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A fresh look at turf mites

These days turf mites rate as a major economic pest, and are credited with severe restriction of couch regeneration in Spring!  Mite populations build quickly as new shoots are produced in early spring, providing an inviting food source for this difficult to control pest.  Modern thinking suggests that protecting this early season tissue from mites with a rotation of control products will go a long way to establishing season long control.

spray vehicle 2This year Living Turf’s accredited spray service has been busy supplying and applying programmed applications of Thumper® and Higran® (detailed below), with truly astounding results.  Scores of couch sportsfields belonging to major metropolitan councils, schools and stadiums are thriving under this mite control strategy.  Many clients are even using the opportunity to tank mix their grubicide (Acelapryn®) and contact insecticides (Sentinel® + Merit®) for even more broad spectrum turf protection.

In May 2011 Peter McMaugh produced a HAL funded report, “Mite damage – a survey of 4 warm season turf grasses”.  Although mites have been recognized in Australian turf for 70 years, there had been no detailed investigation on the types of mite present and what turf types are affected by them.  Since the drought a few years ago the threat posed by mites on turf farms and sportsfields has increased massively.

couch mite damage

Symptoms of mites are variable but include the classic “witches broom” at growth tips, “porpoising” of stolons and patchy discolouration with turf decline.  In kikuyu, mite infection is often followed by diseases, especially Dreschlera leaf spot.  As a result the normal cross linking stolon mat development is restricted leaving a weak turf cover that is unable to resist wear.  How mites create these growth distortions is not known but once infected the population is very difficult to control. mites on turf farms and sports fields has increased massively.

Recommendations:  Chemical control is challenging because contact miticides must get under the tight leaf sheath that harbour the mite.  Systemic or translaminar products such as Thumper® and Higran® should be used in a program fashion to establish early season control.  Because turf managers only have a limited number of registered products available for mite control, it is critical to apply them according to label directions.

An accepted method of “control” is to try and outgrow the mite, so spring fertilisation should always accompany a chemical treatment strategy.  When new shoots appear, apply abamectin (Thumper®) with non-ionic surfactant.  Approximately 2 weeks later apply Higran® with non-ionic surfactant to achieve a full 6 week window of control.  Repeating the rotation at this stage will extend control where mite pressure is severe.

Contact your Living Turf representative for assistance or detailed information.