Impact of pesticide ban to golf courses
This article first appeared in On Course - Issue 25
A ban on the use of pesticides in the UK will have a considerable impact on golf courses and other sports turfs.
The Amenity Forum, which has representatives from the GTC, BIGGA and the STRI, is very pro-active with the Pesticide Safety Directorate, the Government body which represents the UK within the European Parliament.
"Turfgrasses have been recognised for their importance to the quality of life for over 2000 years," said leading Course Manager, Ken Siems, at the Loch Lomond Golf Club. "Today, turfgrasses are cultured in nearly all inhabited regions of the world. Turf species and cultivars of the family Poaceae (Gramineae) are remarkably adaptable, some of them having adapted to sub artic regions and others to equatorial regions. Turfgrasses serve us in many important ways. As an ornamental plant, they add beauty to the environment and improve the aesthetic value of our lives. By serving as playing fields for many sports, they provide recreational needs and help to limit injuries common to vigorous sports." He continues.
Turf management of golf courses has been ongoing for several hundred years and although the game has changed (better equipment, more athleticism, greater numbers playing the game), the principles of how the turf on a golf course is managed has not. Greenkeepers around the world are educated on utilising best management practices to ensure long-term, ecological sustainability of their environment. Turf managers are leaders in utilising the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. IPM is a concept with a primary goal of optimising pest control in an ecologically and economically sound way. IPM practitioners follow basic pest management principles to develop strategies that integrate cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical techniques to control plant pests. Pesticides are only used as a last resort when there is no other alternative for controlling a problem.
"The UK already has long standing statutory and voluntary restrictions for the use of pesticides in all amenity areas and in this respect we are leaders in Europe. Users of pesticides in the UK must have Certificates of Competence and follow the Approved Code of Practice. It is already illegal to sell pesticides approved for amenity use to anyone else other than a competent professional user." Ken continues.
"The introduction of a total pesticide ban to amenity turf would have devastating impact, not only to the golf course industry, but all sports and other managed amenity turfgrass areas throughout the country." He added.
The following are just of the few potential negative impacts:
- Negative economic impact - Golf Courses in the UK will not be able to compete with the other regions of the world in terms of producing high quality turf that golfers around the world now demand. The result will be a loss of the foreign golfer travelling to the UK to play golf. A ban of pesticides could result in no professional golf tournaments being played in the UK
- Job losses - Inferior turf conditions will result in clubs being forced to make severe cutbacks. Players will not pay for turf conditions less than what presently exists
- Increased public obesity - The risk is increased if present turf conditions drop. The enjoyment of the game will reduce and fewer people will be taking the game up
- Golf club closures - The potential for golf clubs to financially exist is at risk. Existing course will most likely be sold off for development of housing or other less environmentally uses
- Negative environmental impact - Golf courses have been proven to be extremely beneficial to the environment. Turfgrass is used widely to control water, sediment and wind erosion. It provides utilitarian cover around houses, and public and commercial buildings and in parks, cemeteries, and other facilities. Turfgrass adds value to property and reduces air and noise pollution, heat build up and glare.
"The impact of a total pesticide ban to amenity turf areas could potentially cripple the golf course industry within the UK. Golf courses should be applauded for their environmental benefits and recognised for being leaders in the preservation, sustainability of Mother Nature." Ken added.
Golf club employers who have a desire to provide the highest standards in golf and preserve the already restricted use of pesticides should contact their local MEP, who will be voting on this matter in late October, and urge them to vote against any withdrawal of pesticides for amenity use.