Tag Archives: Child Safe Playing Fields Act

What now? Early spring sports field management

 

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.” – Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

Spring is slowly unfurling. And in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of… turf maintenance. Photo: Joellen Lampman

The first athletic field question of the year has arrived – and it has to do with the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. (Since its full implementation in 2011, there are still many questions about the law. We tried to address some of the more common ones in a previous blog post.) This week’s question was in regards to fertilizer and if there were any restriction under the law.

The answer is no, although a combined fertilizer and pesticide product (often referred to as weed and feed) is covered under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. Fertilizer use, however, 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 (there are some caveats – see DEC website)
  • Leaving fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, or driveways (fertilizer must be swept up, not washed off with water)

Thus ends the legal part of the blog.

And now on to why we would talk about fertilizer on a pest management blog. Healthy turfgrass is the best preventive against turf pests. Dense stands leave little room for weed seeds to germinate. Extensive roots can withstand some insect feeding without impacting turf quality. Proper fertilization provides your grass with the proper nutrients for growth and recovery.

 So what is the minimum that should be done now to produce pest resistant turfgrass on fields that are used year round?

Heavy spring fertilizer applications lead to excessive shoot and leaf growth and poor root growth. This leaves turf less likely to handle harsh summer conditions.

  • Fertilizing – After the turf greens up and ensuring that you are able to apply fertilizer legally (April 1st for most of NY), apply ½ pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in April and ½ pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen or 100% organic nitrogen source in mid to late May. Note that spring applications are lighter than late summer and fall fertilization rates.
  • Mowing – If you haven’t already, sharpen those blades. Sharp blades reduces both injury to the turf blades as they are being cut and fuel usage. Once the grass is growing, mow as frequently as your schedule allows and as high as the sport allows. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). Dense turf leaves less room for weeds to propagate.
  • Overseeding -Seed perennial rye at 2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. weekly in high-use areas. With snow in the forecast, you may want to consider dormant overseeding now.

What if I can do more than the minimum?

  • Watering – According to the Northeast Drought Update, “27% of the Northeast in a drought and 20% of the region is abnormally dry”. Once it starts growing, turf needs about 1” of water per week. You can help determine irrigation need by referring to ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry Irrigation Information.
  • 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.

    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.


Managing Nuisance Geese Webinar – March 30th

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harassing them (such as with dogs or lasers) does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest — such as addling their eggs — does. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Although beautiful in flight and valued as a symbol of the wild, Canada Geese frequenting school grounds, including athletic fields, are a growing concern. Please join us for a discussion about goose biology and behavior, the legal framework for dealing with goose problems, alleviation techniques available to schools, and the long-term management of geese and goose problems. For more information and to register for this New York State School Facilities Association event, visit http://nyssfa.com/sfmi-trainingevents/webinars.

Speakers:
♦ Lynn Braband, Sr. Extension Associate, NYS IPM Program
♦ Joellen Lampman, School and Turfgrass IPM Extension Support Specialist, NYS IPM Program

New York State’s “Clean, Green, & Healthy Schools” website

The NYS Department of Health has organized a website with extensive information on school environmental health, defined as the way the physical environment of school buildings and school grounds influences the overall health and safety of occupants. The key role that IPM plays in protecting school children and staff is prominent and includes resources from the NYS IPM Program. If you have not visited the site in a while, check it out at https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/healthy_schools/index.htm

Ticks: Assessing the risk at schools and child care centers

“I tried real hard to play golf, and I was so bad at it they would have to check me for ticks at the end of the round because I’d spent about half the day in the woods.” – Jeff Foxworthy

‘Tis the season for requests for emergency pesticide sprays on school and child care grounds to get rid of ticks. The request is often prompted by an irate parent who found a tick on their child.

Problem #1: IPM requires evidence, not complaints, to determine when management should take place. When looking for an exemption to apply pesticides under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act, confirmation that ticks are on the property is essential.

Problem #2: playgrounds and ball fields are lousy tick habitat. As Jeff Foxworthy discovered, golfers who  stay on fairways are in little danger of picking up ticks. While it’s always possible a tick dropped off a wandering deer, mouse, or bird, it’s not likely to survive in a dry place for long. Mowed lawn and mulched playgrounds don’t typically have the 85% relative humidity level ticks need to survive.

It can be difficult to tell if a tick has been feed up to two days after it starts.

It’s not easy to tell if a tick has been feeding for up to two days after it starts. But — be aware. This is only an estimate.

Problem #3: ticks are sneaky. Very sneaky. Their entire livelihood depends on being attached to another living being for up to a week without being discovered. A tick found today provides little information about where it was picked up.

But guidance is available. The TickEncounter Resource Center has growth charts showing how a tick’s appearance changes the longer it is able to feed. If you send them a picture, they can determine how long the tick has been feeding.

Dragging for ticks assesses tick presence and helps determine next steps for management.

Dragging for ticks can help assess tick risk and help determine next steps for management.

Still, be aware: this is only an estimate.

The upshot is that ticks found on students shouldn’t trigger pesticide applications on playgrounds. But they should trigger the IPM practice of tick monitoring. The easiest way to look for ticks? Dragging.

Tick drags are easy and inexpensive to make. Attach dowels on the ends of a 3’x3’ white flannel cloth and tie a string to each end of one of the dowels. Drag the cloth over grass for 30 seconds. Identify and count the number of ticks clinging to the sheet. Repeat over the entire area. Woods and shrubby areas are easier to scout with a tick flag, which is simply a tick drag with only one dowel attached. Instead of dragging, swipe the bushes and understory with the flag. Everything else remains the same. Done often wherever kids play, you can assess the risk of picking up ticks year-round. According to School Integrated Pest Management Thresholds, the recommended threshold for action for ticks is three ticks in outdoor student activity areas.

Did tick monitoring indicate that the tick population is above threshold on portions or all of your grounds? You can find management practices and more in our fact sheet, Understanding and Managing Ticks – A Guide for Schools, Child Care and Camps.

Looking for more information? Visit What’s Bugging You: Ticks. And stay tuned for upcoming posts about protecting our children from tick bites.

Pest Management for Today’s Schools Workshop – October 30, 2015

Do you work for a school district served by Orange-Ulster BOCES? Join the NYS IPM Program of Cornell University and Orange-Ulster BOCES for a seminar on implementing integrated pest management within schools and on the grounds.

Lynn Braband discussing landscaping and how it affects school pest management.

Lynn Braband discussing landscaping and how it affects school pest management.

There is no fee for the workshop, but pre-registration is requested. Contact Jack DeGraw, Health and Safety Coordinator, Orange – Ulster BOCES at  john.degraw@ouboces.org or 845-781-4887.

WHERE

Orange-Ulster BOCES, Carl Onken Conference Center at the Amy Bull Crist Campus, 53 Gibson Rd., Goshen, NY 10924

AGENDA

8:00 – 8:30           Registration

8:30 – 9:00           Tenets of School IPM – Lynn Braband, NYS IPM Program

Introduction to the concepts and tools for successful integrated pest management programs on school properties. Learn how to make your pest management program more efficient and effective, and how to comply with school-related laws and policies.

9:00 – 9:45           Regulatory Update – Catherine Ahlers, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Presentation of state regulations impacting pest management on school properties.

9:45 – 10:00           Break

10:00 -11:00          Turf and Grounds IPM – Joellen Lampman, NYS IPM Program

A discussion of IPM approaches for athletic fields, lawns, and non-turf areas such as fencelines, sidewalks, and curbs. Cultural techniques for minimizing weed populations, such as heavy overseeding, will be featured along with methods for assessing insect populations. Techniques for preventing insect and weed infestations as well as pest management products allowable for use on school grounds will be reviewed.

11:00 – 12:00         Structural Pest Management – Lynn Braband, NYS IPM Program

A description of implementing IPM for management of rodents, ants, cockroaches, and other pests in school buildings. This session will include discussions of inspections, sanitation, prevention, control options for common structural pests, and record keeping.

12:00 – 12:30         Walk-Through Exercise – Lynn Braband and Joellen Lampman, NYS IPM Program

Interactive session where we will conduct a casual on-site inspection, discussing pest management aspects of situations encountered.

What now? Autumn sports field management

“Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.” – Hal Borland

No disrespect to Mr. Borland, but he obviously was not in charge of keeping school athletic fields in good shape. While autumn can bring some of the best grass growing weather, when our cool season turf really thrives, it also brings students on the fields for recess, practice, physical education, and games. That can lead to a great amount of compaction and wear and tear. Combine heavy traffic with this year’s drought, and Autumn 2015 promises to be challenging.

Broadleaf weeds such as plantain are tripping hazards.

Broadleaf weeds such as plantain are tripping hazards.

The Child Safe Playing Fields Act was implemented in 2011 to reduce the impact of pesticides on students. While we are confident that we can reduce the impact of insects and weeds on athletic fields with good cultural practices, the Act failed to bolster school budgets, which often do not reflect the need for providing more training for staff, equipment, irrigation, and materials such as fertilizer and seed needed to produce safe fields. Without these resources, weeds, which cannot handle the same traffic as grass, can overtake a field. As the season progresses, these weedy areas become bare, leaving much more slippery and harder patches behind.

 So what is the minimum that should be done now to minimize the likelihood of injury?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Again, 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?
This school soccer field is mostly crabgrass, which starts to decline just as the season begins.

This school soccer field is mostly crabgrass, which starts to decline just as the season begins.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.