In work partially funded by the United States Golf Association, researchers compared the effects of hollow-tine core cultivation (HTCC) and verticutting on controlling pesticide runoff by simulating rainstorms at a test site at the University of Minnesota, and concluded that the HTCC practice is more effective at absorbing more runoff.
Scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in St. Paul, Minn. and the University of Minnesota (UMN) have made a number of recommendations to golf course managers and superintendents on ways to minimize the risk of pesticide and fertilizer runoff into nearby ponds, streams or lakes. The work was partially funded by the United States Golf Association (USGA).
Pamela Rice of the ARS and Brian Horgan, a UMN turfgrass expert, compared the effects of two turf management practices on controlling pesticide runoff by simulating rainstorms at a research site on the UMN campus in St. Paul. The site is equipped with sprinklers and gutters that channel runoff into a flume with instruments that allow researchers to control precipitation, measure runoff and collect samples for pesticide analysis.
Two management practices were evaluated: hollow-tine core cultivation (HTCC) and verticutting. HTCC involves punching holes that are dime-sized, or a bit smaller, into the turf with hollow tubes to aerate it, giving it a “Swiss cheese”look. The soil cores are pulled up and allowed to dry out, then the soil is brushed back into the holes and stray grass is blown away, so the turf is aerated, less compacted, and better able to absorb water.
Verticutting involves running a mower with vertical blades into the turf to lightly penetrate the soil, opening it up for air and water to filter through. Both practices are common for controlling thatch and loosening up the soil to increase infiltration of rainwater. But they are also labor-intensive, and golf course managers need to know whether they have any deleterious or beneficial effects on pesticides or fertilizers applied.
The researchers measured concentrations of five different pesticides in the runoff and found that HTCC absorbed more runoff than verticutting and was even superior to the combination of verticutting and HTCC, possibly because verticutting can compact the soil at points where the mower blades cut into it.
The message was clear, the researchers concluded: If you are concerned about pesticide runoff at your golf course, the HTCC process may be the better way to go.
The results were published in Science of the Total Environment, and the USGA will disseminate the findings to golf course managers around the country. The findings may apply to any of the 32,000 golf courses around the world, as well as to athletic fields and other facilities that use managed turfgrasses, Rice said.
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