29 April 2010

High Hopes in the UK for MASE’s Beneficial Bacteria

The research program MASE has developed a bacterium that repels one of golf courses’ worst enemies: snow mold.  With promising results achieved in Sweden there are now major field experiments being conducted in Great Britain. The outcome can be crucial for the bacteria’s future and commercialization.

Grass surfaces on golf courses are used and managed aggressively, leading to intense wear and stress on the grass. This often leads to fungus attacks on the greens and fairways. The largest single most damaging organism is Microdochium Nivala—known as snow mold.

Currently there are ongoing field trials utilizing biological pesticides at Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley, UK. The MASE field trials were supposed to have begun in December of last year; however, they were postponed due to the harsh winter. About a month ago, in March, the time was deemed right.

“We have a bacterial isolate called ME700 that we want to test on the British courses. It has shown good results in southern Sweden where conditions are similar to those in Britain," says Leif Johansson, who is responsible for the golf course project at MASE.

The Swedish Golf Federation is MASE’s partner when it comes to finding new pesticides for golf courses. The union is keen to minimize the use of undesirable chemical fungicides for snow mold control. Many golf courses in Sweden are located in or near nature sanctuaries and water supplies, where it is likely that harmful chemical pesticides not will be allowed in the future.
MASE has worked for several years  to develop ME700. The recent field trials were carried out at five golf courses scattered throughout Sweden. On courses where autumn infestation of Microdochium Nivala is common, ME700 stood up well in comparison to the chemical pesticides. Now MASE has managed to ferment the bacteria, thereby making it easy to store and transport.

“We have now proven that we have a bacterium that works. Whether it becomes a product or not, we unfortunately have no control over that decision. The Swedish market is very small,” explains Leif Johansson.

The trials in the UK are also an attempt to find larger markets. Leif Johansson believes there is a future market for ME700 in other parts of northern Europe as well as on the American East Coast, where the climate is similar to that of southern Sweden.

Mistra Mistra