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Challenges Associated with Biocontrol in Turfgrass

James Kerns: North Carolina State University

<div>Turfgrass managers view biological control as a desirable alternative treatment for disease as it can be used to extend or augment fungicide efficacy while reducing the amount of pesticide in the environment. The most common biological control strategies involve applying microbial inoculants or using organic amendments to encourage suppressive soils. Numerous products are available and declare fantastic results against various turfgrass diseases. Yet, empirical evidence in turfgrass systems is limited and the data that does exist does not paint a promising picture for biological control in turf. The most difficult obstacle to effective bio-control in a turfgrass system is maintaining adequate populations of the microbes in turfgrass soils. Turfgrass systems, despite claims to the contrary, have immense microbial populations even with pesticide and synthetic fertilizer inputs. Many laboratory studies indicate that microbial inoculants must remain well above 1 million cells per gram of soil in order to be competitive with plant pathogens. Many products are developed for traditional agriculture and vegetable production and microbial populations are significantly lower in these systems when compared to a turfgrass system. Thus, products from traditional agriculture are not effective in turf systems. Bio-control products or amendments developed specifically for turfgrass systems can be effective if the amount of microbes are sufficient to compete in turfgrass soils. This talk will cover the history of fungicide development, the development of biological control in turfgrass systems, the current knowledge surrounding microbial populations and composition in turfgrass soils and current products that demonstrate promise for the future.</div>

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