Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not my Cullen-ary choice

Finally we have come through the toughest part of our season and I have to say, the weather has been pretty good to the lawn care industry thus far. The mostly cooler temps, timely rainfall and...unlike last year...we haven't had to play catch-up with the weeds.

In all, the lawns we've been servicing for a few years are lush and green with few weeds.

The grass with the help of seeding and aerations have recovered nicely from earlier grub issues. The Guelph Turf Grass Institute doesn't seem to think grubs will be much of a nuisance this year...and definitely not the destruction we saw the past two years for sure.

However, I was troubled when I received an email from a frantic customer a couple of weeks back. She was one of the unlucky ones who lost a good portion of her lawn to grubs last year and booked a nematode treatment for mid August this season.

Why was she panicking now? Because Mark Cullen said the time to apply nematodes was mid June. She even sent me the link so I could see for myself, but the damage was done. Her trust in me was gone because Cullen is her guru, her god, her Gordon Ramsey to my short-order cook.

First of all, Mark Cullen should know better...that's right Cullen...I'm calling you out!
I am surprised you are not more versed in nematode application.

So I sent my customer the link for the Guelph Turf Grass Institute, the one that said unless you were exempt under the bylaw there was nothing you could do until mid August at the earliest when treating grubs.

Even my supplier asked me if I'd like to order my nematodes now for August- not purchase- order.

So who to believe?

I'm not saying Mark Cullen isn't knowledgeable, but he is wrong on this point and could have cost me a customer with the B.S. entrĂ©e he's serving.

Since nematodes are currently the only product on the market to combat grubs it is important that the consumer be made aware of proper timing and application. Yet, strange as it may seem, the following information was not present on Cullen's news letter.

You must first understand you are dealing with a living organism with nematodes. They have a shelf-life. So pay attention to expiration dates.
Keep refrigerated until use.
Do not apply in sunlight. UV kills them.
Must, must, must water after the application for 3 to 4 days to flush these microscopic worms into the soil.

The unfortunate casualty in all this, is the misinformed consumer who is being spoon-fed this erroneous gruel as well as being told they need different strains of nematodes for various problems--- grubs, chinch bug, sod webworm, leather jackets.

By the time you've picked up all four products that's about $200.00 out-of-pocket for 3,000 square feet of turf.

And even if you follow application instructions, to the letter, you are still only looking at 30% control, if you're lucky, for a June application.

Tell me, would you drop two C-notes on a hockey game if you knew you'd only see one period?

The best case scenario in all this would be if there was a more effective grub control on the market. One where you don't have to worry about timing, weather, refrigeration etc.

Oh, wait a moment! I forgot to tell you about Met 52!

A new product for insect control which is being fast-forwarded through the approval process. 

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is the Canadian regulatory body responsible for registering pesticides for public use.  Among other things,  they determine to what extent the pesticide may be effective for the Canadian market and whether it provides an additional pesticide option that adds to the products already available.  In this case, the PMRA is quite attentive to the lack of viable insecticides for the landscape and retail market and has sped up the approval process for a new insecticide that is environmentally friendly.

This insecticide is currently called  MET  52 but will probably go to the market under another name.  It is effective against both grubs and chinch bug but needs to be applied separately to control these pests.  Chinch bug is a surface feeder and grubs are root feeders, so the first application would need to be left on the surface and the second would need to be watered in.

Under normal due process, this insecticide would have become available in 2014 or 2015.  However, results to date demonstrate that the insecticide is insect specific and environmentally friendly so there is a very real likelihood this product will be on the market in the next 2-3 months.  Indications are that it will certainly be available as a liquid and there is some chance, but maybe not immediately, that it will also be packaged as a granular. 

So beware manufacturers of nematodes. Your days may be numbered. I for one believe I speak for many in the industry, it can't come soon enough. Remember Sarritor the first great organic weed control that wasn't. That's right....Sarritor who?

So fleece the unsuspecting while you can, soon there will be a new item on the menu. It's about time we had a product that was more palatable.

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