Still studying fungicides
Courtesy of American Phytopathological Society Press

Still studying fungicides

Dr. Rick Latin releases second edition of book designed to help turf managers better understand the disease control products they are applying.

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January 14, 2022

Dr. Rick Latin moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina, following a 38-year run on the faculty at Purdue University. He quickly learned he needed a pursuit beyond experiencing the region’s splendid golf courses.

“I have a lot of time on my hands, because I can’t play golf seven days a week,” he says.

Latin stays busy by remaining connected with the turf industry and plant pathology. He speaks at industry events, consults with courses, participates in select research trials, reads current literature, and is on a team developing a software program for superintendents interested in establishing site-specific fungicide programs.

“Basically, I’m doing my favorite parts of the job from working at a university for 38 years and don’t have the administrative areas that I once had to deal with,” Latin says. “I can do as much as I want. For those of us who have that option, it’s a labor of love.”

Increased work and personal flexibility allowed Latin to complete a project he started in 2017: updating “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides.” He released the first edition in 2011 and numerous advancements convinced Latin a second edition was a worthwhile effort. The American Phytopathological Society Press published the book and sells it on its website (https://my.apsnet.org/APSStore). The 353-page guide helps superintendents and turf managers better understand and utilize disease control products.  

Sixty-three percent of United States golf courses spend $30,000 or more annually on fungicides, according to a Golf Course Industry “Turf Reports” survey of 250 superintendents published in November 2021. The same survey indicated 51 percent of courses are projected to increase their fungicide spending in 2022 compared to 2021, while 47 percent indicated spending levels will remain the same.

Fungicides are critical parts of disease control programs. And there have been significant changes to the marketplace since 2011.

“The second edition was a result of new active ingredients being introduced into our industry, new information being revealed by my colleagues and myself, and new knowledge about how resistance is developing and how we can use these tools most effectively and efficiently,” Latin says. “The book keeps pace with the current advances in turf science. The first edition’s value would be reduced without an update.”

Options in the SDHI class, for example, have quickly expanded since 2011. Latin details the intricacies of the active ingredients within the class that have entered the turf market in the past decade, including benzovindiflupyr, fluopyram, fluxapyroxad, isofetamid, penthiopyrad and pydiflumetofen, in the second edition.

“In 2011, we basically had boscalid and one product called Emerald that was almost specific to dollar spot and a related SDHI called Prostar, flutolanil, that was just remotely related,” he says. “We have had a number of different related products and active ingredients come out since then that have different strengths, different weaknesses and different advantages. It’s a challenge to understand where they fit in terms of controlling specific diseases and where they fit into the overall agronomic program.”

Fundamentals are introduced — or reintroduced depending on applicator experience levels — early in the book and Latin then shifts into investment-maximizing chapters on factors that influence performance and disease control scheduling. The potential audience ranges from students to proven superintendents. Anybody remotely connected to using, purchasing, selling and studying turfgrass fungicides will learn something from the words, images, charts, research and graphics Latin presents.

“Fungicides are great tools, but they don’t always meet our expectations and there are many factors that affect fungicide performance,” he says. “The more we know about these, the more we can manage diseases from an informed perspective and use the fungicides to their greatest advantage. Understanding the how and why — and the why not — will help superintendents use and benefit from these fungicides in the future.”

Latin plans on attending the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego next month and will be available to sign copies of the book. The GCSAA awarded Latin with the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award in 2018.

“Writing a book is a long process,” he says. “But it’s a labor of love, because I enjoy writing, I enjoy learning and I enjoy translating research results into practical terms. At times, it’s frustrating. At times, it’s tedious. But I’m always interested in completing a project and making a contribution.”

Guy Cipriano is Golf Course Industry’s editor-in-chief.