‘Power of the molecule’

Originally published in Golf Course Industry magazine on Aug. 12, 2019; image source: Eli Rodriguez

Located in Hillsborough, N.J., midway between New York City and Philadelphia near the northern edge of the Transition Zone, Royce Brook Golf Club, provides 36 golf holes to its members, guests and customers.

The two courses were designed by Steve Smyers and both opened for play in 1998, yet they offer distinct differences. The East Course, a parkland-style design, plays to a maximum of 6,946 yards with a par of 72 and is open to the public. The West Course, which is restricted to member play, measures 7,158 yards from the tips with a par of 72. The facility is managed by Billy Casper Golf.

Between them, the two courses occupy approximately 250 acres, including L-93 bentgrass fairways (70 acres) and greens (five acres), rough that is a mix of tall fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass, and 245 bunkers, some of them of considerable size.

When Elizer ‘Eli’ Rodriguez took over as the superintendent early last year, he found himself confronting a significant dollar spot problem. That circumstance hardly made him unique, but in this instance, the situation was aggravated by a combination of significant spring rains and high humidity. “Last year it was real bad because of the weather,” he says. “Because of all the rain and humidity and everything, it was brutal.”

Rodriguez started out mixing a pair of products to combat the problem. But he experienced little success, in large part due to the weather. Searching for a solution, Rodriguez huddled with Lee Kozsey, a Syngenta territory manager, with whom he had an ongoing relationship.

Kozsey suggested he try Posterity® fungicide, a Class 7 SDHI fungicide that was being introduced to superintendents on a trial basis at the time. Rodriguez agreed to conduct a trial of his own. “I didn’t know about Posterity for a couple of months until Lee came to me and they said they wanted to do some tests on the golf course,” Rodriguez says.

Giese says Posterity’s effectiveness against dollar spot makes it stand out. “It inhibits respiration in the pathogen,” he says. “It basically stops spore germination, it stops the mycelial growth of the pathogen, particularly dollar spot. That’s how it’s so effective, and it’s just a little bit different subclass than some of these other SDHIs and that’s sort of where we get what I like to call ‘The power of the molecule.’”

When Kozsey suggested the idea of doing a trial with Posterity, Rodriguez was on board immediately, especially when Kozsey agreed with the idea of conducting it on two green approaches rather than small patches of fairways. “I said ‘Lee, I’d rather test a big area,’” Rodriguez says. “You spray a big area. It’s better because with the atmosphere and the weather you’re not seeing the (same conditions) all the time.”

The trial lasted from April through July. Rodriguez applied Posterity on one approach (Q-Action on the other) at a low-end application rate of 7 fluid ounces/acre and at mid-range intervals of 20 to 22 days. He observed immediate results.

“It cleaned (the dollar spot) right up,” he says. “We went almost a month without spraying anything and we had some nasty, nasty weather. I told Lee after we did the tests that I didn’t spray on that approach area at all the rest of the year. I just wanted to see something because I know it’s a different mode of action going into the plant. I wanted to see how long I could (go without spraying again) and didn’t see anything.”

Giese notes that Posterity is listed as having a 28-day residual. “That’s what we claim on the label,” he says, “but there are times when it certainly can go longer than that.”

That certainly impressed Rodriguez. He appreciated what a 28-day interval could mean to his chemical budget, because much of his career has been spent working at daily-fee facilities with limited budgets.

A native of North Philadelphia, Rodriguez has worked at golf courses for more than three decades. He started when he was 16, working alongside his father at 1956 PGA Championship site Llanerch Country Club in suburban Philadelphia.

Rodriguez was so highly regarded that when he decided to enroll at Rutgers University, the members at Llanerch paid his tuition. Rodriguez commuted from his home in North Philadelphia to the Rutgers campus each day while continuing to work at Llanerch between semesters.

After earning his degree, Rodriguez worked for a decade at Five Ponds Golf Club, a municipal facility in the Philadelphia suburbs before spending six years at Cobbs Creek, another municipal course on the western edge of Philadelphia designed by Hugh Wilson of Merion fame. Cobbs Creek and Merion are a short drive apart.

At Royce Brook, Rodriguez oversees a staff of 14, including himself. Apart from its effectiveness against dollar spot, Posterity helps make his budget work.

“If you don’t have a big budget and you’ve got a lot of dollar spot issues, (Posterity) is the way to go, because you’re not spraying every two weeks,” he says. “If you can make it last 28 days, 29 days, almost a month, it’s perfect. That’s money saved in my pocket.”

Posterity was officially introduced to the American turf market late last summer. As of this writing, it’s approved for use in 46 states plus the District of Columbia. In addition to dollar spot, it’s been shown to be effective against spring dead spot.

Incorporating Posterity into the agronomic program helped Eli Rodriguez and the Royce Brook team handle challenging 2019 weather.

Syngenta (greencastonline.com/programs) recommends application rates of 7 to 14 fluid ounces/acre at intervals between 14 and 28 days and not making more than two consecutive applications of the product.

Dr. Bruce Clarke at Rutgers University says his research showed Posterity to be effective in circumstances where other SDHI fungicides were not.

“It seems to give us good control even where we’ve had some cases of resistance to the SDHI fungicides for dollar spot,” he says. “I’m not saying it’s going to work wherever you have resistance issues, (but) we started having resistance to SDHIs in general for dollar spot on our research greens at Rutgers and we noticed that where we used Posterity in those areas, we still had some control with that chemistry.”

Giese says a key to Posterity’s effectiveness is the product gets into the foliage of the plant and remains there. “That’s where the pathogen is active,” he says, “and you have the ability of it to move upward in the plant, so it is systemic upward in the plant. So anywhere that spray droplet lands, it seems like that’s where you get that activity and it continues and stays in the plant for an extended period of time, giving you that long residual.”

Rodriguez utilizes Posterity as his primary dollar spot control agent while applying Secure® Action™ fungicide as his alternate chemistry. Because of Posterity’s effectiveness, he can time applications so there is little impact on play.

​​​​​​​“Me and my two assistants will come in at three o’clock in the morning,” he says. “We’ll alternate and do nine holes on the East course, then nine on the West, then come back and do the other nine on the East. We have a lot of outings, but because (an application) lasts so long, I don’t have to worry about them.”

When the opportunity arises, Rodriguez shares the virtues of Posterity with his professional peers.

“A lot of my superintendent friends don’t believe (how effective the product is) because they never had Posterity,” he says. “I tell them “You’ve got to try it.”

©2019 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. Action™, Posterity® and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. Secure® is a trademark of Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha, LTD. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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