- Agronomic: grass (turfgrass, sod)
- Education and Training: display
- Pest Management: cultural control
Sod farmers and professional turf managers in the Midwest are facing an increasing problem with billbugs, a tiny weevil (beetle) that can damage turf in both its larval and adult stages. Small billbug larvae feed within the grass stems and then eventually burrow down to the soil and feed the roots and crowns when they become bigger.
Conventional control practices rely heavily on using insecticides, which usually require repeat, broadcast applications in spring and fall. The failure of chemicals being able to control of billbugs is partially due to the difficulty of delivering insecticides to where the billbugs are, and not surprisingly, this has resulted in the spread of billbugs and an increase in their populations in localized areas. As a consequence, sod farmers and professional turf managers have started to use higher dosages of insecticides with increased application frequencies. The proposed research, instead, will examine a novel approach to remove the adult billbug from the affected turf. As a nocturnal species, billbug adults come up to the turf surface in the night and engage in various activities including feeding and mating. Using professional turf sweepers, we can specifically target on the billbugs and remove them from the affected turf, and hence control the pest by interrupting their life cycles. The proposed experiment will be carried out at the SelecTurf Sod Farm north of Jefferson City, Missouri. Treatments, including mechanical control using sweeper, and a conventional insecticide control program and a non-treated control, will be arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Individual plot size will be 9m × 30m and placed 10 meters apart to minimize possible re-introduction of billbugs into the treated-plots. In addition to turf performance, weekly monitoring of billbug adult populations will be performed by installing ten pitfall traps randomly in each plot, and billbug larvae will be monitored by taking soil core samples. This will result in increased knowledge on how to control billbugs without using insecticides. The expected outcome is the development of a strategy for control of billbugs that minimize insecticide application to turf areas. The project will also be evaluated by monthly interviews with the farmer involved in this project, and a couple of surveys which sample the sod farmers, professional turf managers, and the general public for their opinions and acceptance towards this project.
Project objectives from proposal:
The proposed research will result in an increased knowledge and understanding of billbug control methods, improvement of turf quality due to mechanical control methods and reduced amount of insecticides applied, and the economic benefits of using mechanical control methods over repeated applications of insecticides.
Specifically, the learning outcomes will include awareness for sod farmers and recreational professionals that use the sod in their systems. With enhanced skills and motivation to adapt these control methods to their practice will increase farmers attitudes, reducing the insecticides applied and be helpful for the environment.
The action outcomes will be the implementation of this practice by sod producers, resulting in improved turf quality and a reduction in negative environmental effects that can result from extensive use of pesticide inputs. As farmers incorporate these practices into their systems, it enhance the public’s attitude towards mechanical control options, and encourage further research and demonstration.