EIQ: What is it? And why you should care…

Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) “is a formula created to provide growers with data regarding the environmental and health impacts of their pesticide options so they can make better informed decisions regarding their pesticide selection”. This definition comes directly from Cornell University in New York State. New York has a mandatory program that includes the EIQ, similar to Ontario’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. While I’m not looking to critique our IPM program, I am looking at how we at Pheasant Run can become even more environmentally conscious.

I have posted on here ad nauseam my dislike for the IPM program as it’s currently dictated. It’s an extra cost to golf courses (minimum $2000/year) and the general public just don’t seem to care. IPM is measured in kilograms of active ingredient and we are asked to explain why we used more/less from the previous season. For 3 straight seasons our kg of active ingredient has been in the 98kg neighbourhood. Is that a good number? Via an easy search I found a club near us (approximately 600kg), a high-end private club (approximately 600kg) and a club with a similar soil/topography to Pheasant Run (approximately 700kg). Now let’s keep perspective, private club Superintendents use a lot of product as to meet demands of members who pay a lot of money for memberships.

EIQ has been of great interest to me for a few years now. Unfortunately my free time between work and home is fairly limited to figure out our “EIQ total”. I took a few days off (for those of you in golf, a summer vacation is amazing and I highly recommend it!!) 2 weeks ago and flew out west to visit family. Sitting in airports and on planes gave me time to work on Pheasant Run’s EIQ. Why? Anything that directly relates to environmental impact is definitely worth a deeper look.

Our total EIQ quotient for the 2015 golf season will be 943. This is easily determined due to the fact I know what has been applied and what remains to be sprayed and when. The only other course I’m aware of with an EIQ total is Thornhill Golf Club, they are 700.

What have I learned in this process? The biggest issue is being wary of “sticker shock” of higher prices for longer lasting control products. For years I never purchased a fungicide called Heritage Maxx because the price of one case scared me. This product is now a staple in our Summer Patch (our biggest disease we deal with) program. I see similar changes coming to our fairway spray program as well. The active ingredients Boscalid and Isofetamid are a little more costly, but they do provide longer duration disease suppression and a dramatically lower EIQ (Boscalid value is 7.7. Isofetamid is 14.7) than what products we are currently using. We have relied on the “old school” traditional products for our fairway disease issues. Two of these “older” products are Thiophenate-methyl (has an EIQ value of 371.9) and chlorothalonil (is valued at 243.2).

I’ve also learned that 3-way herbicides are off the charts when it comes to EIQ. In the last few years we have used only one of the weed eradication products (Dicamba). This was done due to the low application rates and the greater control of weeds in general. Dicamba when applied alone has an EIQ rating of 2.5. When mixing Dicamba with 2,4-D and mecoprop the total EIQ is 30.5.

While the EIQ protocol is not mandatory it has certainly exposed some interesting results. It has also reinforced some of what we have been doing for many years now. Civitas (link to our use of this product here http://wp.me/p1ufSX-ga) has been a staple product in our tee and fairway program for a few years now. Its EIQ value is as closer to zero (its EIQ is actually less than 1.0) than any product I researched. This is due to the fact that it’s a naturally developed mineral oil mixed with a harmonizer pigment. This product provides natural defense mechanisms for plants and has shown some fungicidal/insecticidal effects as well.

Here are some of the links to the full EIQ program and the EIQ calculator;

EIQ website http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/eiq/default.asp

EIQ calculator http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/EIQCalc/input.php?cat=4

While many may scoff at this level of detail. I think it’s extremely important to continue to preach the positive virtues of the golf industry and what we are doing as an industry environmentally. I feel that this process is certainly more “Joe Public” friendly than the current Ontario IPM program. The EIQ frames the numbers in a more understandable picture. It makes far more sense to say product A is less environmentally impactful than product B. When golf preaches “sustainability” (I hate this word, in case you’ve forgotten) a large portion of that goal starts with EIQ and responsible stewardship it encompasses.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Out of our League??

While a Superintendents job can be a lonely one at times. The golf industry does tend to be a very tight-knit community. Without this closeness with my peers, bouncing and sharing ideas, or just having an ear to bend once in a while can push my brain to the verge of implosion.

I do not have the luxury of an Assistant Superintendent, Irrigation technician or full-time Spray tech. I am on any (most) given day, all of those guys. The time and dedication that goes into being the “keeper the green” is plenty. And sometimes the rewards that are reaped can be few. That’s why it is certainly a great boost (particularly in the dog days of August) to have your name used in the same sentence as some fellow Superintendents you greatly respect.

The quarterly publication of the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association (OGSA) was released last week. While I was aware I was contributing to the article, it was very gratifying to me to see my name beside Jay Honeyball (Oslerbrook Golf Club), Jeff Stauffer (Rosedale Golf Club) and Greg McFarlane (Thornhill Golf Club). These gentlemen are some of the best in the business and we all share a passion for environmental golf course management.

Out of my league? No doubt. Proud? You better believe it.

Here is the link to the article, enjoy.

http://issuu.com/blenheim/docs/ogsa_gisb_summer2015/11?e=2294501/14855561

Summer is rapidly winding down, as are our staffing numbers. The first couple weeks of September will be very busy with events and low staff numbers. It will be nice to have a small staff for the remainder of the season. Though I would argue this has been our best staff in my 10 years here.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

Preventative measures and behind the scenes

It’s hot out, really hot out! Not exactly a revelation or groundbreaking statement to say the least. We have had an extended stretch of hot/humid weather over the last few weeks, with a few breaks in the middle as well. While runs of this hot/humid weather are not unusual for us. After last summers cooler overall trend, this weather seems much hotter.

Below is the last 3 years weather data for June and July. With 3-4 more days expected to hit 90F (32C humidex included) this week. We will be on par with the weather we incurred during 2013.

Year Historical Monthly Average Actual Rainfall Days over 90F (32C) humidity included
Jun-2015 148.6mm 1
Jun-2014 72.8mm 63.44mm 3
Jun-2013 96.8mm 6
Jul-2015 38.8mm 10
Jul-2014 82.0mm 72.6 3
Jul-2013 132.7 14

For those of you who remember 2013 presented some major issues for us with heat scald on some greens. The biggest difference is with rainfall. Unless we incur a major deluge of rain in the next 5 days we will be well below the historical average rainfall. So not only is it hot, but, it’s dry as well.

Within the parameters of our water taking permit we are applying close to 600,000 gallons of water/night. Our predominantly sandy soils need a lot of water and will need some rainfall to catch-up;

077Warm weather usually starts to show some gaps in our irrigation system;

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.The weepers for our septic system are even stressed;

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While water is not a huge issue for us here. We do have a water permit, and do have to abide by the guidelines of the permit. So the thought that we can water as much as we want isn’t necessarily true. Also, the facts are that turf doesn’t lose a lot of water in hot/humid weather. We just need to water smarter right now.

Hand watering to cool the turf surface (not adding water, quite simply think of how good you feel for the half hour after you get out of a pool);

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Wetting agent on greens to provide uniform soil moisture;

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We also took some preventative measures with our putting surfaces to ensure they were not going to be exposed to the extreme heat. Our height of cut was raised from .120″ to .145″ two weeks ago. We spiked greens;

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Topdressed;

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And deep tined greens with bayonets;

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We also spoon fed the greens with fertilizer, and added a healthy dose of fungicide to protect the plant (yes even the environmental nutcase likes a little insurance). All this was done in the last two weeks to ensure our greens would withstand the heat and look good heading into August;

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While some “green speed” was lost in this process. After next week’s solid tine aeration, we should be able to return cutting heights back to where they were and push the greens a little harder in the cooler (and much shorter) days of August. All of this in time to start raising them again in late September for winter preparation.

Stay cool in the heat and keep yourself hydrated.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Midlands 5 bunker reno

Ironically enough 2 weeks after my post about minimizing bunker inputs. We just completed a renovation of the green side bunker in front of the green at Midlands 5. The main issue was the ornamental grass that had spread beyond where it needed to be over the last 2 seasons.

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We had aggressively cut this grass down last summer and treated it with Roundup. But it just seemed to thrive in this environment. The easiest solution was to remove all the plant material and the root contaminated soil and have a steep pitched face/larger bunker as the finished product.

Removing the plant and subsoil;

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While we were in the midst of the project it was decided that we would reclaim the original shape of the trap. The area closest to the approach had overgrown with turf by close to 4 feet.

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Once all the material was removed, the remaining sand inside the trap was pushed into the face and packed in to create a sandier subsurface.

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Today we spent most of the day adding sand to the trap. We used our USGA topdressing sand as that is what is in the rest of the bunkers on the property.

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While we don’t have the desire to make these drastic changes on a lot of our sandy hazards. Sometimes the easiest remedy for an ugly site is fixing it properly. I’m quite sure that this new and improved bunker will see lots of action. Troy and the crew did a great job on this bunker and should be proud of the finished product they have produced.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Forever tweaking…Or at Least that’s how it seems

The last 439 days has created some tunnel vision focus on one area of the golf course. Since it was decided in May of last year to re-build and change Uplands #2 green much of my focus has been on 1-getting the green playable 2-ensuring there were no more catastrophic events to the green and lastly bringing the rest of the playing surface around the green up to standard.

I’ll admit when Dr. Frank Rossi, David Kuypers (Syngenta Canada), club President Craig Evans and myself toured this site in March, it was looking bleak. But a good aggressive aeration and our continual cultural practices (topdressing, spiking and foliar nutrition) has the putting surface looking pretty good.

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The green was seeded to Luminary Bentgrass, has been overseeded with T1 bentgrass and some plugging to weak areas was done with T1 Bent plugs off of our greens nursery.

In a post last fall I documented some of the issues we were having getting the approach to fill in. My patience was done, so over the last 2 weeks (when we aren’t pushing up washed out bunkers) we have been sodding the approach.

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Why the issues with the approach? This is why;

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The original washouts from last June were still haunting us in growing in the approach. The new green was raised and a natural swale was taken around the green to avoid water off the hill sitting on the green surface, like the old green did year-after-year like this;

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This week we also took the time to remove the small garden that blocked access to the cart path. We are trying something a little different with the entry/exit point on this path as a bit of a pilot project. We removed the garden and all the plant material, flattened the area out and added bark mulch to the entry point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a grass guy. But I am growing tired of re-sodding cart path ends ad nauseam.

104I’m unsure what I think of it at this time. But the few golfers I spoke to today don’t hate it, and that I’ll take as something worthwhile. So enjoy the new hole and just remember that new greens do take time to “soften”. So it will seem firm for likely most of this season. Having played the hole myself twice now, I love the 2 traps gone as I always felt they added nothing to the hole. And the false front (steeper pitch at the front of the green towards the approach) can be pretty tricky with a front pin (like today’s placement).

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

I’m Back!! Let’s Talk Hazardous Waste…

First of all, I’m back. I guess it really just took finding something bothersome for me to find the writing bug again. We have had some crazy weather extremes so far this season. From a super dry, droughty April and May to a very wet June. The wet weather tends to wreak havoc on many of the maintenance practices on the course. This is particularly true with our bunkers.

The last 2 Sunday’s we have received 1.75″ (45mm) of rain. The effect of this much rain can be seen throughout most of the golf course. The heavier soil greens (Uplands 6,8,9 and Highlands 7 &8), many of the fairways and most of the sand bunkers will have their playability directly affected. As yes, rain is the greatest contributor to green speed changes.

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So what goes into the fixing the bunker mess? The easiest answer is money, labor and hard work. As a company, we took the stance a few years ago to reduce the inputs we pour into bunker maintenance. It’s a huge issue with me that we are pouring more money into hazards (its right there in the rules of golf) then we were into our greens. Yet the effort that still goes into these hazards still dwarfs many other maintenance practices that take place on the course.

As a precursor to our bunker repair regime, we DO NOT pump water out of bunkers. This is right in line with pretty much every public golf facility in our area. Many of the bunkers here do have drainage, but, it has likely been compromised (roots, collapsed etc..) over time. I would assume that once the landscape of the overall golf business improves, projects like bunker drainage may again become viable. Not crying the blues here, just writing the facts.

Last week I took the time to figure out what we spent to repair the bunkers. While most of the water filled bunkers were initially skipped, there was a lot of pushing up and moving sand back in place that took place. There was sand movement on essentially every trap (74 in total), packing the sand back into the faces and adding sand (where applicable).

We used 3 staff for 4 days pushing sand and packing bunker faces, and, 2 staff for 3 days adding sand. It was decided early in the week that all green side traps would get fresh sand as they were contaminated beyond repair (there are still some needing sand). With these 2 groups working non-stop through this process the labor and truckload of sand cost $2,590. It was also decided on Friday that the bunker in front of Highlands 5 green was so bad that we removed the old material and added all new sand. This was pushed forward after a hydraulic hose broke inside the bunker ($300 repair). This job was completed in 4 hours by 3 staff at a total cost of $355. In total we dedicated 147 man hours to bunker repair alone last week.

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As you can see we need to sell a lot of green fees to cover these expenses. As a comparison to provide the current greens conditions we used only 80 hours of labor!! The greens were cut and rolled everyday and were sprayed with fertilizer once as well within this timeframe. While last weeks rain and the consequences of that rain are “the costs of doing business”. I just wanted to paint a picture of where our resources are used (or misused dependent on who you ask) during these weather events. The question we all have to ask ourselves is whether the labor is better spent on turf or hazards?

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent