Insect Management: Cultural Control
Cultural practices can influence the susceptibility of lawn grasses to chinch bugs and turf caterpillars. Attention to the following practices can reduce the need for pesticide use, leading to energy conservation within the plant and less potential contamination of the urban environment.
Early detection of insects is vital to any management program. Inspect the lawn weekly during spring, summer, and fall months and biweekly during winter months to determine if damage is beginning to occur and if insects are the problem.
Rapid succulent growth, resulting from frequent or high applications of water-soluble inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, acts as an attractant and substantially increases the chances of insect attack. Incidence of damage from these pests can be greatly reduced with applications of minimum amounts of slow-release nitrogen fertilizers in combination with other macro-and micronutrients. Contact your local county Cooperative Extension office or refer to the appropriate sections in this book for fertility recommendations and sources of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for each of the turfgrass species in your particular area of the state.
Improper mowing, coupled with excessive watering and improper fertilization can cause lawn grasses to develop a thick, spongy mat of live, dead, and dying shoots, stems and roots which accumulate in a layer above the soil surface. This spongy mat, referred to as thatch, is an excellent habitat for chinch bugs and turf caterpillars, and chemically ties up insecticides, therefore reducing their effectiveness. When a serious thatch problem exists, it may be necessary to remove the thatch mechanically (vertical mowing, power raking, etc.). Proper mowing practices can make the grass more tolerant to pests and greatly improve the appearance of a lawn. The best recommendation on mowing is to mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the leaf blade is removed at each mowing.