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December 15, 2010

In the next few weeks, I'm going to upload a series of posts from ISU students who have been working on research projects and from those who were on internships last summer. They submit written reports on their experience and many of these are excellent.

The post below is from an undergraduate named Steve Johnson. He worked for Mark Gleason in pathology this summer and established some trials at the research station. This is the second of three posts from him. The first was on Sept. 27. This is the second one and the third one will come in a few days.

Steve Johnson, Soph. Summer Intern Blog #2

In continuation from my first blog I will go over the methods I used to carry out the experiment. However, while the idea of improving disease ratings by using multiple raters to average the results was the primary purpose, useful information on the effectiveness of specific fungicides to combat dollar spot was also gained through the experiment. The overall idea was to rate and evaluate the effectiveness of 19 fungicide treatments against a selected fungus disease, dollar spot, at two locations and in the process improve the disease ratings by using two raters to average the results.

The first plot was located at the ISU Horticulture Farm near Gilbert, Iowa, and the second at an old golf green located just north of Roy J. Carver Co-Lab on the northwest edge of the Iowa State campus. This location was called the WOI green, since the former WOI-TV building is also located nearby. Turf cultivars were ‘Emerald’ at the Hort farm and ‘Washington’ at WOI. Four sub-plots were needed for each of the 19 treatments making 76 plots. Four more plots were added as a control and not sprayed, totaling 80 sub-plots per location.

The first step to setting up the experiment was creating the sub-plots. By using Pythagoras’ theorem, accurate plot dimensions were insured for both site locations. A method that uses nails and a ball of white string, which is represented by the pictures, was utilized so that the corners of every 5-ft x 4-ft subplot could be seen temporarily. Orange spray paint was then used to mark the corners of each subplot so that the string could be removed and the subplots could still be located. Re-spraying the subplot corners for both locations was necessary every few weeks, especially following a heavy rain. Assignment of the spray treatments to specific sub-plots at both locations was randomized and then marked on maps for both the Hort Farm and WOI.

After the individual plots were marked the Hort Farm plot was ready to be inoculated with dollar spot. The WOI plot was not inoculated. Rye grain seeds were infested with Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, the fungus that causes dollar spot, which were then spread evenly across the surface of the 80 sub-plots. The green was kept moist but not water- logged for five days without mowing to incite fungal growth.

Following the inoculation a spray calendar was made based on the experiment’s protocol. The first spray began on 7 June, except for treatments 18 and 19 which began 24 May, and ended on 17 August. Re-application of the fungicides depended on the protocol, which had varying spray intervals. Backpack sprayers were used to apply the fungicides at 30 psi and a dilution rate of 5 gal per 1000 sq ft.

The day before a spray was to be made, the fungicide treatments were weighed out at the ISU Curtiss Farm plant pathology lab south of the ISU campus. The treatments were put into 2- liter bottles. Only about ½ inch of water was added to make a slurry. The rest of the water would not be added until right before the sprays, so that the chemical reaction would occur during the spray and not the day before, when measuring took place. On spraying days the weighed samples, in a slurry form, were transported to both spray locations and filled with the appropriate amount of water. After the bottles were filled with 1.5 liters water, the treatments were immediately driven to the plots and then sprayed.

Marked stakes were placed at every sub-plot according to a map that indicated the location of every spray treatment. These stakes would be placed in the middle of every sub-plot and then pulled out after the spraying had finished.

Tyvek suits and dual-cartridge, full-face respirator masks, with the appropriate filter necessary for pesticides, were worn for protection during sprays. During a spray date all walking took place on the borders of the sub-plots. This prevented fungicide treatments spreading to sub-plots with different treatments which, if it had occurred, would have made the data unreliable.

The treatments were evenly coated at a consistent rate of application speed, moving up and down each sub-plot. The person spraying would spray one sub-plot at a time by going north and south, and then going in an east-west direction, so the spray occurred from two directions, thus fully and evenly coating a sub-plot.

In my next and final blog I will discuss the results of the experiment as well as the impact of natural events that plagued the experiment over the course of the summer.

Nails are placed appropriately on the outside perimeter of the total plot. The nails held the string tightly in place so that the corners in the inside not measured out or marked held by nails can be seen and marked with spray paint. A single continual piece of string was used to mark out the entire plot

One of the last of the inside corners, not supported by nails but now visible because of the string, is being sprayed.

Filling the backpack sprayer with a fungicide treatment that had been weighed out the day before in our Curtiss laboratory and then transported (dry) to the location in a 2 liter bottle and then filled with 1.5 liters water right before the spray.

Applying the fungicide treatment by backpack sprayer on previously marked out 5-ft x 4-ft plots at the WOI green.


Improving Accuracy of Disease Rating for Dollar Spot on Turf

September 27, 2010

The following is a post from a student named Steve Johnson. He is an undergraduate who was working for Dr. Mark Gleason on a pathology research project this summer. He is doing this as part of the requirement for his Hort 391 special studies course. Hopefully, this will start a trend and we will have several other posts like it this fall.

Steve Johnson, Soph. Summer Intern Blog #1

Many turfgrasses are susceptible to fungal diseases and this leads to many maintenance issues for turf practitioners.  In response to the detrimental effects of turf diseases caused by a wide assortment of fungi, a precise reading of the amount of turf infected by a disease is needed to determine the proper course of action.

In evaluating alternatives for suppressing turf diseases, its important to have a method to separate the effective treatments and the from the less effective ones.  This often requires replicated field trials, often at multiple sites, comparing each alternative in the same turfgrass stand.  But how, exactly, does one measure disease severity.

Disease severity is usually measured by some sort of visual estimation method.  In other words, you look at the turf that was treated with each respective fungicide treatment and try to visually estimate a number a represents how severe the disease symptoms appear.  This is not always accurate and may not be consistent from one rating to the next or from person to person.

As an example of this, lets consider the turf disease dollar spot, caused by the fungus Sclerotinia homeocarpa. Dollar spot is a relentless disease that is recognized by it distinctive lesions that are often the size of the a silver dollar and the lesions can grow together in severe cases.  Dollar spot is the most expensive disease to control on golf courses across much of the Midwest and Eastern United States.

In comparing dollar spot fungicide treatments to each other, how can we measure disease severity?  One way is to estimate the percentage of the plot that has turned brown due to the disease.  But one person rating the percentage of dollar spot may come up with a different number than someone else.  Others have two people rate the same plot independently of each other.  So how can we be sure that the disease ratings are consistent and reliable? 

Evaluating a way to accurately estimate dollar spot severity on greens-height creeping bentgrass was the objective of this study.  We wanted to find out how different two people would rate the same turf plots, and then average the ratings to reduce bias from individual ratings.  A trial was conducted during the summer of 2010 at the ISU Horticulture Research Station to evaluate dollar spot severity on creeping bentgrass.

The results of this study are mean to be relevant for disease severity ratings of many diseases and grasses, not just bentgrass and dollar spot.  


Examples of turf from the Hort farm plots infected with dollar spot.

1 and 2.

ISU Horticulture Farm turf plot marked out for the experiment. The white string was used to show where the corners of each were.  We then spray-painted the corners in order to visually locate where each plot was without the strings.  The strings were removed after all the corners had been painted so regular maintenance could continue.

WOI green located just north of Roy J. Carver Co-Lab on the northwest edge of the ISU campus.  It was marked out and prepared for the experiment in the exact same manner as the plots at the Research Station.