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Ontario IPM Accreditation Program

Last week I had the chance to speak at a educational seminar in Waterloo, Ontario that was hosted by Nutrite and the Ontario Seed Company (thanks for a great event by the way). The event was attended by approximately 300 golf course superintendents and assistants, many of which were there to learn about the issues they were facing/about to face with the "Ontario IPM Accreditation Program". On the agenda to speak about this was Brenda Nailor, Ph.D.  Dr. Nailor, a regulatory and pest management consultant for the green industry, was on hand to drop the bombshell that every superintendent was going to have to go through hell over the next several months update everyone on the current developments with the program.

Starting the program off, Dr. Nailor asked for everyone having to fill out the numerous forms (upwards of 120+ for some) to stand up so she could give them a "tip" on how to make things easier on them during the process.  "Move your one arm across your chest, while pulling with your other hand..." said Nailor as she led each of the form-filers through a series of excercises to stretch out because the superintendents would be "spending that much time in from of your computer." She then got serious and started relaying the updates from the MOE (Ministry of the Environment) and the Ontario IPM Accreditation Program. IPM Accreditation is mandatory for all golf courses by April 22, 2012.

 The program is "to recognize both individuals and golf courses that have demonstrated a knowledge and commitment to the principles of IPM through a process of certification, auditing and professional development." the program consists of 1) Certified IPM Agents and 2) IPM Registered Golf Courses and Facilities with a bunch of other nonsense mixed in. For the first component, "certified" agents basically have to take an exam, pay some fees, and continue to obtain CEC's as part of their education.  No big deal in my opinion other than the fact that these all come with added costs and annual fees. The big component comes in the reporting procedures and the fact that every golf course is going to have a public meeting where they must present in detail their "annual report" and their "map".

Below are the forms and procedures that must be completed:

  1. Desk Audit Checklist: Just a list to ensure that you have filled out all of the forms below...essentially a form for a series of forms.
  2. Scout Forms: Must be filled out once per week and includes environmental conditions, location, pest or condition, # of pests observed, possible contributing factors, and action taken.
  3. Product Application Forms: Basically a pesticide application form similar to what everyone usually fills out. Forms must include 2 reasons for fungicide use, calculation of the actual active ingredient used and follow-up observations 3 to 7 days after application.
  4. Equipment Calibration Form: One for backpack and one for a boom-sprayer must be completed and a minimum of 3 calibrations must be completed on each piece during the season (unless used less than three times during the season, in which case, you must calibrate once)
  5. Hot Spot Management Record: I'm not sure how this is different from the "Scout Forms", but superintendents must keep a "record of observations and actions taken to manage a problem area throughout the year and future management plans"
  6. Annual Report: A summary of the total of all pesticides AI used, expressed in kg ai. This must be public and posted in public and made available at the annual public meeting.
  7. Map: A detailed visual map of EVERY pesticide application made to all areas of the golf course summarized by total AI applied to each area (more on this below).
  8. Training Documentation: Documentation of all training completed for anyone applying pesticides or scouting for diseases.  It was pointed out at the meeting that no one really knows what constitutes training but I would believe that spending 20 minutes per day on this blog should suffice.
OK, so it seems harmless right? Just document what you are doing and you should be fine. All of the above materials must be submitted before January 31, 2011 and this whole system is littered with problems on a logistical front. First, all superintendents who were probably the overachievers and those tackling this head on and who downloaded all the forms prior to 10 May...well the Ontario IPM decided to change the forms and now ALL forms must be transcribed since they will not accept the older forms. This could come in the form of upwards to 120+ forms that need to be redone. Next, the creation of the "map" that must accompany the "Annual Report" will take a GIS and mapping expert to figure out. Dr. Nailor used an example of a map downloaded from Google Maps with color-coded sections for all areas treated. This is fine if you applied one thing to your greens all season, but there are going to need to be numerous maps that someone is going to have to create and label. On top of that, superintendents are encouraged to not submit a zillion maps, but I just don't see how to get around it. My hope is that someone comes up with a single map with ALL of their applications on it that is so complicated it will take a graphics expert to figure it out (image below). One superintendent in the audience admitted that he was "behind the times" with computers and wondered how he was going to complete these tasks only to receive the answer of "they have to be done". I consider myself a computer wiz and still would need hours and days, if not weeks, to complete all the information.
Example diagram that may be used to explain pesticide use on golf courses in Ontario?

The BIG problem with all of this is going to be the required "Public Hearing" which must occur for each club. This must be done before November 20, 2012 (and after January 31, 2011) and must be open to anyone who wants to come. Details of the meeting must be published in a newspaper 2 weeks prior to the meeting and all neighbors within some distance (I believe 200 meters of the course) must be notified individually (the newspaper will not suffice). At the meeting, the Annual Report and accompanying Map must be made available.

From my observations during her talk and from a brief visit to the program's website it is obvious that while the program seeks to reduce the use of pesticides on golf courses (and I am fine with that idea by the way), they have absolutely NO idea of the impact that this is going to have on golf as a business and probably NO understanding of what this will have on the environment as well. I would say that a strong majority of the superintendents have a solid IPM program in place. A mandatory program with this much paperwork (with little to no assistance) and a mandatory "town hall" style meeting is not going to cause changes based on science, but rather emotion. While I think that some of this reporting and documentation will be good, it is likely that the public display will result in more stringent restrictions based on emotion and likely put some Mom-and-Pop golf courses out of business. Dr. Nailor's suggestion to anyone considering using the Ontario IPM Accreditation as an example was to "Take your time when developing regulations and ask for phase-ins." If there was anything that I took out of this was that the superintendents were lucky to have someone like Brenda and the University of Guelph there to help with all of the complications that are bound to arise from this program.

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