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Welcome to the New York State Best Management Practices blog page. On this page we will be providing news, information, and insights on the use of Best Management Practices to protect natural resources. To be notified of new postings, please sign up using the form at right.

Late Season Nutrient BMP: Timing is Everything

Supplemental nutrient use is a critical aspect of a golf course Best Management Practice Program and embodied in the BMP Statement:

Supplement soil with appropriate rate and source of nutrients to maintain optimum availability and minimize off-site movement.

Specifically, the application of high rates (>0.5 lbs. actual Nitrogen per 1000 Square feet) soluble-Nitrogen (N) during cooler periods with less active growth conditions pose a significant risk to groundwater quality.

In the Northeast, Guillard and Kopp (2004) from the University of Connecticut collected leachate under turf plots over three years where 1 lb of N per thousand square feet as ammonium nitrate or polymer coated urea was applied annually at four different times (Figure 1).

Figure 1

First, the data demonstrate that leaching of applied N occurs primarily in late-fall to early spring in southern New England and applications of soluble N later in the season result in greater leaching. Polymer coated N had less than 2% in leachate over three years. However, there is no question that late season soluble nitrogen applications to cool season golf turf have well-established benefits:

  • stimulating growth during cooler conditions
  • aids in recovery from summer stress
  • prepares the plants for maximum winter-hardiness

Of course, the latter benefit is critical to good spring golfing conditions, especially when spring golf traffic requires active growth as temperatures allow.

To quantify active growth use clipping volume as a measure of growth and the Growth Potential Model, as described thoroughly by Dr. Micah Woods in the 2013 article Using Temperature to Predict Turfgrass Growth Potential
(GP) and to Estimate Turfgrass Nitrogen Use
. This model simply provides an overview for the amount of growth that could occur compared to maximum growth potential and can assist with moderating N applications throughout the season.

Specific turfgrass research conducted by Professor Doug Soldat in Wisconsin over a three-year period concluded that applications of soluble N made in late October and November resulted in significantly less N in the plant tissue (roots and shoots) (Figure 2). Clearly if you are applying fertilizer when growth potential is less than 20% the risk of N loss increases.

Figure 2

To conclude, the following are good, better and best practices for sand-based soils (higher risk):

A good practice is continue to spoon-feed (generally rates at or below 0.2 lbs N per thousand square feet) soluble nitrogen sources into the fall. Gradually reduce nitrogen rate as evapotranspiration rate declines. Final application should be made from early to late October depending on your location.

A better practice is to monitor growth potential and clipping volume and spoon-feed (generally rates at or below 0.2 lbs N per thousand square feet) soluble nitrogen sources into the fall. Gradually reduce nitrogen rate as evapotranspiration rate declines. Final application should be made from early to late October depending on your location.

The best practice is monitor the aforementioned parameters and evapotranspiration levels and occasionally monitor plant tissue uptake and spoon-feed (generally rates at or below 0.2 lbs N per thousand square feet) soluble nitrogen sources into the fall. Gradually reduce nitrogen rate as evapotranspiration rate declines. Final application should be made from early to late October depending on your location.

For native soils or for alternatives to spoon-feeding consider the use of slow release N sources in mid-September at 0.5 to 1.0 lbs per thousand square feet. Products should have at least 50% slow release nitrogen or less. Applications made too late will risk leaching or lingering in the soil and promoting excessive spring growth that could reduce summer stress tolerance.

 

Pollinator BMPs: Updates!

Our stand alone publication, Best Management Practices for Pollinators on New York State Golf Courses, has been revised and republished, now available for on-line reading as a flip book: http://nysgolfbmp.cals.cornell.edu/nys_pollinator_bmps_2019/.

Over 400 wild species of pollinators inhabit New York State. Golf courses, especially in developed areas, can provide significant areas of habitat to support these species and domesticated honey bees as well. This publication contains the information superintendents need to protect pollinators while responsibly using  pesticides to meet their needs and guidance on providing habitat to support healthy pollinator populations.

What Good is the EIQ?

Pest management is a critical component of maintaining a playable and functional golf course. A fully implemented best management practices program demands the highest level of progressive Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Progressive IPM observes and records pest pressure, uses predictive approaches to assessing injury risk, considers intervention with lowest environmental impact, and assesses performance of intervention for integration in pest management programs. This summer, when you consider intervention to control pests that includes the use of pesticides, consider products with the lowest environmental impact. This idea is identified in the two BMP statements:

Determine least toxic pest control programs including preventive approaches.

Recognize environmental fate of pesticides and select pesticides using a selection strategy that includes an evaluation of pesticide characteristics and potential for nontarget effects.

When pesticide use is warranted, the selection of pesticide should include an evaluation of economics, efficacy, and the environment. An additional factor such as application method should be considered as well in those cases where liquid spray is more effective than granular products or has a lower environmental impact.

A simple method to assess the reduction in environmental impact can be performed by simply calculating the pounds of active ingredients of products used and striving each year to reduce those totals. However, this simple method neglects any potential variability in toxicity, which could be accounted for by using a percentage of reduced risk or biological products for pest control.

A number of pesticide risk assessment models are available from a variety of government, university and private sources to use for more precise environmental impact estimations. These models utilize toxicity, exposure, and persistence data to provide a numerical value that integrates a number of human health and environmental impacts. For example, the Quebec Pesticide Risk Indicator (QPRI) has different assessment models for human health (QPRI-Health) and a separate number for environmental impacts (QPRI-Environment). These measure various factors and provide the user information for product selection and cumulative environmental impact during a season.

The Cornell Turfgrass Program uses the Environmental Impact Quotient developed by the NYS IPM Program and adapted for use in turfgrass systems. Like the QPRI, the EIQ assesses the toxicity for the applicator and golfer as well as environmental fate and persistence characteristics. A numerical value is determined for a product, then adjusted for field use rate and finally the treated acreage.

Both these approaches have limitations; however, over time, regardless of the tool used, it is critical to attempt to measure and monitor the risk associated with pest management programs.

An excellent example of the risk assessment approach is available in the Case Studies section of this website, in the Reducing the Environmental Impact of Pest Management case study at Soaring Eagles Golf Course. The golf course management staff at Soaring Eagles Golf Course implemented the EIQ approach over a five-year period to target reducing risk associated with pest management and specifically with dollar spot control.  The case study concluded the following:

“Soaring Eagles quickly adapted the chemical substitutions of lower FUEIQ products with the same or improved efficacies, still considering resistance management. Strategic equipment investment created opportunity for specific cultural operations that directly reduced pest pressure and improve plant vigor. Five years later, there is a 28 percent reduction in the overall FUEIQ –Acres. More significantly, the course has reduced the use of higher FUEIQ-value chemicals by 57%.”

The spectrum of good, better, and best practices for reducing risk associated with pest management program are as follows:

The good pest management program:

  • Establishes non-resource limiting (light, air, drainage, etc.) growing environments as a preventative cultural management strategy.
  • Practices good recordkeeping of historical pest populations and impact of pest pressure that notes injury.
  • Monitors existing pest pressure and impact of current and forecasted weather conditions to determine predict risk level and degree of intervention required to maintain visual and functional quality.
  • Implements an intervention strategy with an understanding of the environmental impact (EPA label) and the potential disruption due to damage associated with pest pressure.
  • Assesses results of intervention and annually reviews practices and products.

The better pest management program:

  • Minimizes pest importation by maintaining clean planting material (sod, seed, topsoil, etc.)
  • Establishes non-resource limiting (light, air, drainage, etc.) growing environments as preventative cultural management strategy
  • Adapts cultural practices to manage abiotic (temperature, moisture and traffic) stress
  • Practices good recordkeeping of properly diagnosed historical pest populations and images of impact of pest pressure that notes injury, damage, and objectionable reduction in visual or functional quality
  • Monitors existing pest pressure and impact of current and forecasted weather conditions to determine degree of intervention required to maintain visual and functional quality
  • Implements intervention strategy with full understanding of the environmental impact as determined by two sources (EPA, EIQ, QPRI, etc.) and commensurate with the expected level of disruption due to damage associated with pest pressure.
  • Assesses results of intervention and records a detailed a review of the practices and products.

The best pest management program:

  • Minimizes pest importation by maintaining clean planting material (sod, seed, topsoil, etc.).
  • Establishes non-resource limiting (light, air, drainage, etc.) growing environments as preventative cultural management strategy.
  • Adapts cultural practices to manage abiotic (temperature, moisture and traffic) stress.
  • Practices GIS-based recordkeeping of properly diagnosed historical pest populations and GIS-based images of impact of pest pressure that notes injury, damage, and objectionable reduction in visual or functional quality.
  • Monitors existing pest pressure and in combination with weather-based published predictive models, on-line pest population ecology, to determine degree of intervention required to maintain visual and functional quality.
  • Implements intervention strategy with full understanding of the environmental impact as determined by three sources (EPA, EIQ, QPRI, etc.) and commensurate with the expected level of disruption due to damage associated with pest pressure and impact on revenue from documented said conditions.
  • Assesses results of intervention and records a detailed a review of the practices and products including an economic cost analysis that recognizes labor, energy, and facility revenue impacts.

Facility BMPs: We need your review!

New York State’s golf course BMPs were first published in 2014. Now five years later, we are updating the BMPs, in some cases adding new and updated information, including incorporating the pollinator BMPs (published in 2017). We have also incorporated discrete BMP statements to complement the BMP principles we identified in the first edition.

The draft final version of the Facility BMPs is available for download here: NYS_FacilityBMP_DraftFinal_05222019

To provide comments, please download the comment form here:
NYS Facility BMP_DraftFinalReview_CommentsForm

As part of the process of revising and updating, we are seeking input from superintendents across the state and the state’s regulatory agencies to review the draft final version and provide comments to NYGCF. Any superintendent or asst. superintendent in NYS is invited to participate in the review process. Superintendent reviewers should consider the content at three levels: the overall document, chapters, and page-by-page. The following are a few questions you may want to consider when reviewing:

  • Are these BMPs something that can be implemented at your facility? How about facilities of varying sizes/budgets?
  • Are there any topics that have not been covered in this document that you think should be addressed?
  • Are there any topics that are covered, but may need additional detail?
  • Is there any information presented that you think needs clarification?

Written comments submitted on or before July 16th to our project manager using the comment spreadsheet to submit comments. Please note: there are two pages in the spreadsheet – one each for specific comments and one for chapter comments. The superintendents on the NYGCF board and Cornell University scientists will review each comment and document how each comment is addressed in the final version.

NYGCF has undertaken the effort to create a facility BMP template to further implement BMPs across the state and to provide superintendents a process to make this process easy. Besides contributing to natural resources stewardship, additional incentives for golf courses in New York State to create a facility BMP plan and implement BMPs include the following:

  • potential for more efficiently allocating resources by identifying management zones
  • cost savings associated with applying less fertilizer and pesticide
  • cost savings associated with more efficient irrigation and other water conservation efforts
  • improving stormwater management efforts as storms in the area become more intense
  • improved community relations`
  • recognition by club members and the community at large as environmental stewards

We look forward to the input of superintendents across the state in this effort.

Lower DU Can Lead to More Uniform Soil Moisture

The golfing season in northern climates includes managing cool-season turf playing surfaces through stressful summer months (e.g. high temperature, low moisture). To prepare for summer stress, use opportunities in the spring during dry periods to apply strategic moisture stress to your playing surfaces by purposefully withholding water from the plant. Allowing soils to dry and create stress in this way often results in increased rooting and improved drought stress tolerance that will pay off in the summer.

In addition, you should assess your irrigation system’s ability to produce uniform soil moisture before summer stresses occur. The application of supplemental irrigation water to maintain uniform soil moisture is critical for maximum playability and stress tolerance during dry periods. Increased accuracy in applying water through a well-designed in-ground irrigation system also allows for significant water conservation. These concepts are promoted in the following two BMP statements:

  • Design and maintain irrigation systems to uniformly apply water to the intended area of management.
  • Assess system efficiency through regular audits of application rate and uniformity.

However, the application efficiency of an irrigation system, measured as Distribution Uniformity (DU), may not always be the most effective measurement of system application that results in uniform soil moisture. This is especially true for undulating surfaces, with higher elevations often too dry and lower elevations too wet.

Applied water sheds rapidly, internally and externally, in a progressive fashion from higher elevations, and along the surface, down to the lower elevations. Research investigating sloped greens conducted at Michigan State University suggests building variable soil profile depths to address the uniquely inconsistent water holding properties found on sloped terrain when constructing new putting surfaces. This will insure shallower depth of rootzone profiles in the higher elevations that will hold more water and deeper rootzone profiles in the low areas to expedite drainage.

The only option to address the disparity in soil moisture on existing undulating surfaces, when adding drainage is not an option, is to alter the DU. In fact, research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated that irrigating a putting surface with a one percent slope required a change in DU from 80 percent to 17 percent to apply the correct amount of water for uniform soil moisture as measured by a time-domain reflectometer (TDR) probe (Spectrum 300).

Therefore, the BEST irrigation practice includes measuring soil moisture to assess system uniformity—not traditional catch-can tests. This will insure that plants have the moisture they need to provide firm playing conditions.

Managing Surface Organic Matter

Golf turf playability and performance lies at the heart of golf course Best Management Practices that protect and preserve water quality. Optimizing playability demands a well-drained, firm playing surface able to withstand traffic and demonstrate resiliency during normal play. The key to achieving these goals lies in the management of surface organic matter.

Turf is a perennial plant system that increases surface organic matter as a result of turf growth and management (Figure 1). Organic matter accumulates at the surface from the development and deposition of plant parts such as leaves, stems, and roots. Underground plant parts, such as stems (rhizomes) and roots, cycle as living, dead, and decomposing organic matter.

The accumulation of organic matter in the top 3 to 6 inches of a turf system increases over time and provides nutrients and water holding capacity, as well as Increasing the resiliency and traffic tolerance required of playing surfaces. However, when too much organic matter accumulates at the surface, it can restrict infiltration of water and when wet does not dry easily into a playable surface. This can reduce the effectiveness of fertilizer and pesticides and increase runoff volumes from the turf surface. The following NYS BMP statement is based on this premise:

Manage the surface accumulation of organic matter to maintain a permeable system that minimizes runoff and maximizes subsurface retention.

Turfgrass species, fertilization, and soil properties influence turf growth and organic matter accumulation. Assuming proper growth is maintained, organic matter accumulation in grasses could be managed through less invasive cultivation and light applications of sand throughout the season. A light application (0.1 to 0.2 inches) of material applied and integrated into the surface of the turf dilutes the organic matter and creates a physical matrix that functions as a soil.

Topdressing is often performed in conjunction with some form of cultivation that simply makes a hole. Research at the University of Nebraska by Professor Roch Gaussoin shows clearly that topdressing frequency (even when compared to use with cultivation) had the greatest influence on organic matter accumulation. (Figure 2). Less invasive cultivation with solid tines provides minor disruption to create space for topdressing to serve the purpose of dilution and creation of a pseudo-soil matrix. Some research suggests the amount of topdressing sand that might be needed over a growing season increases. However, many opportunities to reduce organic matter accumulation exist via more precise N applications and more regular use of plant growth regulators. Ultimately, the goal of proper dilution is to ensure adequate infiltration while preserving sufficient retention of the turf system to prevent leaching.

To summarize the good, better best practices for managing organic matter accumulation are as follows:

  • A good organic matter management program utilizes a calendar-based approach to N fertilization and plant growth regulator use and maintains a light/frequent topdressing program in combination with some form of cultivation.
  • A better organic matter management program casually monitors turf growth rate, applies N based on growth potential (demand driven), applies plant growth regulators on a regular basis, and maintains a light/frequent topdressing program with less invasive cultivation applied during the season.
  • A best organic matter management program measures clipping volume through the season, applies N based on growth potential (demand driven), applies growth regulators on a growing degree day formula, and strives to apply topdressing at a rate that carefully matches growth, finally utilizing cultivation to maintain surface infiltration.

Do You Get My Drift?

Drift when it comes to pesticide applications is something to be avoided, as it can potentially cause not only water quality impacts, but also damage to susceptible off target crops. In addition, a lower than intended rate of pesticide will be applied to the turfgrass, thus reducing its effectiveness. To avoid drift, the first step is to know the difference between types: airborne (spray) drift and vapor drift.

Spray Drift

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines pesticide spray or dust drift as “the physical movement of pesticide droplets or particles through the air at the time of pesticide application or soon thereafter from the target site to any non- or off-target site”. Spray drift is influenced by many inter-related factors including droplet size, nozzle type and size, sprayer design, weather conditions and the operator.

Droplet Size

Lower spray volumes can result in smaller droplets that enhance leaf coverage although there is a limit to droplet size due to drift. Droplets under 150 microns generally pose the greatest hazard; droplets less than 50 microns have insufficient momentum for impaction as they remain suspended in the air indefinitely or until they evaporate. The higher the operating pressure, the smaller the droplet. Conversely, low pressure produces large droplets that may bounce off the target. Certain spray surfactants can change the droplet spectrum, reducing the number of driftable droplets.

Nozzle Type and Size

Correct nozzle selection is one of the most important, yet inexpensive, aspects of pesticide application. A nozzle’s droplet size spectrum determines deposition and drift. Conventional flat fan nozzles fitted to a turfgrass sprayer produces droplets in the range of 10 – 450 microns. (Note: 25,000 microns = 1 inch.) Drift is a concern with droplets less than 100 microns. Increasing the Volume Median Diameter (VMD) reduces drift, but droplets that are too large bounce off the leaves to the ground.

Sprayer Design

Shields are better at targeting the spray into the grass, reducing drift and increasing deposition. They vary from the simple to the complex. Shielded sprayers allow managers to apply pesticides in variable weather conditions.

Weather Conditions

Wind speed and direction, relative humidity, temperature and atmospheric stability affects drift.

Calibration

Correct sprayer calibration ensures that all the nozzles are discharging the correct amount of liquid at the correct distance and angle to the target and at the correct forward speed.

Vapor Drift

Vapor drift is caused by pesticide volatilization – the chemical process whereby pesticide surface residues change from a solid or liquid to a gas or vapor after application. Once airborne, volatile pesticides may drift off site. Pesticide volatility varies, and not all pesticides volatilize.
The amount of vapor drift depends upon a pesticide’s volatility and atmospheric conditions such as humidity, temperature. Turfgrass pesticides with known volatility should be avoided. In some cases, the pesticide label may indicate low volatility. However, low volatility does not mean that a chemical will not volatilize under conducive conditions, such as high temperatures or low relative humidity.

Best Practices for Spraying

Before spraying:

  1. Train the operator to use the sprayer correctly.
  2. Plan the spraying operation; consider the use of spray instruction cards as a good management tool.
  3. Read and follow the pesticide label.
  4. Select the correct nozzle for the target. Adjust the size and position of the nozzles to achieve correct distribution within the grass canopy.
  5. Consider the use of sprayer nozzles which direct the spray to the target.
  6. Consider spray additives to reduce drift.
  7. Improve spraying logistics to ensure adequate time to spray within ‘ideal’ conditions.
  8. Only spray when weather conditions are ideal; avoid spraying on days when conditions are favorable for atmospheric inversion or wind drift.
  9. Calibrate the sprayer with water to ensure that everything is working correctly.

During spraying:

  1. Stay alert: ensure the spray is not allowed to drift on to non-target areas and watch for changes in wind speed and direction.
  2. Keep spray pressure as low as possible and ensure an accurate gauge is used.
  3. Maintain a constant speed and pressure. If an automatic regulator is fitted, remember, small increases in speed result in large increases in pressure.
  4. Avoid spraying near sensitive crops or watercourses; use a buffer zone.

You Can Help Monarchs

Most people can easily recognize a monarch butterfly, but did you know that their numbers have suffered dramatic declines in the last 40 years? Habitat loss in both their summer and overwintering locations has played a major role in this decline.

Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars only eat milkweed. Therefore, superintendents can allow milkweed to persist in open areas and can introduce milkweed into suitable areas on the course if none currently exists.

A new program aimed specifically at helping superintendents to conserve monarch habitat can provide assistance in these efforts. Monarchs in the Rough, sponsored by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund, provides superintendents with regionally appropriate milkweed seeds to restore monarch butterfly habitat in out-of-play areas. Monarchs in the Rough also offers signage, posters, and technical guidance to golf course managers in the installation and management of monarch habitat and ideas of how to communicate with course members about these conservation efforts.

A Foundation for Sustainability: The New York Golf Course Foundation

The New York Golf Course Foundation (NYGCF) is a newly launched non profit to promote sustainable golf management efforts in New York State. This new organization is an evolutionary step for the New York State Best Management Practices (BMPs) project begun in 2012 that established the state’s first golf industry BMPs.

The foundation’s mission is to continue and expand upon the work of the BMP committee, raise the profile of the state’s golf industry with respect to its environmental sustainability efforts, and to fundraise to provide a sustainable source of revenue to continue these efforts. Scientists from Cornell University will continue working with NYGCF to update the BMPs, address new topics as the need arises, and provide education to the superintendent target audience.

The current focus of the NYGCF is outreach and education aimed at promoting the acceptance and implementation of BMPs by the state’s golf course superintendents. In addition, the Foundation will continue to promote the recognition of BMPs as the best way to protect and preserve our water resources and enhance open space. State lawmakers and regulators have applauded our past efforts and the Foundation’s directors will continue to inform these key stakeholders of the activities of the new Foundation.

Under a current Turf Environmental Stewardship Foundation (TESF) grant, the foundation is working on an update to the state’s BMPs that will be incorporated into a template that can be used by any superintendent in the state to create a site-specific facility BMP. Once completed, the foundation will provide information and workshops for superintendents to become more familiar with the process of completing their own BMP document. Taking the time to create a facility BMP can pay off in a number ways; for example, superintendents can use their site-specific BMP document as a resource during the permit negotiating process with local towns by recognizing the club’s commitment to protecting water quality or as a tool to educate golfers and/or the interested non-golfing public regarding the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The facility BMP tool is expected to be available to superintendents through the GCSAA’s BMP portal by October.

In addition to the facility BMP template development, the Foundation is currently working on re-establishing its Twitter feed (@NYS_GolfBMP), publishing new blogs on the website, and documenting case studies of BMP implementation. The Twitter feed, blogs, and case studies are designed to inform, update, and educate superintendents about time sensitive BMP-related methods for completing various environmentally sensitive tasks. The NYGCF will also continue maintaining and updating the BMP website (http://nysgolfbmp.cals.cornell.edu/).

We invite superintendents to subscribe to the Twitter feed, submit case studies (through the website comment field), and read our blog.

No Kidding: Using Goats to Control Vegetation


At Whippoorwill Club in Armonk, buffer strips around ponds on the property had become overgrown and encroached upon by invasive species. Because of the rocky, steep hillside, chemical control was not an option and physical removal difficult.

To control the growth, an innovative approach to vegetation removal was utilized: goats. Goats are browsers who prefer brushy vegetation and vines (including poison ivy) versus other species like sheep who prefer to graze on grass. Goats are also unique in weed seeds are left unviable after being digested and will not grow out of their excrement. Green Goats, a company out of Rhinebeck NY, was used to introduce goats and set up fencing. Three foot livestock fencing powered by a solar powered fence charger was used to enclose the area for the goats.

The project was very successful and areas that were completely overgrown were cleared of  foliage within a couple of weeks. It also provided a significant cost savings – estimated at $15,000 less than what would have been spent to remove the overgrowth physically. In addition, because of the conservation easement on the property, goats were the only viable option for clearing the overgrown areas. The area cleared by the goats will be replanted with native species.

Because of the project’s success, goats will be brought back to new areas. Though very successful, the goats did have one unintended side effect: they slowed play. As members passed the area, many would stop to see the goats and take pictures.