Comparing Cool-season Lawn Fertilizer and Pesticide Programs: Aesthetic and Economic Trade-offs
Victoria Caceres, Doug S. Richmond and Cale A. Bigelow – Purdue Univ. Entomology and Agronomy Departments
There is increasing public interest in alternatives to traditional cool-season lawn fertilizer and pesticide application programs. Historically these programs have been based on calendar driven fertilization and the attitude toward pesticide applications has been a prophylactic approach for controlling broadleaf and annual grassy weeds as well as insects like white grubs. As consumer attitudes toward the perception of a “perfect lawn” begin to change, alternative management methods that involve more judicious pesticide applications and engaging in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and scouting approaches these practices may become more publicly accepted. Furthermore, there is a very strong interest in “organic” products and approaches to lawn care. Currently, the information regarding longer-term performance of organic products in the field is very limited.
Study results: While there were seasonal differences for appearance, all programs except the NIP program provided a satisfactory lawn appearance and green color that would be suitable to most homeowners. While the NOP was sufficiently green there were significantly more broadleaf weeds in this program, which detracted from overall appearance. This result emphasizes the need to develop effective natural organic products for broadleaf weed management. Additionally, the economic benefits of scouting were calculated and showed that an IPM program is economically feasible (Table 1). Employing an IPM program illustrates the potential reduction in unnecessary pesticide applications and reduced input costs. It is important to note that the mowing costs were kept constant for all treatments.
A more detailed description of the results of this study it can be found in: HortTechnology 20:418-426. Caceres et al., 2010. Aesthetic and economic impacts associated with four different cool-season lawn fertility and pesticide programs.
Table 1. Comparative product and estimated labor costs for four disparate cool-season lawn management programs over two growing seasons.
Department of Agronomy, Turf Program