners who did receive Sarritor treatments were told to water their lawns for three days, post treatment. The results were not always favourable. That being said, the very wet fall provided almost perfect conditions for Sarritor. The word from the field is those treatments were more successful.

Everything was in place for good survival and heavy feeding from leatherjackets, because of a wet fall and deep snow cover during the winter. Fortunately, the good turf growing conditions during May pre-empted any extensive damage from leatherjacket feeding. We were also lucky where grubs were concerned. The wet fall of 2008 meant that the turf was in good shape with lots of deep roots going into the heavy grub feeding period in late fall. There was very little grub damage to report in the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009.  
Two insect pests, European chafers and leatherjackets, became very far behind in their lifecycles because of the cooler and wetter conditions in the summer of 2009. Adult chafer flights dragged on well into late July and European crane fly flights went into early to mid-October.  

In the case of European chafers, this shift in lifecycle made planning and timing nematode treatments a bit challenging. If you were impatient and started too early, my guess is that you may not have had optimal results. Honing in on the timing of some of these alternative products will be helpful for future success with them. As with corn gluten meal, this was the breakthrough year for nematode treatment, because of the pesticide ban. I have not heard many reports on the overall efficacy of the fall nematode treatments.

As far as nematode treatments for leatherjackets, here at Guelph Turfgrass Institute we were hoping to have a fall trial using nematodes.  The adult flights and subsequent egg hatch of the crane flies were so late that into mid-November we were still finding quite a few leatherjacket eggs. By this time, the soils had cooled to temperatures that were below what is optimal for the survival of nematodes, so we opted to pass on a fall leatherjacket trial with nematodes.  

Again, the weather and turf growth conditions were in our favour, for activity and damage from hairy chinch bugs, which was almost non-existent. I did get a few calls from some areas with very light textured soils that had dry conditions, showing there was some chinch bug damage in some of those isolated areas.

The big challenge of the season was communicating the changes that came into place when the provincial cosmetic pesticides ban became law. On that note, the 2009 OMAFRA Publication, Turfgrass Management Recommendations is now available. It contains information about the ban and lists the actives available for lawn care in Ontario. It can be ordered through Service Ontario. OMAFRA Publications are available from: Publications Ontario, 1-888-466-2372, or online at www.publications.serviceontario.ca/ecom.  

There has been a flurry of research activity into new products and methods for pest control in lawn care. I don’t think that there are answers to all of our pest problems, but I would say that we will continue to see progress and innovation from the marketplace to help answer some of pest control problems. This winter season is a crucial time to attend conference, symposia and meetings to make sure that you are abreast of the latest and greatest in pest control tools. I look forward to seeing you at a show near you.
Pam Charbonneau can be reached at 519-824-4120, ext. 52597, or by e-mail at pamela.charbonneau@on.ca.