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Focus on Florida: Bayer hosts inaugural media event

July 17, 2019 -  By
Photo: LM Staff

Erica Santella, regional technical manager at TruGreen, discusses why the company uses Specticle on Florida turfgrass varieties like St. Augustinegrass. Photo: LM Staff

What’s so special about Florida?

Well, when it comes to turfgrass, a lot. That was the main message behind Bayer‘s Focus on Florida media summit, held July 10-11 in Naples, Fla.

“Florida is the perfect storm for grass growing, product development and learning about new turf diseases,” said Sheryl Wells, field development representative from Bayer’s crop science division.

Grass in Florida endures a hot, humid subtropical climate for much of the year, she added. It also tolerates heavy rainfall from May to October and extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes. During that time of the year, it is more susceptible to pests and disease. The soil in Florida consists of sandy to muck varieties, which poses challenges for irrigation.

One of the primary turf varieties found that manages to grow in this environment is St. Augustinegrass. It grows in many lawns and public spaces throughout the state and is favored due to its resilience to the heat and humidity of the subtropical climate.

Chamberbitter is a common Florida weed. It is identifiable by the row of small fruit that grows along the back of the stem. Photo: LM Staff

Chamberbitter is a common Florida weed. It is identifiable by the row of small fruit that grows along the back of the stem. Photo: LM Staff

But there is a myth in Florida among lawncare providers (and no, it doesn’t involve a gator or any other swamp creature). Many companies that care for turf in the Sunshine State believe that it is nearly impossible to use a preemergent herbicide to treat weeds taking up their residence among St. Augustinegrass.

Debunking that myth was the other major reason Bayer hosted the event.

Throughout the summit, representatives from Bayer, along with lawncare providers and grounds operators, spoke about how preemergent programs could be effective on St. Augustinegrass, especially with the introduction of Bayer’s Specticle Flo.

Erica Santella, regional technical manager for TruGreen, spoke to the group about this topic on Wednesday afternoon.

“One of the urban legends has always been in Florida is that preemergents don’t work in sandy soils,” she said. “Every other agriculture industry uses preemergents, but that myth still exists.”

On Thursday, attendees got to see first hand how one company decided to ignore the myth that preemergent herbicides can’t work in Florida.

The group headed out into the field to see how a preemergent treatment of St. Augustinegrass had helped Stahlman Landscape and Property Maintenance in Naples, Fla., rid a housing development of weeds. Leon Humphrey, manager at Stahlman, met the group to discuss the preemergent treatments the company was doing at the site.

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From left, Mike Ruizzo southern regional sales manager, Bayer; Zach Lane, area sales manager, Bayer; Leon Humphrey, manager, Stahlman Landscape and Property Maintenance; John Wendorf, business manager for production ornamentals, Bayer. Photo: LM Staff

Using a preemergent herbicide — in this case Specticle Flo — has helped the company save on labor and is a way Stahlman sets itself apart from the competition, which is fierce in Naples  — there are about 30 to 50 competing companies in the area.

Currently the preemergent treatment is an add-on for the company. Homeowners can choose whether or not they would like to have the preemergent treatment applied.

The company must get permission from the homeowners association (HOA) before applying any new product. To help convince the HOA of the preemergent’s importance, Humphrey says he approaches the conversation from the turf damage aspect. “We let the HOA know that using the preemergent to keep the weeds away decreases turf damage,” he said. It also helps that the product is safe, he added.

So far, the program has been effective. “I walked that whole street in December of last year and if I found fifty weeds in there it was amazing,” Humphrey said. “It works. It takes some time to get going and working, but it works.”

Clara Richter

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