Even if you’ve never been to Minnesota in the winter, nearly everyone has that image of snow-covered tundra. A state frozen forever like in a scene from the movie “Fargo” – miles upon miles of snow-covered fields.
Most residents will tell you this is a bit of an exaggeration. However, it does get cold, it does get its share of snow and it often feels by March – and sometimes even into April – like winter will never end.
Safe to say superintendents at golf courses in the Upper Midwest rely heavily upon a late fall snow mold application to get them through long winters of snow and cold.
Jeff Girard is the superintendent at StoneRidge Golf Club, in Stillwater, Minn., which sits nestled east of St. Paul near the Wisconsin border. Girard has been at the links course since 2007, and knows the importance of that late fall snow mold app.
“It’s the biggest disease issue we have in this part of the country,” Girard says. “Other than dealing with dollar spot in-season.”
Late in 2016, Girard learned of a new Syngenta fungicide just coming onto the market, Contend. Labeled only for snow mold and only for use on golf courses, he gave it a limited shot. It’s not always easy to be the first in the area to try something new, but Girard had good reason to put his trust into the new Syngenta product.
“I trust companies like Syngenta,” he says, “and like to use them. I like to support the companies that I’ve built a relationship up with over the years, and also companies that invest back into their products. You know the testing they do for a new product like this is extensive. You just have a different level of trust with companies like this, and the new products they release.”
Girard was happy with the results of that limited 2016 application and decided in the fall of 2017 to give Contend a full shot on all his bentgrass fairways and approaches. StoneRidge was experiencing heavy disease pressure last fall, especially some fairly severe snow mold in the rough. Girard knew he was asking a lot of this new product.
Syngenta couldn’t have asked for a better test customer than StoneRidge. Minnesota was about to have one of its longest and snowiest winters in years, which would be capped off by a late blizzard well into spring.
“We got dumped on in mid-April this year,” Girard says. “It didn’t melt until April 24th. On top of the long winter, we had sprayed the Contend early, on November 1st. We were basically under snow for that entire period.”
Safe to say, StoneRidge Golf Club came out clean and looking great when that snow finally melted late April. Girard couldn’t be happier with the product.
Great results notwithstanding, the long control is Contend’s best asset, Girard says. “Being able to have trust in a product for that long period, it’s hard to put a price on that,” he says. “In the past, you had to try and get your snow mold protection out right before the first snow, which is always hard to do. With a product that is going to last a long time like Contend, you don’t have to sweat this out like in years past. You can spray two to three weeks before that first snow and not worry about the product not lasting.”
Another thing Girard liked was the relatively low amount of Contend he has to apply compared to other products used in years past. “Really like those low use rates,” he says. “We’re spraying a lot of acres when you add up all the fairways and approaches. In years past we had to spray hundreds of gallons of fungicide. With Contend (and other new products being released), the lower rates are very appealing. You just feel better using significantly less chemical.”
Girard also likes Contend’s ease of use. “It’s so easy to put out,” he says. “Mixes great. The math is easy. A case gives us three acres.”
Contend is a combination of the separately registered products Contend A and Contend B. The two products should be mixed together. The fungicide has four active ingredients (azoxystrobin, propiconazole, difenoconazole and Solatenol). Solatenol is Syngenta’s newest active ingredient and strongly binds to the plant using translaminar activity to move throughout the leaf.
As with other courses in the northern states, dollar spot is another disease problem for StoneRidge, and Girard uses Daconil Action every two weeks throughout the season for control.
“Of course, at this point, it’s hard to quantify how well it works because of our continued use of it,” he says. “But I just love the results. I point to the plant health aspect of Daconil Action, not just the curative or preventative aspects. The grass just looks healthy. Looks great.”
And then there is Syngenta’s Secure. Secure’s active ingredient is Fluazinam, and it’s in the FRAC group 29. “It has a strong place in our rotation,” Girard says. “We use it twice a year. There is a definite curative aspect to Secure. If you have a little dollar spot brewing, it will knock it down.”
Secure, a multi-site contact fungicide, also offers low-use rates (.5 ounces per thousand) and has no known resistance.
Having confidence in the products you’re using in Minnesota’s tough climate is extremely important for superintendents like Girard. And companies like Syngenta, providing smart new products like Contend, make things just a little less stressful. And in this day and age, that’s definitely a good thing.
Ron Furlong is a turf writer based out of Bellinham, Wash., and is a frequent GCI contributor.