Landscape Insect Control: Tweaks and Combos

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EAST HARTFORD, CT – After a few slow years without major changes, the insecticide market is starting to experience an overhaul to meet new government requirements. But these guidelines aren’t the only changes lawn care operators (LCOs) are seeing. Here are trends, concerns and what’s to come in the future for insecticides. There have been about two active ingredients released in the past five years, although the majority of changes are refinements within current modes of action, says Rick Fletcher, technical services manager turf/ornamentals for Nufarm. “All we’ve really had are a lot of tweaks with the existing modes of action to add different chemical structures—but not changing the modes of action,” Fletcher says. Changing rules There is also more of a focus on using insecticides that are “environmentally friendly.” Pushing this trend forward are the recently released pollinator regulations. Tasked by the White House to create a strategy that would promote pollinator health, a task force led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released guidelines concerning neonicotinoids in May. “Pollinator awareness will be in the forefront in the next year or two,” Fletcher says. “The changes haven’t played out yet, but it will change what people do. There will probably be label changes and everything possible to avoid direct contact with pollinators. It will change our world.”

With the regulations possibly limiting what products can be used, LCOs want to make sure they’ll still have access to effective chemicals, says Harold Enger, LIC, director of education at franchisor Spring-Green Lawn Care Corp. in Plainfield, Ill. “The biggest concern for a lot of us is losing valuable tools like neonicotinoids,” Enger says. “You’re not supposed to put down neonicotinoids on flowering plants, but the lawns you’re treating shouldn’t have those plants on them, anyway.” No matter where operators are located, they need to become familiar with the new regulations, he says. Enger encourages LCOs to join their state trade organizations or national ones like the National Association of Landscape Professionals to stay on top of news and have their voices heard. Top insects to control Beyond pollinators, there are other insects causing concerns. Although it varies by region, two insects creating some issues for LCOs lately are chinch bugs and white grubs, experts say. “White grubs continue to be the primary concern of LCOs, simply because they are so devastating if the population goes unchecked,” says Jim Goodrich, product manager for fungicides, insecticides and PRGs, PBI/Gordon Corp. With more LCOs diversifying their businesses, they’re now also faced with tree and shrub insects. “The crape myrtle bark scale is becoming a problem in the south central U.S.,” Goodrich says. “The ficus and rugose spiraling whiteflies are a constant problem in the Florida market, while the Emerald Ash Borer is a growing concern in the Midwest and north central U.S.” Emerald Ash Borers are still causing problems because of the approach many municipalities are taking. “You can protect against them but that costs money,” Fletcher says. “Several cities and towns are either taking the ostrich approach—sticking their heads in the sand, pretending they don’t have a problem—or waiting until the tree can’t be saved or has died.”

In the future Since discovering new chemistries is driven by the pharmaceutical market and then passed down to agriculture, it takes longer for the new formulations to reach the lawn care market, Fletcher says. He predicts LCOs will see tweaks to products with existing modes of action. “We’ll be looking for better selectivity and environmental profiles,” Fletcher says. “You’ll probably see more combination products with two or three modes of action.” Smaller packaging may be another trend on the rise, and that’s welcome news to Enger. “When a new product comes out in a gallon container and you only need 1/4 ounce per 1,000 square feet, you don’t want to have to spend all of that money on it if you haven’t used it before,” Enger says. Going forward, Jason Bishop, regional manager for King Green in Gainesville, Ga., would like to see manufacturers lower prices for new releases. “New products have increased cost, while older products are staying affordable,” he says. King Green is a lawn care company with about $11 million in annual revenue. Having more efficient insecticides that are environmentally friendly is also something Bishop hopes to have in the future—and that’s the direction the industry is headed. “There are many quality choices for insect control in the turf market, but there haven’t been many advancements as of late,” Goodrich says. “However, new products entering the market in the next few years will be low-use-rate formulations that have less impact on beneficial insects.”

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