Pesticide usage throughout the United States is coming under increasing scrutiny due to potential environmental and health concerns. Notably, concern about pesticide residue exposure of children at schools has intensified the debate over use of pesticides on school grounds and athletic fields. In particular, some research has indicated that when children come into contact with pesticides on school grounds there is a potential for health risks associated with prolonged pesticide exposure (Alarcon et al., 2005; Gilden et al., 2012). As these perceived concerns have increased in number, states have enacted various regulations to limit or eliminate pesticide exposure at schools. Currently, 40 states have varying levels of school pest management regulations which limit or eliminate pesticide usage on school grounds (Hurley et al., 2014). While regulations vary by state, Connecticut and New York have the most restrictive regulations. In Connecticut, a total ban of pesticides on school grounds from day care through grade eight became effective on 1 July 2010.
The Connecticut ban was systematically implemented over several years since the initial legislation was adopted. As noted in PA 05-252, which banned lawn care pesticide use on K-8 school grounds (including athletic fields), school grounds/athletic field managers (hereby referred to as school grounds managers) were transitioned from no restrictions with regard to pesticide use to an IPM program with a mandated IPM plan, to no use of lawn care pesticides (State of Connecticut, 2005). Starting 1 Jan. 2006 through 1 July 2010, managers could use an IPM program in accordance with plans consistent with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) guidelines and monitored by DEEP (State of Connecticut, 2005). The full pesticide ban became law on 1 July 2010 on both public and private K-8 school grounds and corresponding athletic fields.
Agronomically, the transition from full pesticide use to a ban on pesticide use has proved to be a challenge for school grounds managers. As noted by Miller and Henderson (2012), a decrease in pesticide use can make it difficult to control weeds, insects, and diseases in turfgrass. To provide guidance to school grounds managers, more specifically turfgrass managers, as they adapt to new pesticide regulations, several studies have put forth suggested alternative management practices to offset the need for regular, scheduled pesticide use (Bingaman and Christians, 1995; Koppenhöfer and Fuzy, 2008; Liu and Christians, 1997; Miller and Henderson, 2012, 2013). Key recommendations include increased overseeding, cultivation, manual weed pulling, and/or the use of EPA approved minimum risk 25(b) products.
Given the transition of regulations from a full, calendar-based pesticide program to an IPM program to no pesticide use, Connecticut offers an ideal opportunity to examine how school ground managers adapted to changing pesticide regulations. The intended focus of this paper was to examine the differences between the varying turfgrass management regimes of school grounds managers under no pesticide restrictions, IPM, and pesticide regulations. Our hypothesis was that school ground managers would significantly change management practices as they reduced the amounts of pesticide used in their turf management program. Notably, it was hypothesized that there would be an increase in the use of minimum risk 25(b) products with the implementation of the pesticide ban. Furthermore, although not mandated by the regulations, we examine pesticide usage for 9–12th grade (i.e., high school) school grounds compared with management programs for K-8 school grounds.
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