Category Archives: All Things IPM

Our general category for all things related to Integrated Pest Management

Fertilizer and the Law

A deep, extensive root system helps cool-season grasses build up reserves to get through the winter, green up top growth in spring, and minimize vulnerability to insects, diseases and summer drought. Nutrients released from the soil, grass clippings and late season fertilization (feeding) will promote root growth.Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset

photo of man wearing shite shirt and tan pants pushing a small fertilizer spreader on a soccer fieldWhy we would talk about fertilizer on an integrated pest management blog? Fertilization helps grow healthy turfgrass. Dense stands outcompete weed seeds. Extensive roots can withstand some insect feeding without impacting turf quality. Proper fertilization provides your grass with the proper nutrients for growth and recovery.

And now is one of the best times for fertilizing sports fields, but it has come to my attention that the legality of fertilizer application is in question. There is a rumor that one needs to be a certified pesticide applicator to apply fertilizer to school grounds. We’ll label that as fake news. Addressed in an earlier blog, some wonder if they are restricted under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. The answer to that question is no.

But that doesn’t mean that there are no fertilizer rules. Here are the caveats:

  • Combined fertilizer and pesticide products (such as weed and feed) are covered under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act and do need to applied by a certified pesticide applicator.
  • Fertilizer use does fall under the NYS Nutrient Runoff Law, which prohibits:
    • Applying fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between December 1 and April 1 (Nassau and Suffolk County have their own local laws restricting application dates)
    • Applying fertilizer containing phosphorus unless you are establishing a new lawn or a soil test shows the need for phosphorus
    • Applying fertilizer within 20 feet of a water body
    • Leaving fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, or driveways (fertilizer must be swept up, not washed off with water)

So now that we know fertilizer can be applied to school grounds, what is the minimum that should be done now to produce pest resistant turfgrass on fields that are used year round?

illustration of turf growth showing that top growth surges in March through May, declines June through August, and then picks up again in August through September. Roots grow March through May and again September through October.

Fertilizing in the fall encourages more root growth.

  • Fertilizing -Apply 1 pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in September and ½ pound of 100% water soluble nitrogen in mid-October. Note – if you do not have irrigation, it is worth waiting until the day before rain is predicted to ensure the fertilizer is watered in.
  • Mowing -If the grass is growing, mowing should be conducted at least twice a week. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). More tillers means more traction and cushioning.
  • Overseeding -Seed perennial rye at 2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. weekly in high-use areas. The athletes’ cleats will make the necessary seed to soil contact. This year’s drought makes this practice tricky. If you can borrow irrigation equipment, do so.

What if I can do more than the minimum?

a bucket filled with mix of soil and turf seed being poured into a bare area on a lawn

A divot mix of seed and soil can help fill in bare spots on the field. Click on the image to view a video on patching weak or bare spots.

  • Fertilizing -Conduct a soil test to see if other nutrients are needed in addition to the nitrogen.
  • Cultivating -Concentrating on high-use areas, solid tine cultivate in multiple directions to maintain infiltration of air and water.
  • Overseeding -Have a mixture of one part seed to ten parts soil available so coaches and players can repair divots left after heavy use.
  • Watering -Maintain adequate soil moisture but keep surfaces dry to maximize traffic tolerance. Irrigate if you can see your foot prints after walking on the turf.

    photo of twitter handle, @Cornell_Turf, Cornel Turf website, turf.cals.cornell.edu, the motto "Stay connected to the source for turfgrass information in the Northeast US

    The official Cornell Turfgrass twitter account will provide you with timely turf care information.

For more information on maintaining safe, functional athletic fields, visit http://safesportsfields.cals.cornell.edu. You will find different maintenance schedules based on number of seasons used and resources available, detailed information on different management practices, and information on “Duty of Care”, a legal obligation to a standard of reasonable care. For the most up-to-date information, follow the Cornell Turfgrass twitter account.

AIR QUALITY: Pest Management, when pests are too small to see

A recent EPA nationwide webinar, What Schools Need to Know: Practices and Principles for Healthy IAQ and Reducing the Spread of Viruses, focused on indoor air quality in school settings. Air quality was important before the current pandemic but is now central to the back-to-school issue.  For today’s post we’d like to share some EPA and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation resources. Some highlights: airborne disease is not the only issue. Proper surface cleaning and air filtering must be addressed. Products used to kill virus organisms are not just ‘disinfectants’, but pesticides, so their labeled directions must be followed. School buildings across the country vary widely in age, size, and management budget, making indoor air quality an important subject long before SARS Covid-19.

graphic showing pages available in the EPA air quality site

Indoor Air Quality has never been so important. In addition to its usual IAQ resources, EPA has created a specific Covid-19 webpage.

graphic shows portions of two labels of common cleaning wipes with a note to keep out of reach of children

The Label is the Law. Read the label on very common containers of disinfectant wipes!

The major takeaway from this webinar’s experts? Using a combination of tactics is crucial to success.

  • Social distancing helps because aerosol spread (coughing, sneezing) travels farther than you’d expect. Not only in the air, but particles linger on clothing and items.
  • Masks reduce the exhalation of virus, therefore reducing what’s in the air.
  • Surface cleaning of high-touch areas. Under optimum conditions, SARS CoV-2 virus can last up to three days on plastic surfaces. There are plenty of surfaces in public buildings. These FOMITES (inanimate, contaminated objects capable of transfer microbes to new hosts) are high-touch areas such as desktops, door handles, faucets, and electronic devices. Always consult a trusted list of disinfecting products and read the label. How the product is applied is just as important. Foggers generally do not leave surfaces wet long enough (20 mins is optimum) to kill virus. CLEANING cloths should not be reused from site to site. Use clean, sterile cloths for cleaning so you are not moving microbes from place to place instead of destroying them. NOTE:  while the CDC has a list of effective disinfectants, we recommend that you PLEASE CHOOSE from this list compiled specifically for use in New York State: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/covid19.pdf
  • Hand washing- often and done with care. Emphasize this after toilet use. (This virus also spreads through feces.)
  • Air movement. This is not just the use of a fan. Fans recycle the same air around the room. Air movement must include dilution of indoor air with outdoor air as much as possible before, during, and after rooms are occupied. The addition of air filters (properly maintained) such as HEPA filters is highly suggested. HEPA means ‘high efficiency particulate air’ filters. Filtration reduces but can not eliminate airborne particulates.

Air quality depends on more than circulation and filtration, but on proper use of disinfectants. Improper use often induces asthma, and causes health problems. Always read the label.

We remind you that care should be taken with cleaning products used in homes and businesses, as well as schools. Fraudulent claims and risky products are out there. Visit the ABCS of School IPM blog post for more information.

school blog banner

We remind you that care should be taken with cleaning products used in homes and businesses, as well as schools. Fraudulent claims and risky products are out there. Visit the ABCS of School IPM blog post for more information.

For additional information, visit these resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:

Back to School – Keeping the Rodents Outside

We should have little trouble with vermin if builders would hear and understand the ‘language’ of vermin and do a better job in eliminating their entrances and hiding place.” – Hugo Hartnak, 1939

photo of Bobby Corrigan wearing a hard hat, holding a clipboard in one hand and a flashlight in the other pointing out a rusted wall grid plate with a hole large enough for a rat to fit through.

For Bobby Corrigan, pest management is a passion. Called upon for his expertise across the country, we are honored to include him in our conference.

Pests enter school buildings in one of two ways: they are transported in by students, staff, or delivery truck or they make their way in from the outside. The School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next virtual conference will focus on the first mode, but we will also include information on the second with tips, and a tool, to help with exclusion – or keeping pests out of buildings. Dr. Bobby Corrigan, co-founder of the first Scientific Coalition on Pest Exclusion, will join us to discuss rodent vulnerable areas.

All conference participants that complete the pre- and post-tests and evaluation will be mailed a Frye Inspection Tool (FIT tool). This simple probe can be used to demonstrate if a rodent can squeeze under a gap or through a round opening. By design, if the probe ‘FITs,’ so too can the specified rodent. This tool can be used to educate decision makers about rodent entry points and help justify pest exclusion.

picture of a F.I.T. tool, a probe with two different sized ends and demarcations to measure gnaw mark and dropping size.

A F.I.T. tool allows you to assess potential rodent entryways and identify whether gnaw marks and droppings were caused by rats or mice.

The measurement specs for the FIT are based on the size of adult rodent skulls. If a rodent can fit its head under a gap or through an opening, they are able to wiggle their body through (watch video Mouse Entry Points to see a mouse in action). The FIT can also be used to help differentiate rodent evidence (both gnaw marks and droppings) between rats and mice.

Signing up as a school district? We will mail enough FIT tools to cover all the participants from your district, so be sure to provide information for them all.A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon.

For the full agenda, registration, and pesticide recertification credit information, please visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/resources/nys-ipm-conferences/school-ipm-2020-where-weve-been-and-whats-next/.

 

Back to School – Humans Only!

A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon.Schools across the world are having conversations about safely sending teachers, students, and the rest of the school staff back for face-to-face education during a global pandemic. These are vitally important discussions and plans need to adapt to new information. And this focus on school health and safety also provides an ideal, if unanticipated, backdrop for our rescheduled annual conference – School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next.

Covid-19 is an excellent example of a community issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the health of the community through social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing. Our conference will focus on community-wide pest issues such as German cockroaches and bedbugs. There is simply no way for schools to prevent these insects from being reintroduced by students, school staff, and delivery trucks. How then, as a community, can we address these issues before they breach the school walls? And avoid the subsequent calls by some to close the building for pesticide applications?

photo of flat, wide, reddish bug on a finger tip

The penultimate hitchhiker, bed bugs need to be dealt with at a community level.

Please join us on the mornings of August 11 and 18 as we hear from community and agency leaders – and you! – about efforts to provide healthy learning and work environments. We welcome your experiences and ideas as we use this momentum to address school pest issues now and into the future.

For the full agenda, registration, and pesticide recertification credit information, please visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/resources/nys-ipm-conferences/school-ipm-2020-where-weve-been-and-whats-next/.

 

Managing Wild Parsnip

“As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet.” – Paul Hetzler

picture of yellow umbrella-like flower on a large green stalk

The bright yellow flowers of wild parsnip can be noticeable from a distance. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

There is no lack of invasive species in New York – but some do raise more of a concern than others. One such is the wild parsnip. Commonly spotted along roadsides with its bright yellow flowers, it can cause a problem on low maintenance areas on school grounds.

According to the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse, wild parsnip produces furanocoumarin, “a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days”. Avoid the sap and avoid the chemical burns.

In order to avoid those burns, the NYS DEC recommends:

  • Do not touch any parts of the plant with bare skin.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and eye protection if working near wild parsnip to prevent skin contact with the sap. Synthetic, water-resistant materials are recommended.
  • If contact with sap occurs, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent a reaction.
  • If a reaction occurs, keep the affected area out of sunlight to prevent further burning or discoloration, and see a physician.
yellow flowers with some seed formation

Wild parsnip going to seed. The seeds become browner as they get ready to drop.

Digging out the root, cutting the root an inch or two below the soil, mowing, and herbicides can all be effective in managing wild parsnip. It is unlikely, however, that an emergency exemption for herbicide use would be approved before seed drop. Mechanical methods will have more long-term benefits.

And wild parsnip is going to seed, so make sure you don’t ensure a new crop next year by spreading seeds around! Before conducting any management, carefully cut the seed heads off with clippers and put them in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.

If you want to learn more about wild parsnip and its management, our favorite guest blogger Paul Hetzler covered it well and humorously in his blog, Vengeful Veggies.

For more pictures of wild parsnip, visit the Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID website. For information on other  invasive species, visit the New York State IPM Program’s Invasive Species page.

And, just in case we didn’t quite get the message across – wear protective clothing and eye wear to prevent sap from causing severe burns.