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NIGHTMARE! Disease Management


GRAHAM PAUL, Chemical Specialist at Sherriff Amenity looks at thirty five years of changes in our approach to disease management on turf


Turf disease control was much simpler thirty five years ago - you just treated any patches that appeared with a mercury- based fungicide and it was more or less sorted. To make life easier, there were fewer products to choose from and most had a very broad spectrum of control, so you didn’t have to be particularly adept at disease identification. Fewer re- treatments were necessary because most fungicides of this era took a long time to break down. It seems that these fungicides were controlling problems that were not evident at the time, for ten years after we stopped using mercury- based products several ‘new’ diseases started to appear as levels of mercury in the soil were depleted. For example, we began to see Anthracnose and the thatch eating disease Superficial Fairy Ring on a regular basis. Regulation of pesticide use was more


relaxed; spray operators didn’t need a licence and there were no regulations governing the storage and disposal of used containers or unwanted product, although there were guidelines for these issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Pesticide Safety Precaution Scheme was a voluntary system of product regulation of that time and, in addition, manufacturers could demonstrate the efficacy of their goods by obtaining an ‘Approval number’ via the Government run ‘Approvals Scheme’ to show potential customers that it “did what it said on the tin”.


At the close of the 1970s came ‘the age of enlightenment’ for the Agrochemical industry. The European Community outlawed indiscriminate, persistent chemicals and manufacturers had to seek out safer alternatives. Over the next few years we saw the introduction of many new fungicides with turf recommendations, some (e.g. iprodione) have stood the test of time and are still available but


others came and went. Tighter controls on the storage, sale, use and disposal of chemicals was legislated in 1986 and has meant that pesticides present a much lower risk to the users and to the environment.


All pesticides with approval to be sold in the UK are now subject to a regular review. In this process, those wishing to secure a further period of approval may be required to submit data on the toxicology, efficacy and/or environmental impact of the active ingredients, in order to keep the products up-to- date with modern standards. The data that was sufficient to gain approval for a product 25 years ago may fall well below our current criteria. For this reason we have recently seen a large number of pesticide products withdrawn from sale. Fortunately, it may not be all doom and gloom as we have also seen some


important new products launched into our market place. In particular, there are some useful new


fungicides that bring modern technology to the task of disease control.


Highly active


products with lower dose rates have dramatically reduced the volume of chemicals put into the environment and new modes of uptake have given a new slant to the term ‘systemic’. Traditional systemic fungicides were taken up mainly by the roots which meant that they could only be used during periods of strong growth and there was a delay of about 48 hours for the chemical to get to the leaf where it was needed. Many of the newer fungicides are taken up through the leaves, a process that requires less energy from the plant and, because uptake is possible during periods of slow growth, they can be used much later in the season.


One new


family of turf fungicides known as the


Hand Sprayer c1960 16


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