Proposal would limit pesticides on Minneapolis golf courses

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Minneapolis is called the City of Lakes. But although residents love their lakes, many are unaware that these bodies of water are threatened by the runoff of chemicals used on the city’s golf courses.

Carol Kummer, District 5 commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, wants to improve water quality in the city’s lakes and streams by moving the board away from the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on city-operated golf courses. Instead, organic pesticides and fertilizers would be used whenever possible.

Although organic treatments have largely replaced chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the city’s parks over the past several years, groundskeepers of the city’s golf courses still use chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The Park and Recreation Board operates seven golf courses, including Columbia, Gross, Hiawatha, Meadowbrook, Fort Snelling, and Wirth. Chemical runoff is a particular concern because the courses tend to be near lakes and streams, like the Hiawatha Golf Course that borders Lake Hiawatha.

“It’s not possible to reach an organic-only goal,” Kummer said. “There are some cases where chemical treatment is needed” and would continue to be used. One example is buckthorn, a major weed problem for the grass used on golf courses and athletic fields. Buckthorn forms clumps that cause poor footing. It also has a texture and color that varies from grass, and its flower stalks extend above the turf, reducing the aesthetic quality of the grass. Because there is no organic treatment yet for buckthorn, chemicals would continue to be used in that case, Kummer said. But the goal is to reduce the overall use of chemicals as much as possible.

The biggest argument against organic treatment has been that it is generally a little bit more expensive than chemicals. But because many of these chemicals are petroleum-based and the price of oil has risen drastically, chemical products are getting more and more expensive. “The price difference is going to disappear and this argument is going to disappear, too,” Kummer said.

Pesticides are used to control, to repel, or to kill insects and other pests. Besides human health risks, they also pose dangers to the environment. Organic pesticides are those pesticides that aren’t petroleum-based but come from natural sources, usually plants.

Fertilizers are synthetic sources of nutrients that help plants grow faster and stronger. Usage of chemical fertilizers can lead to an overload of nutrients in lakes and streams, causing algal blooms and other problems.

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