Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Turf Assessment in Lincoln

Yesterday we visited our Lincoln school again and examined the turf. Clyde and I were joined by the head school custodian, Roch Gaussoin, turf specialist at UNL, and one of the school's groundskeepers. There was a lot of white clover growth, which can be both good and bad!

Roch said that until the 1950's, clover was actually included in part of the seed mix for lawns because it helps release nitrogen. He mentioned that if the school wanted to, they could actually allow the clover to be the primary groundcover. The only concern might be potential liability issues with bees (student and staff allergic reactions)

Increasing fertility (using more fertilizers, such as one application in the fall) would greatly cut down the amount of clover. However, this would encourage grass growth and result in the need for mowing more often. The school has limited manpower to address the turf at all the Lincoln schools, so this might not be the preferable option.

Another thing of note was that mulch was compounded around the trees. The trees were planted well, at the proper depth. Roch suggested that the mulch just be spread out a bit away from the tree rather than mounded so tightly against it. This will help reduce mower hits against the tree as well.

The groundskeeper also mentioned that sports turf areas in LPS are the only places where herbicides are used because these areas have a higher priority to be maintained. He mentioned otherwise they just mow, and they don't fertilize the general turf.

Overall, we offered the school a variety of options in addressing their turf health and our recommendations take into consideration that their decisions have to be based on time and personnel.

Finally, Clyde also suggested that the sports turf groundskeeper as well as any other interested district groundskeepers attend the Green Expo in January. This is great for both pesticide applicator recertification as well as updated information about landscape and turf issues.

Friday, June 25, 2010

IPM in Schools: First Demonstration Visit

On June 22nd and 23rd, our Nebraska IPM team conducted the first assessment at the two demonstration schools in Omaha and Lincoln. In addition to the UNL team members (Clyde and Barb Ogg, Stephen Vantassel, and myself) we had great attendance by school administration, custodial supervisors, and nutrition and environmental specialists. Also joining us were PMPs who service the schools and Mike Daniels, the tribal representative who wants to implement IPM for the Winnebago and Omaha tribes in Nebraska.

We began the day by giving an introductory presentation about IPM and explaining a bit about how the demonstration process would work at each of the schools. We covered topics such as what IPM is, the move away from the "traditional" approach of preventative spraying, children and pesticides, specific pests, conducive pest areas within schools, and what responsibilities each school staff member (administration, food service, teachers, school nurse, custodians, and contracted PMPs) have in helping to implement and maintain IPM in their schools. Upon concluding this, we asked what pests had been seen around the school and then set out to do our walkthroughs.

The kitchen was probably the biggest area of concern in the schools. Both schools had problems with German and Oriental cockroaches. Live cockroaches were found in drains and even running around on the floor--mainly in the kitchen, but also in the home ec room and near entrance ways. Sanitation was definitely an issue in both cases...drains, floors (especially under appliances), and surfaces need to be deep cleaned in each kitchen. Because school is currently not in session, this would be a good time to address these issues.

Staff lounges and the home ec room were also of concern. Again, this is due to all the food that is eaten, cooked, or stored in these areas. One school had had problems with a pop machine in the staff lounge being infested with German roaches. Obviously, with sweet pop residue and a warm, dark place to live, it was the ideal place for a roach party! The PMP stated that the machine had been treated with gel bait and sure enough, many dead roaches were seen around the area of the pop machine.
The same staff lounge had a leafed wooden table. When we separated the table, we could see lots of debris had built up in between the leaf---again, cleaning this could go a long way in reducing the number of roaches. Any place where food residues can be removed will help.

The other staff lounge had an open bag of peanuts. Staff lounges are going to undoubtedly have food throughout the year, but it's best that long-term items such as the peanuts, chips, candy, cookies, etc. be put in sealed containers, and plates with treats such as donuts or cake be covered tightly when no one is in the lounge.

The home ec room, like the kitchen, needs a good deep cleaning. Dead and live roaches were found several places, plus an old sticky trap that had been placed was full of them. The stoves (in, around, and behind) need to be cleaned, as well as the floors and drains. Doing this will go a long way in reducing food sources for pests.

In all of these areas we placed many sticky traps...some were specifically pheromone traps for roaches. It is our hope that this will help us monitor and determine the extent of the problem. We will check these at an upcoming visit.

We also looked at custodial rooms in both schools...both had pesticides stored, although one had them on open shelves, the other in locked cabinets. Things like Roach Prufe (boric acid) and Raid were some of the more commonly found products. We recommended to the schools that they remove these from the shelves. We'd rather see them implement good old mechanical controls like fly swatters (or a shoe!) than spraying Raid at a pest. Both require direct contact to kill the pest, so why not use the non-toxic approach if possible? Additionally, we talked about how the PMP has the tools and low-toxic products like gels that could be placed in cracks and crevices, thus reducing human exposure.

Finally, we took a look at the perimeter. Overall, both schools looked good but had a few problems with grading and water pooling that could cause excessive moisture problems and attract pests. Also, weed free zones should be in place around both schools. Stephen indicated that the schools should watch out for gaps in the roof, foundation, or walls that could encourage bat, wildlife, or rodent entry. Portable classrooms were one particular problem as they had many gaps, broken vents, or other problems that could encourage animal entry. One school had courtyards that were overgrown with weeds, had grading problems, and had trees touching the roof or walls. These will need to be updated and maintained to discourage pest activity.

This first visit was very productive! Everyone involved seemed very enthusiastic about fixing any problems and working hard to implement IPM over the next year! We'll be providing a report with recommendations to each school, and working with them over the course of the next four visits. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Week

Well, this is the week we start our first IPM demonstration visits to the Omaha and Lincoln public schools! Tomorrow we'll be in Omaha and Wednesday in Lincoln.

We'll be conducting a walkthrough at each school as well as providing the school administration and staff with a presentation about IPM and how the process will work over the next year. We plan to document pests and pest conducive conditions by taking photos and notes, and from these we'll be able to provide recommendations for the schools. We'll also be placing traps in conducive areas.

Stay tuned for a detailed report after the completion of this initial assessment.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Upcoming NE IPM Events

It is going to be an exciting year for Nebraska IPM! June 22, 23 and 29 we'll be conducting our first IPM assessments at the Omaha and Lincoln schools.

July 7 Mark Shour from IA state will be with us at our Nebraska IPM coalition to speak about his experiences with IPM in schools in Iowa.

The first week of August, as part of the North Central IPM Working group meeting, we'll be doing a walkthrough at a Nebraska City school.

Oct 6 Tom Green from the IPM Institute is joining our coalition meeting to talk about IPM Star Certification.

Stay tuned for more details about these important and educational IPM events!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nacho Cheese, Anyone?

Last week Clyde and I joined Mark Shour from IA State, and Darrell Deneke, Jim Wilson, and Jon Kieckhefer from South Dakota State to visit four South Dakota schools in two school districts where we are working to implement IPM. Some other participants in one or more of our SD visits have included Mike Daniels, the pesticide circuit rider for the Nebraska Winnebago tribe, Stephen Vantassel, UNL wildlife expert, Ruth O'Neill from Montana, and Jerry Jochim from Indiana, all of whom have either been involved or are interested in IPM for schools in their states.

We began this process May of 2009 and will do a total of 5 visits. Our hope is to educate the SD schools about pests and how to address any current pest problems as well as prevent future ones by implementing good sanitation, exclusion, trapping, and other IPM practices. We have provided sticky traps and placed these in pest conducive areas around the school during each visit. On our next visit, we check and record numbers and types of pests found on the old traps and replace with new ones to monitor progress. PMPs in both school districts we have been working with have been involved in both walkthroughs and assisting with pest monitoring. They are an integral part of the team and will be very important in maintaining and coordinating IPM with the SD schools after this project is completed.

On previous visits, we have conducted in-services/training for custodial and other staff, and teachers to introduce common pests and explain what IPM is and what we are trying to accomplish with this project. We have encouraged the participation of SD school superintendents, pest management professionals (PMPs), custodians and facility managers, teachers, and other school staff.

Overall the SD schools have shown very good efforts! One school had a pretty severe moth fly problem due to a dirty drain and during this last visit we were very impressed to find that the drain had been deep cleaned and there were very few moth flies on the trap we had set out. One school had dead mice in traps and mouse droppings under a sink. They have since removed the mouse, cleaned thoroughly, and freshly painted this area. Other general observations we've made is that the schools need to seal around all their pipes, install doorsweeps under all doors (they are on the way to fulfilling this) and improve general cleanliness under appliances.

We have found some major problems with cleaning small appliances used in concessions and other least 3 popcorn machines are encrusted with grease and have left over popcorn long after use, a nacho cheese machine looks like it has never been cleaned, and a small fryer and some ovens/microwaves in home ec rooms or teacher lounges have a lot of food debris and grease that should be deep cleaned. All of these things are not only unpleasant to look at, but would be a feast for pests!

During our first visit we found several cans of pesticides in non-locked cabinets, some of which were really outdated. We recommended to the schools that these be discarded. Since then, we have found a can here or there, but the schools have been pretty cooperative in either discarding the pesticides themselves or letting us remove them. We did find some lawn pesticides in outdoor sheds as well, which should be removed or stored in locked cabinets.

With one visit left to go, we have been pleased with the progress that the schools have made. One school is even using pest logs, a recordkeeping tool we have encouraged to help schools keep track of pest sightings. Although there are still some areas that need improvement, the SD schools are doing a good job of addressing many issues that the IPM team has found and seem enthusiastic about making the changes.