Student Research Spotlight - Benjamin Czyzewski

Posted: June 10, 2016

This is the 9th of thirteen short news articles written by students, during the professional development class, about each other's research.

Battling beetles in bluegrass
by Nursyafiqi Zainuddin

Sometime solving big problems requires simple approaches. The annual bluegrass weevil (ABW) is the single most devastating turfgrass pest to golf courses. Benjamin Czyzewski, a Penn State master’s student from the Department of Plant Science has an approach that could control this pest, without resorting to expensive and potentially problematic pesticides.

“I want to know whether mowing height impacts ABW populations. I hypothesize that grass height can influence how the weevils reproduce in the spring”.

Have you taken a close look at golf courses with yellow and brown patches around fairways, tee boxes, and putting greens? Did you observe any small black beetles in the turfgrass? If so, you might have found ABW, which is a major pest in low-cut and high maintenance turfgrass in the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada. “Interestingly, in putting green areas, it appears that ABW rarely causes damage, possibly because mowing height is much more shorter than fairways and tee boxes area”, Ben said.

Ben notes that currently, ABW populations can only be reduced through multiple insecticide applications. However, overuse of insecticides can result in resistance, and can have negative effects on non-target populations. If successful, Ben’s approach can both reduce insecticides use and increase control of the pest.

Ben is looking how mowing height impacts the ability of ABW females to lay eggs and ABW larvae to grow. He also hoping that mowing can remove ABW populations from the golf courses by collecting the grass clippings into mower baskets. Thus far, Ben has collected many ABW specimens from several golf courses across the United States, and will use these in field studies at Penn State.

“We hypothesize that ABW populations will be inversely proportional to the mowing height. If this is correct, simply changing mowing practices can control these damaging pests while reducing the amount and frequency of insecticide application in golf courses”, Ben said.