Bring Some Creativity to Turf Care to Stretch Your Operating Budget

By Josh Seibel, Saskatchewan Turfgrass Nutritionist at Target Specialty Products 

Profit margins seem to be one of the few things that get slimmer every year. When I was the superintendent at a golf course in southeastern Saskatchewan, plant health was my biggest cost after labour. Each year, I would sit down with my budget and look for areas where I could get creative and save money without compromising the course experience for golfers. Here are a few tips on protecting your bottom line while keeping your turfgrass healthy too.

Where to get creative and reduce costs

Fungicides with a single active ingredient

Alternative chemistries and products with one active ingredient are typically more affordable than new formulations or brand-name products. The average course in Saskatchewan makes four fungicide applications over the course of the season. Switching to straightforward products like propiconazol, iprodione or chlorothalanil for basic disease prevention can save you a lot of change over the course of a season.

Half-price insecticide

We’ve had great success with QUALI-PRO’S imidacloprid insecticide, as there is a lot of black turfgrass ataenius beetle in Saskatchewan. The control you get from imidacloprid is spectacular, and the cost is typically 50% less than the brand name products. This is one area where it’s easy to reduce costs and maintain high standards for plant health.

Tank mixing for efficiency

Tank mixing chemical and fertilizer products is another good cost-saving strategy. It’s efficient and saves labour hours, fuel cost and wear and tear on the equipment. My one caution is to watch what you mix. Some things perform better separately than together. Consult with your sales representative or distributor to ensure the tank mix has been thoroughly tested in your region.

Altering the turf environment to discourage pests

If you’re facing a lot of financial pressure, concerned about budget issues or looking at pest thresholds to decide if it warrants a spray, look at the agronomic and cultural equation. Ask yourself, “What can we do with the turf to get rid of the pest altogether?” Or, “How can we create an environment that will discourage the pathogen from growing?” Altering the soil or lowering the pH can correct the condition that’s creating disease.

These kinds of changes may require an investment up front, but you’ll save on pesticide costs in the long run and improve the general health of your turf.

Where you can’t cut corners

As much as I like getting creative, there are some areas where I refuse to cut costs. For instance, if you aren’t familiar with take-all patch, it’s a very destructive bentgrass disease caused by the root-infecting fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis. When I was superintendent, my golf course was one of the few that had it. Our chemistry budget was higher than the typical Manitoban or Saskatchewan golf course because we required a lot of fungicide to manage the take-all patch.

I knew I couldn’t sacrifice the look and performance of my greens — that was more important than any other area. For that reason, I never compromised on my final fungicide application going into winter. For most golf course superintendents, it’s a no-brainer — we live and die by how we come through the winter, so we invest in putting the best product down.

For winter protection, I recommend picking the top three-way product available. Skip the home brews or combinations of agriculture products with trade products. QUALI-PRO has a new formulation called INTAGLIO™ that has been specifically developed for Canadian conditions. It contains chorothalonil, iprodione and fludioxonil for superior snow mould control.

These are a few of the strategies that helped me keep my budget – and my turf – healthy. It can feel like a balancing act at times, but when you devote time to finding new ways to improve your practices, it pays off in the long run.

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