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NYS IPM 2004
Excellence-in-IPM Award Winners:
Kevin Trotta

A top-notch school athletic field provides safe, sure footing and absorbs the shock of impact—day in and out, no matter how rough the play. For Kevin Trotta, head groundskeeper at North Rockland Central School District in Rockland County, New York, keeping the district's 46 playing fields and 300 acres of grounds in tip-top shape is more than a job—it's a passion.

His method of choice: integrated pest management, or IPM. "It's a holistic program based on preventing problems," Trotta says.

For this, and for his leadership in teaching the principles of sound pest management to his peers across New York and the nation, Trotta has received the "Excellence in IPM Award" from the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program, part of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"Kevin's success is both personal and technical," says Jennifer Grant, community IPM coordinator for the New York State IPM Program. "He's converted many to IPM, not just by his enthusiasm, but by showing that high quality athletic fields and grounds can and should be produced using IPM."

"Everything that you do to help turf stay healthy will improve its ability to resist pest pressure," Trotta says. It's important, he explains, to encourage strong, deep roots.

"We focus our efforts on encouraging root mass, which produces a field that is more tolerant of heavy use, environmental stress, and pest pressure," Trotta says. "Environmental stewardship drives much of what we do."

Trotta's staff scout for insects regularly. "This year we found about eight grubs per square foot in the end zones," he says. But since little play happens in the end zones, he let it be.

"If we had found them between the hash marks, we'd have had to do something," Trotta says. "Grubs weaken the roots, which would disrupt the athletes' footing and make for treacherous play." North Rockland has won awards for having one of the best football fields in the state.

In past years, Trotta might have used spot treatments of insecticide to deal with the grubs. "But this year I had the equipment ready to apply 'entomopathogenic nematodes,'" he says. "IPM is about options." Nematodes are tiny worms that prey on grubs.

Healthy grass also withstands weeds better. Still, after several years of hard play, weeds do creep in—and weedy fields also make for unsafe footing. "We use an herbicide maybe once every five years," Trotta says.

Trotta, a 17-year veteran of the North Rockland schools, has relied on IPM all along. So when the New York State Department of Education mandated IPM for all schools, Trotta was ahead of the game. "We were able to assure the administration that they didn't need to worry, because we were already there," he says.

Trotta teaches IPM widely, having spoken at scores of industry workshops over the years. "I often use the analogy to human health," he says. "We used to think that the solution to disease was writing a prescription."

Now most people know that when they are healthy—when they take preventative measures, eating right and exercising—they are less likely to succumb to disease.

"It's the same with IPM," Trotta says. "If you follow practices that encourage healthy plants, you don't need to write many prescriptions. Today's turfgrass manager has a responsibility to always consider the environment when making management decisions."

"Before Kevin, most of the people in the public school business just cut grass," says Richard Roberts, director of buildings and grounds at nearby Monroe-Woodbury Central School District. "With Kevin, came aerating, verticutting, overseeding, and much more. I can think of no one in the business who has spent more time, much of it his own, training and teaching others."

Trotta will receive his award on November 16 at the New York State Turfgrass Association's annual conference in Rochester, New York.

Trotta extends special thanks to Joann Gruttadaurio, Marty Petrovic, Eric Nelson, Frank Rossi, the late Michael Villani, and the rest of the turfgrass team at Cornell University, and to his mentor, Norm Hummel. Jennifer Grant, Lynn Braband, and Jody Gangloff-Kaufman have provided tremendous support and encouragement, as has the New York State Turfgrass Association. Paul Trader, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland County, has been a friend and an inspiration.