Pest is a broad term used in the turf industry. The term can refer to weeds, insects and diseases. As last fall’s armyworm outbreak demonstrated, familiar enemies in one part of the country can wreak havoc in another part of the country where lawn care contractors (LCOs) are unfamiliar with best management practices.
To offer her perspective on some emerging pests, Eric Reasor, Ph.D., brought along Southeast researchers PBI Gordon Corp.and Edwin Afful, Ph.D., insecticide product development manager for FMCshare some emerging pests that LCOs should know about.
Reasor says LCOs should consider green and false-green Kyllinga as emerging pests in the transition zone and northern cool-season grass growing regions. Kyllinga can resemble nut grass, he says.
“Perennial Kyllinga species like green and false green Kyllinga can persist year after year by spreading via underground rhizomes and seeds,” he says. “These weed species can look like lawn grass; However, they typically appear light green and have a fragrant scent to the leaves. They have a fine leaf structure and often have a deburred seed head at the base of the leaves.”
Best management practices such as proper mowing height, irrigation, and fertilization can help LCOs prevent an infestation. Post-emergent herbicides are most effective for controlling Kyllinga because the weed is a perennial, Reasor says.
“It’s important to apply herbicides sooner rather than later when the plants are more mature in late summer,” he says. “The main active ingredients are pyrimisulfan, halosulfuron, trifloxysulfuron, flazasulfuron, imazosulfuron and sulfentrazone.”
Doveweed, a summer annual broadleaf weed with a grassy appearance, is another weed that LCOs should be aware of, particularly in the transition zone. Doveweed is no stranger to LCOs in the Gulf Coast and Deep South, Reasor says.
Doveweed germinates quickly when temperatures reach 65 to 70 degrees F and can resemble St. Augustinegrass or Centipedegrass. It can appear juicier and rubberier than peat grass, Reasor says. “When they’re mature, they grow purple flowers that help with identification,” he says. “The leaves have a linear shape and an alternate arrangement on the stems.”
Reasor recommends proper watering and watering practices because pigeon weed prefers moist soil. Again, he encourages LCOs to maintain a dense lawn with appropriate mowing heights and fertilization.
“Pre-emergent herbicides offer pigeon weed control,” he says. “However, most pre-emergent herbicides used in spring to control crabgrass do not perform well in soil for pigeonweed control.”
Reasor recommends LCOs use multiple pre-emergence applications to gain the upper hand over Doveweed.
Post-emergent herbicides are also effective against pigeon weed, he says.
“Due to the rapid germination and recovery from herbicide injury, multiple applications are probably warranted,” he says. “Key active ingredients for postemergence control are 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, carfentrazone, sulfentrazone, penoxsulam and thiencarbazone.”
Spotted lanternfly was first identified in the US in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Since then, researchers have found populations in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Although not a lawn pest, the invasive species is a nuisance to homeowners and ornamental plants. Afful says he’s heard reports of spotted lanternfly activity increasing further south in Maryland and Virginia, west in the Midwest and further into New England.
Another insect that LCOs should be on the lookout for is the crane fly. These pests resemble large mosquitoes. Research from North Carolina State University shows that adults emerge in summer and lay eggs in straw. Larvae feed on the crown and roots of the lawn.
“We’ve also had some calls regarding mosquitoes migrating into Maryland from the Finger Lakes area of New York,” he says.
According to Afful, LCOs also often turn to FMC for assistance with armyworm, mosquito and tick control solutions.
He adds: “Bugs, mosquitoes and ticks are definitely re-emerging as a bigger threat.