Institutions and golf biostimulation

Eco-innovation in golf: pest control or stress control? Institutional aspects of the control of Microdochium patch disease in Britain and Ireland

(pilot application of Paper 3's findings - (see the programme area Integrating Institutions)

Morand Frédéric and Marjolein Visser, 2006; Eco-innovation in golf: pest control or stress control? Institutional aspects of the control of Microdochium patch disease in Great Britain and Ireland (WP4);  Working Paper,  Eco Innovation / Humboldt University of Berlin - RTD project QLRT-2002-02718, (; Galway (Ireland), 21 p.

Paper presented to the 2nd International Conference ‘Quantified Eco-Efficiency for Sustainability' held in Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, 28-30 June 2006.



The strengthening of European rules for pesticides authorisation doesn't spare the golf industry. Greenkeepers are legally constrained to abandon part of their conventional pest control practices, without any clearly specified alternative. This holds true for Microdochium nivale, responsible for the most economically important fungal disease in golf courses: Microdochium patch disease (M. patch). A saprophyte, this fungus does not typically infect healthy plants. The mainstream control strategy is pest control (S1), relying on chemical inputs to kill the pathogen. An alternative strategy focuses on stress control (S2) and relies on ecosystemic and biological relations that relieve plant stress (biostimulation). Although biostimulation's positive effects are duly documented, it appears ignored by practitioners. The paper aims to compare the institutional status of two strategies against M. patch. The approach uses an institutional framework that distinguishes three governance levels (formal rules, plans, personal routines) and examines the integration of these levels through a questionnaire implemented among a random sample of 44 British (30) and Irish (14) greenkeepers. The main results confirm the importance of the disease as perceived by all respondents, the lack of codification and the marginal use of S2, and the poor awareness of soil ecology basics and of emergent pesticide regulations. No relation was established between the presence of an environmental management plan and any key variables. Misunderstanding was significantly higher for S2-related questions than for S1-related questions. In conclusion, in spite of the policy-relevance of S2, the level of regulatory and R&D codification seems to have a determining effect on the uptake of S2. Preliminary policy recommendations include remedying the lack of positive rules ('Do') in a sector dominated by negative regulation ('Don't'), enlarging the scope of the sector's 'green turn' to underground biodiversity issues, further developing environmental standards and differentiation initiatives, and engage stakeholders in adequate training


Raising awareness

The 'green turn' occurring in the European golf sector focuses essentially on above-ground biodiversity. Yet, biodiversity is much denser below-ground. Soil functional ecology contributes enormous but seldom mentioned services to the very core object of golf  management: grass, in terms of nutrition, habitat and health. Myccorhizas (right), as symbiotic companions to most plants including turfgrass, play a major role in the provision  of such services.

Drawing © Frédéric Morand 2006.


Morand_wp4_golf_200606.pdf500.18 KB


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