Unintended Consequences

The pressure to produce flawlessly consistent playing conditions is stressful on biological organisms, i.e., plants and people. We seek any solution to enhance plant health when “backed into a corner” with weak turf, poor growing environments, stress from close mowing, etc. Sometimes these solutions help, other times they have unintended consequences.

All the rage this year about Bacterial Wilt/ Decline has me wondering about these unintended consequences when it comes to our obsession with plant health. “You don’t understand”, a competent golf turf manager said to me about 10 years ago, “I use these biostimulants because I grow grass on the edge”.

there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be “enhancing” the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

Today we have all types of “bio-stimulants” some with good solid research to support use like seaweed and some amino acids, others not so much. Many are concoctions of carbon based compounds, with unproven amino acids, vitamins, and my favorite-Organic Photosynthesis Synergizer”! We use these in the name of enhancing plant health but now there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be “enhancing” the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

Close-up of yellow etiolation associated with Bacterial Wilt. In this case the plants did not decline and have remained in this state for 3 weeks.

Here is my logic. The plant has many endophytic associations with bacteria, just like we do in our gut. We are applying cocktails of compounds most of which we barely understand what’s in them. Next we put the plants under stress or “on the edge” if you will and the concoctions we are using are stimulating the bacteria INSIDE the plant and sometimes there are bacteria such as Acidovorax that can lead to decline.

Now some panic and run for the Mycoshield because a diagnostic technician said they have bacterial wilt. Now raise your hand if you think our society needs MORE anti-biotics introduced into the environment. You think the current palette of  plant health products is causing unintended consequences, stick around for the antibiotic resistant organisms we might create by spraying tetracycline every seven days!



3 Responses to Unintended Consequences

  • Dane Hawker says:


    I have always wondered why my course had an increase of fairy rings. Why only on the greens? Was it the fancy thatch eating microbes? Who knows? but I do know it is Back to the basics… and it working

  • David says:

    Dr. Rossi,

    I am not even in the golf turf management business anymore yet I still love to read your articles/opinions. This article reminds me of why I left the business-one which I had truly loved. “Unintended consequences” says it all. The product companies which cater to turf managers should be more conscience of the consequences their product may or may not have. Where is the research? Long and short term effects need to be considered. The turf managers themselves also need to be aware, not just supporting their favorite buddy who sells whatever snake oil their company provides. I cannot believe the negligence and disregard for impact.

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