FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals?
The Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals, MALCP, is an association made up of licensed applicators, educators, professional affiliates and suppliers. We serve as a resource to industry professionals as well as the public. The overwhelming majority of the member companies are small businesses headquartered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
MALCP concerns itself with the myriad of issues facing the Lawn Care Industry in Massachusetts. Most people do not know how to identify the Lawn Care Industry. It is often confused with the Landscape Industry. How is the Lawn Care Industry different from the Landscape Industry, you may ask? The Landscape Industry mows, rakes, plants flowers, shrubs, some lawns and trees; they run heavy equipment, and sometimes fertilize and/or apply pesticides.
What does the Lawn Care Industry do?
The Lawn Care Industry is in the business of managing turf. After analyzing and assessing the situation of a particular piece of turf, technicians design a program to fit the needs of that lawn. They have many tools at their disposal to accomplish their goals. Primarily they fertilize lawns. They also properly apply pesticides and sometimes seed and/or aerate lawns.
In the State of Massachusetts anyone who applies any kind of pesticide for hire must be licensed by the State. What does this mean?
To become licensed a person must pass a Core exam administered by the Department of Food and Agriculture. A license is administered only when the person can prove that they are properly insured. A licensed professional is required to take educational courses and seminars on a regular basis to insure that they are knowledgeable in sound techniques and procedures. They are kept current on the latest products and research. Among other things these sessions teach safety, good cultural practices, Integrated Pest Management, how to handle and store pesticides, the importance of reading labels properly, the inner workings of pesticides, the behavior of insects, weed metabolism, when pesticides are not necessary and the evolution of biological controls. (Most of the public do not realize that many biological controls are registered pesticides, thereby falling under the same regulations as other more well known pesticides.)
What if a person hires an unlicensed applicator to apply a pesticide, even if it is a well known over-the-counter product that anyone can purchase?
This is against the law. Any time you hire a company or individual to apply any pesticide to your yard, workplace or home, it is your responsibility to ask to see a license.
Are the lawn products sold at the hardware store or garden center less virulent than those used by professionals?
Not necessarily. The vast majority of products used by the professional lawn care industry are the same as those sold at the retail stores. The active ingredients are the same although the brand name is usually different. In some cases there are products sold to the homeowner market that the Industry no longer or never used.
What does the yellow flag mean?
The posting system in Massachusetts was developed with input from MALCP. It has become a model system for the country. The yellow flag means that a pesticide was applied to a piece of property. Yellow signs must be posted for certain biological controls. Sign posting is meant to serve as a notice of a pesticide application. Each pesticide product has a label which clearly indicates how soon a person may return to activity on a lawn. For some pesticides, lawn activity may resume 5 minutes after the application, many as soon as the product dries. Such information should be left with the property owner or manager.
A Pesticide Bureau regulation states that any commercial applicator applying a pesticide to a property must post the yellow sign. The owner or property manager must be directed to keep the sign up for 72 hours, although they may remove it any time they choose. The sign should state the company name and phone number. The sign must be a certain size and composition. We estimate that 20% of the pesticide applications are made by licensed applicators working for companies. The other 80% are made by homeowners(legally)and unlicensed applicators(illegally). Neither is required to post a yellow sign when applying a pesticide. A recently passed law now gives the State the ability to dispense $1,000.00 fines to those unlicensed applicators who are making pesticide applications for hire.
How does one report an unlicensed applicator?
The method is the same for the public as for the professional. A person must call the Chief Inspector at the Pesticide Bureau at 617-.626-1781. The time, date, location and type of application made must be reported, as well as the name of the person making the application. The person reporting in must also leave their name. The inspector will check the applicator's name against the official list of licensed applicators. If they are not licensed, the inspector can then send the unlicensed applicator a letter (if they have an address) informing them that they must be licensed and have 90 days in which to obtain a license.
Who reviews the chemicals that are available in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
All chemicals prior to release by chemical manufacturers must undergo extensive testing. In general, only one in 20,000 active ingredients make it from discovery in the lab to sales. It takes 7 to 10 years to get a product to market. Products undergo more than 120 laboratory and field tests. Companies spend from $30 million to $50 million to achieve federal registration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) along with the recently approved Food Quality Protection Act require testing in product chemistry, residue chemistry, toxicological effects on mammals, birds and fish, worker exposure and environmental fate. The EPA monitors and approves all testing. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state agencies and the Pesticide Board Sub Committee take a very active role in reviewing all chemicals introduced into the state.
Does the State regulate advertising?
Yes. There are clear advertising guidelines. One of the most obvious is the word "safe". In the Commonwealth it is illegal to use the word "safe" on any piece of advertising for a product or service that includes pesticides.
Do any of your member companies offer alternative lawn care programs?
Yes. You will find that most, if not all lawn care companies, offer a variety of programs. Many are customized to the desires of the customer. Some are strictly organic, some utilize biological controls. There are many variations on a theme. Check with the individual company. And shop around. Discuss your expectations with the lawn care professional. Often people's expectations are not the same as the reality with an alternative program.
What is Integrated Pest Management?
IPM is a method to reduce pesticide use by means of careful monitoring, good cultural practices and chemical use where needed. The elements of a successful IPM program include:
Identification of the source of any problem,
If the problem is caused by a disease, insect or weed, knowledge of the pest's lifestyle,
Determine the tolerance level of the customer to the pest (how many insects are too many or how much damage to the turf is acceptable?)
Regular monitoring of property to determine if the pest population level is tolerable or not.
Determine if pest control is necessary at that time.
Determine and implement the cultural practices which will manage the problems,
Use pesticides when other options have not succeeded in managing the problems,
Select pesticides which will minimally disrupt the environment and potential exposures to applicators and others
Communicate findings, intentions and actions to concerned parties, and
Evaluate the action taken - Was the problem handled in a satisfactory manner?
An IPM lawn program is more labor intensive. Either the homeowner or the turf professional must walk the lawn on a regular basis to evaluate the status of the turf. If the homeowner or property manager cannot or will not participate in the monitoring process, be prepared to pay extra for a turf professional to make the additional visits needed.
Proper cultural practices are critical to the success of IPM. Is the mower height set to the proper level, usually 2.5 to 3.0 inches in New England? Is the mower blade sufficiently sharp? Is the lawn properly watered? What are the expectations for the lawn? Are dandelions OK or not? What are the life cycles of the pests which are infesting a lawn? It is necessary to know this in order to most effectively treat the problem. What is the owner's level of tolerance for a particular pest or weed?
IPM requires commitment and involvement in creating and maintaining a healthy lawn.
Is the application of fertilizer and pesticides to bare soil the same as to turf?
No. Fertilizer and pesticide applications made to established turf are held very tightly in the thatch and root zone. Here they are utilized by the grass plants and broken down by the microorganisms in the thatch and soil. Turf is a very effective filter for cleansing the environment of airborne and water borne pollutants.
In a healthy 5,000 sq. foot lawn there are 17.5 million individual turf grass plants. No other plant culture is so densely crowded. Individual root hairs can number as high as 14 million with a surface area of 2,500 sq. ft. Such dense root systems are what make grass such a natural filter system. Dying roots combined with grass and leaf clippings decompose to create humus. This provides food for microorganisms which live in the thatch layer. Turf is often used as a buffer around fields with bare soil to absorb any runoff.
What effect does this intricate growth system have upon the environment?
Grass leaves are responsible for photosynthesis. This is the process which allows the grass to grow. As with leaf growth, the process causes the exchange of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for pure oxygen. For example, an area of turf measuring 50 ft. by 50 ft. absorbs not only enough carbon dioxide, but enough hydrogen fluoride, perosyacetyl nitrate and ozone to release enough oxygen to supply a family of four.
Turfgrasses trap much of the estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released into the US atmosphere.
Healthy turf serves as a natural water filter. The microorganisms living in the thatch layer along with the root mass break down the impurities and pollutants, thus purifying water going into underground aquifers. Through this method soil particles are removed from silty water.
Turf serves as a natural air conditioner. The turf from just the fronts of eight average sized lawns have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning.
Up to 90% of a grass plant's weight is in its roots. This makes turfgrass a very effective erosion prevention device. Examples of this are evident in all types of soil.
Are there any questions which should be asked of lawn care services prior to hiring them?
Yes. Ask to see a pesticide license. Anyone who applies any form of pesticide for hire must be licensed by the State. Any product with (EPGA REG) on the container is a pesticide. Included are insecticides, herbicides, biological controls, weed and feed products, organic pesticides and controls, fungicides and weed killers. Ask what types of programs they offer. If you are interested in customized, organic or IPM programs ask what type is being offered. Is the company willing to assist you in understanding your lawn? Ask about its growth cycles, mowing and watering needs, as well as your particular soil conditions. Ask if the company belongs to any professional associations. It is a sign of professionalism. Will the company provide you with information on the applications they will be making to your lawn? It is your right to know.
Are there studies available on turf?
There are many university studies and technical articles written about turf issues. Turf Management departments exist at many universities. Some schools of note on the east coast are UMass, URI, Cornell, Penn State and the University of North Carolina. Current research is available on an ongoing basis from these schools. If you are looking for any specific information, contact our office and we would be happy to try to assist you.
There are many non-university studies around. How does one determine which are legitimate?
The best way is to review the methods of research and analysis. A good study is conducted over a period of time. The conditions are rigorously controlled and noted in detail. Another researcher should have the ability to repeat the study and draw the same conclusions. Beware of studies that do not use the standard accepted methodology. For example, phone surveys that record the suggestions of the surveyor when the respondent does not know should not be considered legitimate. The Freedom of Information Act provides reporters and others the opportunity to determine the methodology and legitimacy of studies. It also allows the public the opportunity to see raw data. Also be aware of the assumptions being made. They effect the conclusions.
If you have any questions regarding turf management, please feel free to contact our office at 781-274-7373; by fax at 781-274-7878; or e-mail at email@example.com