Life Without Methyl Bromide or any Other Soil Fumigation Options for That Matter February 27, 2015

Life Without Methyl Bromide or any Other Soil Fumigation Options for That Matter

By John Foy, Director
September 25, 2008

The Florida Turfgrass Association's 56 th Annual Conference and Show was recently held at the PGA National Resort and Spa, and by all accounts this was a successful event. There were numerous educational workshops on a broad range of subjects for the golf, sports turf, sod production, and lawn care industries. Pest Management in the Absence of Effective Tools was the overall theme for one of Thursday afternoon's sessions, and Dr. J.Bryan Unruh's presentation on Fumigation Strategies Without Methyl Bromide was one of four informative, although disheartening, talks about the continued loss of effective tools in the pest management arena.

Soil fumigation with methyl bromide is considered a necessity in the production of top quality and true-to-type bermudagrass planting stock. Methyl bromide also is the preferred soil fumigant utilized in golf course renovation projects, especially in warm season regions, because it offers the highest control of existing turfgrasses prior to replanting, as well as other soil borne pest organisms such as weed seeds, nematodes, and fungal disease spores. Yet, because methyl bromide was previously identified as a Class 4 ozone depleter, discontinuation of its use was mandated by international treaty agreements. For the past several years, Dr. Unruh has been heavily involved in the methyl bromide issue, trying to maintain a critical use exemption for turfgrass, as well as identifying effective and economically viable alternatives. In spite of the efforts and hard work of Dr. Unruh and several others, the EPA has dismissed the application for a critical use exemption for turfgrass, despite that no viable alternatives are available. Based on the most current information, methyl bromide will no longer be available for use in the turf industry after 2009, and at the very latest, 2010. At a number of courses around Florida, needed or desired renovation project work has been put on hold due to the economic downturn that plagues the country. Given the most current forecast for methyl bromide availability, it is advisable to quickly move forward and reschedule needed renovation projects while methyl bromide is available.

While the information about the methyl bromide status is disheartening, it is also not unexpected. However, it was more troubling to find out about the EPA's recently proposed Fumigation Re-registration Decisions, and their potential impact on the turf industry. Even though it has been noted that the potential risks are quite low for turfgrass fumigation operations, additional regulations are being proposed that will make it impractical to utilize other fumigants such as metam sodium, basamid or methyl iodide for soil fumigation on golf courses, sod production, or even turfgrass research. This would have far reaching and major impacts on the industry. As soon as more information is available, we will pass it along.

Source: John Foy, or 772-546-2620.