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Teresa Carson

Canadian researchers have developed a bioherbicide that is safe for turf and targets broadleaf weeds. Right: An untreated plot. Left: the bioherbicide was applied as a pre-emergent when the grass was seeded. Photo courtesy of AAFC, Saskatoon

A potential bioherbicide for broadleaf weeds

NEWS & notes
The Florida Turfgrass Research
Foundation has awarded $6,000 in scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year to four students preparing for careers in turfgrass management. Tyler Broderick, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, received the Col. Frank Ward Memorial Scholarship for $2,000. He is a senior at the University of Florida and an intern at Juliette Falls Golf Course in Ocala, Fla. Iowa State University graduate Ryan Adams received the Max J. McQuade scholarship for $1,000. Adams is a graduate student working with Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., at the University of Florida. The James L. Blackledge Memorial Scholarship for $1,500 was awarded to Michael Fasy, the student president of the turf club at Florida Gateway College. Eric Dixon, also a student at Florida Gateway College, received the Hans Schmeisser Memorial Scholarship for $1,500. An 11-year employee at West End Golf Club in Gainesville, Fla., Dixon was an intern in 2011 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville.

In 1991, Hudson, a suburb of Montreal, was the first municipality in Canada to ban pesticides for cosmetic use. Since then, numerous municipalities and several provinces have followed Hudsons lead, and pesticide use of all types is regulated nationwide under the Pest Control Products Act.
This level of regulation has encouraged the development of biological and organic pesticides by both industry and government. As part of these efforts, scientists employed by the Canadian government at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have been searching for herbicides that are more targeted, organic and less toxic to human beings, animals and aquatic life than some of the traditional synthetic herbicides. Karen Bailey, Ph.D., a research scientist in plant pathology and biopesticide development at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Saskatoon Research Centre, has been working on developing bioherbicides in response to widespread bans on using traditional pesticides for cosmetic purposes such as controlling broadleaf weeds in lawns. Using information gathered from unhealthy dandelions and Canada thistles, Bailey and others were able to identify Phoma macrostoma as a fungus that killed broadleaf weeds by preventing them from carrying out photosynthesis. The scientists then joined with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. to develop a natural herbicide based on the fungus. The herbicide they developed can be used as both a pre-emergence or post-emergence product, and is effective on broadleaf weeds such as dandelion, clover, English daisy, Canada thistle, plantain, ragweed, black medic and common groundsel. In its current form, the product is granular, does not migrate far from where it has been placed and cannot be detected in soil a year after application. The product does not affect grasses, but causes bleaching and chlorosis on the target weeds. The product was submitted simultaneously to the U.S. EPA and to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada, which is responsible for registering pesticides in Canada. The herbicide was submitted under the NAFTA Joint Review program, which allows U.S. EPA and PMRA to share the work load so the assessment is finished sooner. Last June PMRA approved the product for commercialization and sale in Canada. Although it has been approved for use on turfgrass, Bailey says that it may take two to three more years before the product is for sale because the scientists need to find a manufacturer that can produce the product in large quantities. Bruce Caldwell, technology leader lawns vice president, R&D at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., says that the herbicide is currently going through the U.S. EPA registration process. He adds that the company is looking at use of the product in all turfgrass situations, including golf courses, and on both cool- and warm-season grasses. In Canada, Bailey is continuing research to determine appropriate uses of the Phoma macrostoma product in agriculture.
Teresa Carson ( is GCMs science editor.

Presented in partnership with Barenbrug

38 GCM November 2011