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Peat Moss - Organic vs. Conventional
 

DIRT DOCTOR ORGANIC NEWS #7




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Peat Moss - Organic vs. Conventional    

I talked about this subject on the radio show this past weekend, but in case you missed it, here’s the story. The Texas A&M Extension Center recommends peat moss on turf to control Take-All Patch.  Their testing compared peat to a specific compost product. The title of the research was:

PEAT MOSS TOPDRESSING CONTROL OF TAKE-ALL ROOT ROT ON ST. AUGUSTINE GRASS

Texas A&M Research Center at Dallas
Click here  
to read the entire paper.

Here are the conclusions:

CONCLUSIONS
The use of organic topdressings to control turfgrass diseases is a relatively new approach to controlling turfgrass diseases. We do have good evidence that the acid peat moss topdressings can give good control of TARR on St. Augustine grass home lawns. In comparison studies, peat moss topdressing reduced symptoms of TARR for longer periods than cow manure compost and is thus considered the more effective disease control product. Additional research will address the best time to apply peat moss topdressing products as well as possible effects on other turfgrass pathogens and diseases. One application appears to be sufficient for 2 years of disease control.

Here is a different conclusion from the same research:

CONCLUSIONS
There is no indication of varietal resistance to Take-All root rot since the disease has been noted on all of the commercial St. Augustine grass varieties. The use of fungicide applications is also limited with only a few fungicides that are approved for use on this disease. Although there is good evidence that fungicides are capable of controlling the disease, environmental conditions and vigor of the turf may pose some limitations on the effectiveness of fungicide treatments.  At this time we have no explanation as to why we observed a lack of uniformity in fungicide effectiveness on different lawns.

The use of organic topdressing to control turf grass disease is a relatively new approach to controlling turf grass diseases. Because of the complexity of microbial antagonism, fertility values of topdressing materials, different types of diseases and susceptibility of pathogens to pH, most of this type of research is directed by trial and error experimentation. We do have good evidence that the acid peat moss topdressings result in control of TARR on St. Augustine grass on Dallas area home lawns. In comparison studies, peat moss topdressing reduced symptoms of TARR for longer periods than cow manure compost and is thus considered the more effective disease control product. Additional research will address the best time to apply peat moss topdressing products as well as possible effects on other turf grass pathogens and diseases.


Here are the comments of another Extension PhD.  Notice the anti-organic bias.

It has been brought to my attention that there are effective chemicals which may work on Take-All patch. These include Spectracide Immunox, GreenLight Fung-Away Systemic Granules and Ferti-lome f-Stop with myclobutanil.

One more point of interest, the ONLY organic solution which is effective on lawn diseases is the sphagnum peat for Take-All Patch. Sphagnum peat is not effective against Brown Patch.  Lately there have been claims made that corn meal and a garlic extract is effective. This is absolutely false. Even if these purveyors claim that a University tested and/or recommended the product. Everyone trying to do the "environmentally friendly-to-a-fault" thing have been wasting their money. They would have been better off making corn bread and using their garlic for cooking purposes! This and other extension people still recommend the toxic chemicals. 


At least the peat moss advice is non-toxic, but there a couple of problems here.

First, Take-All Patch is not a rampant disease, especially with organic projects. Second, if lowering the pH is the key to fighting this disease, then vinegar and greensand would be quicker, better and far cheaper.  Third, what really cures this disease or any other disease is to help the beneficial soil organisms neutralize the pathogens.  Biologically alive compost is the best solution.  I would strongly suggest doing these tests again and this time getting the input from organic experts about the protocol, especially on what compost products to use.
 
True organic people don’t use peat moss except for one thing – storage of perishable materials.
 
Here’s the research explaining why:  Peat Moss - Viking Preservative and two of the most interesting quotes from the report:

Peat bogs have long been known for preserving organic material. In Scotland, tubs of butter have been found intact after 1,800 years;  elsewhere, a loaf of bread thousands of years old was found
.
 
In a demonstration for the Norwegian state radio network NRK, Christensen opened a plastic container in which a Zebra fish had been stored in peat for two years. It was intact and smelled fine.

Peat moss is anti- microbial – the last thing we want to use to help build healthy soils. Plus, peat moss is much more expensive than compost. Store your bulbs and food in it -  but keep it out of the soil.

My Take-All Patch control recommendations are found in the Library click here


Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor


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