Pre-emergents and adjuvants have come a long way and it’s becoming much more common for lawn care operators to utilize them in their lawn care programs. In fact, the lawn care operators (LCOs) we spoke with all said that the use of these products is almost a “given” in most cases and therefore not necessarily a huge profit boost, but is definitely saving time and labor in the field.
LCOs say they see the greatest benefits in pre-emergent use in the form of time savings. Greg McMillen, protection services manager for Colorado-based Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care, says that using pre-emergents is a big time saver because it means less post-emergent in the summertime. “If we didn’t use pre-emergent, we’d be spending a lot more time spot treating,” he says. “It’s basically not an option – it’s a necessity. If we tried to care for our lawns without pre-emergents, it would be a nightmare.”
Determining the best product and treatment plan seems to vary among LCOs. Bill Leuenberger, soil and turf management department manager for Chalet Nursery in North Chicago, Ill., says that over the years a natural trial-and-error process helps determine the best methodology. They’ve tried various products over the years and determined what they like best for their program. They’ve also learned to feather product into the shaded areas which isn’t a problem since not much crab grass grows in those areas anyhow. “We don’t like putting weed preventer in shaded areas because we found on fescues it tends to do some root pruning, plus we’ve found that there are more grubs growing in shaded areas,” Leuenberger says. “For us, feathering product into those shaded areas works best.”
There is definitely some debate as to the number of applications needed. Johnson feels strongly that with the superiority of today’s products, competitors in his region who are doing pre-emergent as a split application are just looking for added cash flow. “In our market, if you put down the pre-emergent at the proper rate, it will give you six- to nine-months of weed control with that single application,” Johnson says.
Many LCOs are also using adjuvants to boost the performance of their products. McMillen says they use adjuvants in the late summer months. Johnson says that adjuvants definitely help the post-emergent products. It’s always critical to select the right product as the wrong adjuvant can increase the risk of poor performance.
Overall, the use of these products is definitely saving time and labor in the field. Leuenberger says that no matter what, there’s always some breakthrough, but finding the ideal program will at least limit it as much as possible. “Our theory is that any type of pesticide product is a tool that can help us but not necessarily always our first choice,” Leuenberger says. “In some cases those products just need to be used more – all depending on the lawn.”
In every case, LCOs are always looking to be as efficient and effective as possible. “There’s no question that today’s products save us time and labor,” adds Johnson. “Our goal is to always be as efficient as possible. No pre-emergent is perfect. Things happen in nature to break product down quicker. But it’s definitely still the best way to control weeds before they come up and start causing problems.”