Dan Dinelli is a 54-year-old son of a superintendent who understands the dilemmas caused by Poa annua better than almost anyone in the Chicago area. Dinelli, after all, grew up on a house along the 15th fairway at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill. He even succeeded his father as the club’s superintendent in 1995.
A lifetime tussle against Poa annua sparks Dinelli’s optimism surrounding PoaCure (methiozolin), a herbicide developed by Moghu Research Center in South Korea.
“I have been in this industry all my life,” Dinelli says. “We have been looking for something like this since Day 1. It looks like finally there’s a tool that will become available with EPA approval that we can use to selectively remove Poa out of a mixed stand of bent-Poa and do it while still allowing play to continue.”
PoaCure recently moved a step closer to entering the U.S. commercial market when the product was granted an EPA experimental use permit (EUP). More than 160 golf courses in 34 states were informed they can use PoaCure on an experimental basis over the next two years. Registered courses can begin their EUP usage of PoaCure following state approval.
South Korea represents the lone country where PoaCure is commercially available. The product has been used on the country’s cool-season turf since 2010. Kyung Han, USA Moghu PoaCure development manager, says the product can commercially launch in Japan as early as this fall.
Moghu is targeting a late-2016 commercial launch of PoaCure in the U.S., according to Han. Until then, registrants must adhere to the following conditions as part of the EUP:
- Product must not be used on golf courses that utilize tile drains.
- No more than six acres per golf course may be treated per year.
- Product must not be applied within 100 feet of any water body.
- Applications must only be made via hand sprayers or riding sprayers equipped with low-drift nozzles.
Researchers view the EUP period as an important part of PoaCure’s evolution. Non-EUP research was conducted in the U.S. under the guidance of university researchers permitted to test unregistered pesticides according to national and state regulations.
“EUPs allow the company and the industry to gather more valuable information on the best-use strategies for the product under more controlled conditions to further ensure safe and effective use once the product is registered,” says Dr. Jim Baird, a University California, Riverside, assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in turfgrass management. “There is absolutely no way to test a new product in every environment and management scheme before registration. The EUP program will allow us to test the product on a larger scale, but under close monitoring to avoid results that are unexpected and unwanted.”
Dinelli considers the EUP period the middle part of a three-step process for PoaCure’s commercial launch in the U.S.
“It takes time and money to do these things and to do the research,” he says. “I get it. Not everybody has deep enough pockets to do it. But they are doing it, in my view, the right way to help minimize surprises out in the field.”
Dinelli has worked with University of Illinois turfgrass professor Dr. Bruce Branham and researchers from the Chicago District Golf Association Turfgrass Program. PoaCure has been used on fairway turf, chipping greens, a push-up green and practice putting green at North Shore. Dinelli says in two years PoaCure helped convert the population on North Shore’s practice putting green from 85 percent Poa annua to 95 percent bentgrass.
Branham’s work with PoaCure started in 2012, with the majority of his research occurring on golf courses instead of research plots. He says PoaCure contrasts other herbicides because Moghu is promoting use on bentgrass greens, even during the EUP period.
“If you look around at the typical herbicide label, almost none of them allow you to use them on bentgrass putting greens,” Branham says. “They will allow you to use it in bentgrass, but they will specifically exclude putting greens and the reason is that it’s liability. If you damage any turf on a putting green, you’re looking at major liability for a very small acreage that you are treating. This product turns that on its ear and is gearing all of their efforts toward putting greens.
“Now that’s in a sense very good marketing. Superintendents don’t like Poa on their fairways, they don’t like Poa on their roughs. But they absolutely hate annual bluegrass on their putting greens. It will get used by all of these golf courses that signed up and the major use will be on putting greens, which shows a lot of confidence by the company.”
Branham adds the EUP period has the potential to “make or break” PoaCure in the U.S. “The problem with putting green trials is that you can only have one or two failures before the product will get a bad vibe and people will stop using it,” he says.
PoaCure has been tested in various regions. Baird, for example, has used it primarily in northern and southern California, but he’s also helped with trials in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. He says straying from instructions on the label can cause problems.
“The beauty of PoaCure lies in the slow, seamless transition from Poa-riddled turf back to Poa-free turf,” Baird says. “Or, it can prevent invasion of Poa into new stands of turf.Using higher rates and/or more frequent applications contrary to label instructions to obtain faster results are recipes for disaster.”
Moghu has exercised patience with PoaCure. Last year’s U.S. government shutdown delayed the granting of the EUP. Although PoaCure has generated a buzz in South Korea, Han says lessons learned from the Imprelis ordeal are also behind Moghu’s methodical U.S. research and launch. “We want to make sure the product is safe and people know that,” he says.