By Pat Jones
If you know John Reilly, you will not be shocked to learn the “Turf Monkey” has blazed his own trail when it comes to spray planning at the fabulous Longboat Key Club in south Florida.
“We go with the philosophy that the grass doesn’t know what day it is,” says Reilly. “We’ve found that all these curative sprays for diseases are less than thrifty, so you need to stay ahead of it. But it also needs to be well-timed, so we use the Smith-Kerns model and a dashboard that Andy Engelbrecht, sales specialist at BASF, helped me set up.”
The data he looks at includes temperatures, degree days, the Smith-Kerns model, a patch model, precipitation, and more. “That’s how we do it. We’re really not focused on a traditional calendar approach. For us, plant health is the goal. That’s why we like BASF and the [Intrinsic brand fungicide] products.”
Reilly strives to find exactly the right approach for his Seashore paspalum. “What we do here is different than most of the people growing improved bermudagrasses. They don’t have to worry about dollar spot in the springtime like we do. Our problematic diseases are very different but the treatment – presumably a broad-spectrum control – might be the same.”
The other issues on Reilly’s radar? “Fairy ring and patch diseases pop up in spring and fall so that’s ‘head on a swivel’ time for us. They are highly aesthetically unpleasing and once you get them, you’re not cleaning them up easily. And dollar spot can be devastating from a playability standpoint because it pits the grass and paspalum’s recovery ability is one of its weakest traits.”
His program does have some predictable elements that allow some planning around timing and treatments. “We’re at the point now when we have sprays penciled in,” he admits.
“I used to think the life cycle of a disease on paspalum made it almost impossible to control – once you’ve seen the symptoms you’re too far gone,” says Reilly. “And I’ve been on the other side of that and sprayed too early in August and missed it. The Smith-Kerns model helps to keep you current. But the risk is missing the window. When you first start using this type of data, it takes a while to see the progression and understand. But once you have some history, it gets a little more predictable.”
You may not be surprised to learn Reilly is non-traditional about how he uses the foundational Intrinsic brand fungicide products from BASF. “We use the data and identify the biggest times when there’s the most risk of injury. That’s when I use the best tools I have to prevent that problem. My mantra is plant health equals plant performance.”
How does that work in the real world? “We’re doing everything uniformly: managing moisture, managing our surface, taking daily metrics – and all of those things keep us out on the greens visually inspecting for issues.”
In terms of product choice, Reilly is somewhat more predictable: “I think BASF was way ahead of everyone else in terms of plant health. I have a hierarchical approach and Lexicon is at the top. We have to vary chemistries and rotate, but one thing we’ve found is the more you go down the plant health rabbit hole the fewer problems you have. But it’s like whack-a-mole…you smack one over the head and another one pops up. It keeps us busy.”
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