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The Impact of Pest Management Systems on Surface and Ground Water Quality 2001

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Project Leader(s): Dr. A. Martin Petrovic, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Zachary M. Easton, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Cooperator(s): Dr. Frank Rossi, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Dr. Eric Nelson, Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University

Dr. Paul Robbins, Department of Entomology, Cornell University

Dr. Leslie Weston, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Dr. Pim Larsson-Kovach, Department of Food Science, Cornell University

Dr. Don Lisk, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Dr. Jennifer Grant, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University

Type of grant: Research and Development, Continuing Systems Comparison Trials

Project location(s): Cornell University Horticultural Research Laboratory, Bluegrass Lane, Ithaca, NY

Abstract: The impact of various turfgrass pest management strategies (PMS) on water quality has recently become a concern for many golf course superintendents, sports facilities managers and homeowners. With water quality standards becoming increasingly stringent, management practices have had to follow suit. Uses of alternative control strategies have become increasingly important. This includes the use of biological, cultural and preventative control practices to reduce pest pressure, as well as environmental impacts. Turfgrass is, no doubt, a beneficial addition to most ecosystems, yet when mismanaged could cause harm as well. Mismanagement of the turfgrass ecosystem could greatly influence the nitrogen, phosphate and pesticide levels in surface and ground water, causing problems for communities that depend on clean water for consumption as well as recreation. Aquatic ecosystems as well can be severely harmed by increased levels of nitrogen and phosphate, which can cause algal bloom, decreased dissolved oxygen levels, and eutrophication, which in turn has an impact on nearly all ecosystems. Pesticides that find their way into surface or ground water pose a problem to exposed species ranging from fish to humans. When pesticides are found in drinking water above set levels, the water is no longer potable, and is in many cases very dangerous to consume. When managed correctly, turfgrass provides many positive attributes, including increased UV absorption, CO2 remediation, soil stabilization, habitat, ground and surface water filtration, and aesthetic and recreational benefits. We are studying the impact of three of the most commonly implemented turfgrass pest management systems, (preventative, IPM, and organic systems) on surface and ground water quality and turfgrass performance. The results will hopefully provide answers on how to produce acceptable turfgrass quality while protecting the environment.

Results of this study to date have been unable to select pest management strategy that is the best. Nutrient analysis indicates that all systems; Organic IPM and Preventative have the potential to negatively impact water quality. Establishment was the most dangerous time, with large concentrations of nutrients, especially nitrate, found in water. Pesticide movement via runoff was greatest for Preventative PMS. Overall the results to date indicate that the PMS selected may not be the most important factor impacting water quality.

What is clear is that environmental and site conditions dictate turfgrass effects on water quality. The soil type, organic matter content, infiltration rate, slope, and water content can and in many cases do influence nutrient and pesticide runoff and leachate. Rainfall rate, intensity and duration play an important role in both pesticide and nutrient retention. Adequate turfgrass density and organic carbon content will minimize and in some cases altogether prevent contaminant movement off site. Pesticide formulation and application timing are important, and should be evaluated as part of any pest management system. Across the board, none of the pest management systems produced consistently significantly lower impacts on water quality.