As published in the MetGCSA’s Green and Tee.

In Defense of Pesticides

by Carrie M. Tackema

When it comes to pesticides, public opinion is driven largely by misinformation—or simply not enough information. Since the publishing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, people have viewed pesticides with fear and disdain. And it should come as no surprise that, today, those fears are intensifying, particularly toward pesticide use on golf courses. As various media platforms perpetuate the negative bias on pesticides, many assume that the mere presence of a chemical constitutes a health threat, unaware that products under our sinks can hold similar health risks or that the products used for athlete’s foot contain active ingredients similar to those in the fungicides we use on our turf!

No single study can answer every question concerning pesticides, but there are some basic facts to ponder—and share with anyone who approaches you with concerns about the pesticides you apply on your golf course. Much of what I am going to share, here, can be found on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website ( and can be used as a valuable reference for concerned members or residents of your community.

General Talking Points About Pesticides

People should be aware that pesticides remain under constant scrutiny and are among the most tested and regulated products for sale in the U.S. since 1910. If you’re forced to defend your pesticide use, here are a few talking points. Many of them you know, but clearly those who are challenging your practices do not. They are well worth adding to your defense.

• Pesticides help to limit the damage that can be caused by insects, weeds, and plant diseases.

• All pesticide products are tested, registered, and regulated by the EPA. Under Federal Pesticide Laws, the EPA must evaluate pesticides thoroughly to ensure Work Smarts that they meet federal safety standards to protect human health and the environment.

• Before a product can be sold or distributed in the U.S., the EPA reviews pesticide product labels to ensure clear directions are provided for effective product performance
while minimizing risk to human health and the environment.

• Only after the scientific and regulatory requirements are met will the EPA grant a registration that permits a pesticide’s use. This process can take years and involve
numerous different tests and studies, with manufacturers investing millions of dollars in product safety and testing before a new pesticide product enters the market.

For Those Who Question Your Pesticide Practices on the Course

No one knows better than a golf course superintendent just how responsibly you use pesticides. When questioning your chemical use, few golfers stop to think about how their golf courses would look and perform without the use of pesticides. It pays to remind them:

• Pesticide products are essential tools that help preserve turfgrass, landscapes, natural areas, and playing surfaces for the game.

• Through Federal Pesticide Laws, education, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Best Management Practices (BMPs), and sound science reinforcing the safety of pesticide products, superintendents and licensed, applicators possess a high level of understanding on safe handling and proper use of these products.

• Superintendents and applicators all follow the label instructions on when and how to use pesticides being applied and to ensure that golf courses and the environment remain resilient.

Providing doubters with the facts could help them see pesticides as the valuable resource that they really are, and support golf course practitioners in their desire to provide superior playing conditions while enhancing the environment.

Carrie Tackema is senior regulatory manager with Nufarm Americas, Inc.

Source: Green & Tee, Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association, Dec 2019.