Aug. 26 2019 06:00 AM

A turf and ornamental chemical firm manager shares how target identification and precise application is the key to success with chemical inputs.

If you are like me, chemistry was not your best subject in high school. Luckily for green industry professionals, there are many good “teachers” and “tutors” out there who know the subject matter well. They come in the form of distributors and chemical suppliers and longtime end users of these products.

One of the larger investments lawn care and landscape companies make on an annual basis is in chemicals. Fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are essential concoctions for many contractors, aiding immensely in their efforts to keep their clients’ lawns and landscapes looking green and healthy. But managing their purchase and application can also be complicated.

It is important to get your formulas for these chemicals just right and to apply them at the right times in the right places. Not following the directions properly could result in a massive waste of time and money. PBI-Gordon Corp., Shawnee, Kansas, is well known in the professional turf and ornamental management industry. The company provides a proprietary line of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and other products for lawn care, golf course and landscape professionals. You’ve probably seen these products, which include SpeedZone, Q4 Plus, Segway, Atrimmec and others, at your local distributor or used them yourself.

As a member of the PBI-Gordon turf and ornamental management team with nearly 20 years of experience, Dave Loecke tracks emerging trends and develops new strategic partnerships as they relate to large key end users. “I employ tactics to create awareness of PBI-Gordon products and present effective solutions for large end users as well as provide technical support,” Loecke says of his role.

He took the time to answer questions for Irrigation & Green Industry to help green industry professionals better understand how they can get the most out of their investment in chemicals.

Q: What is the best way for a landscape contractor to purchase chemicals?

A: Chemical landscape products are available through several national and regional turf and ornamental distributors. Larger operations or companies in a good cash position will sometimes participate in fall early-order programs allowing them to benefit from additional incentives from manufacturers and/or distributors. Other operations may tend to purchase closer to use-season, which aids in cash flow management, warehousing and inventory.

Q: Do landscape contractors typically prepare for the entire season, or do they purchase product regularly as needed?

A: For higher volume products that are part of a staple agronomic program, contractors may book a portion of these early to take advantage of program incentives, but the lower-use or specialty products will typically be purchased in-season as needed.

Q: What are some common mistakes landscape contractors make when determining how much of a product to apply and when?

A: I’ve seen a lot of mistakes over the years! There are many variables to obtaining effective performance of these products. The first step is identification of the turf species involved and the weeds, insects and diseases you’re fighting. It’s vital to fully understand your target. Choose products that will deliver the results you want to accomplish on the targets you’ve identified.

Not only is product choice and rate important but also application. The best product will not perform as expected if not applied correctly and at the right time. This may be related to stage of growth, environmental conditions and spray volume, to name a few. The product label is a great source of information.

Q: What types of training/support do you provide to distributors/contractors?

A: PBI-Gordon provides several ways to gain knowledge. Our website contains information on all our products including labels, Safety Data Sheets, product sheets, technical bulletins, sales rep contacts and more. We’re increasing our activity on social media including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Soon we will have product-specific training videos available. The PBI-Gordon sales team can be a tremendous resource for product information and recommendations for local problems.

Q: What is PBI-Gordon’s busy season for the landscape and ornamental industry?

A: I’ve been in the T&O market space for almost two decades. There used to be a slow time, but I’ve not seen it for many years. The market and those that serve the market are moving at a much faster pace than ever. If you’re not actively promoting solutions and conditioning the market, you’re enhancing your strategy and planning for the future.

Q: What advice do you have for new lawn care/landscape professionals trying to find the right distributor and products?

A: Get to know your local distributors and manufacturer’s reps. They understand your local conditions and the products that perform best in your area.

Q: What trends are you seeing in your operation and how are you responding?

A: Pest pressure is getting more challenging. In some instances, weeds and other pests are appearing in areas that never experienced these infestations. A lack of product rotation may have contributed to new resistance issues, or loss of an active ingredient may have removed an effective control option.

We’re looking to bring new active ingredients to the market as well as discover new ways to control pests within our current portfolio.

Q: What types of sustainable/environmentally friendly products do you produce? And what kind of growth are you seeing in that market?

A: While our portfolio contains mostly traditional chemistries, we continue to look for opportunities. Recently we reformulated several products to reduce our dependency on solvents and significantly reduce volatile organic compound emissions. We’re also exploring new active ingredients that have much lower per-acre use rates.

There is definitely an increase in curiosity toward sustainable or environmentally friendly products and I don’t see that slowing down. I see more sustainable or environmentally friendly products in the market, and as with any product, you need to clearly understand efficacy, tolerance, price, etc. and determine if it will fully meet your expectations. As an industry, we promote the judicious use of pesticides and encourage folks to make decisions based on education and sound science.

Q: What does the future look like for PBI-Gordon and the overall turf and ornamental chemical industry?

A: PBI-Gordon has an aggressive pipeline of new products and active ingredients and we are very excited for the future. The T&O market will continue to grow year over year, and there will be a greater need to control unique pests in regional areas. The term “resistance” will begin to appear more often and there will be a greater need for mode of action rotation to maintain effective product performance.

Dave Loecke is a turf and ornamental management team member of PBI-Gordon Corp. More information is available online at www.pbigordon.com.