Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pesticide Storage

As I visit golf facilities around BC to conduct site assessments in order to help with certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses I am finding a suprising fact' many of the courses I visit do not have proper chemical storage facilities.

Many of the golf courses are storing their pesticides in areas that are wide open for everyone to not only have a gander at but also to access. There are several problems with this type of scenario; not the least of which is the opportunity for anyone to come into contact with these potentially dangerous products. Anyone who is not properly trained on the safe handling and control of pesticides should not have access to them.

Another issue is the possibility of a spill. These products need to be stored in a locked room that has spill containment. If pesticides are kept in an area that does not have spill containment there is a very real possiblity that an accidental spill could wind up in ground water, surface water or other environmentally risky places.

As pesticide bans loom over the golf industry, superintendents are doing their best to fight to keep the ability to use these products. The superintendent fight theme is that we are responsible users of pesticides and as such we should be able to use them as we see fit. The problem here is the fact that many supers are not even storing their pesticides properly. Anyone who is arguing in favour of a pesticide ban merely needs to visit a golf course that is not storing properly and they will have all the ammunition they need to push a ban through to fruition.

Do not be fooled by complacency and thinking that pesticide bans will never happen...they will. Go to the BC government website or the Worksafe BC website and see what is required for proper pesticide storage. Golf course owners and managers must be willing to put the money forward to come into compliance or face the consequences of not doing so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pesticide Bans Are Threatening Our Industry

As I try to promote my business and influence golf courses to attain and demonstrate environmental accountability I run into a recurring issue. Management/owners/members are not interested in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

I understand that times are tough and that a lot of golf courses suffered through a dismal 2009 golf season, but what concerns me is the dismal seasons that lay ahead for the entire industry if environmental accountability is not attained and demonstrated in the near future.

Without action today on the part of golf facilities in Canada, the industry may be forced to deal with legislation that could hamper the way golf courses are maintained. There is a very real threat of cosmetic pesticide bans sweeping across our industry. This would have a dramatic effect on the condition of the golf courses throughout BC.

Although most superintendents use very little pesticides (most just on greens) they are a necessary tool that needs to be available. Without the use of pesticides we could expect most (if not all) golf courses to have dead turf in the spring, particularly following a harsh winter. In regions where snow cover lasts up to 6 months there will be virtually no putting surfaces come spring when the snow is gone.

I have experienced it in the past where a superintendent I was working for decided he was not going to apply pesticides to the greens in the fall thinking he was doing a good thing for the environment. Come springtime all of the turf on the greens was dead. The stink of the dead turf was enough to "knock your socks off".

Instead of the golf course opening in May it did not open until the middle of July. The course lost a lot of money and the super lost his job. Environmentally, the lack of pesticide use in the fall was replaced by an increase in the amount of fertilizers and water used in the spring and summer to get the greens ready as soon as possible. No facility could afford this type of financial hit more than once.

It is imperative that everyone involved with the golf industry understand that in order for the business of golf to continue we must work together to demonstrate the good things that golf is doing for the environment that offsets our mandatory use of pesticides.

Gaining certification in environmental programs such as Audubon will go a long way towards improving the negative stereotypes that are out there about golf course maintenance. Hopefully this will show legislators and the general public that golf course superintendents are highly trained stewards of the land who are doing their best to maintain healthy turf with the responsible use of pesticides.

We need these tools available to us in order to produce turf that can withstand the rigours of a golf season followed by some difficult weather conditions of winter.

If you are a member of a golf course or involved in the industry in any way, try to persuade the decision makers at your facility to see the light and move towards a more environmentally responsible way of maintaining the golf course.