When Bob Andrews needs to solve a lawn care mystery, he turns to the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.
“The lab is an independent source of information,” says Andrews, executive director of the Indiana Professional Lawn & Landscape Association. “The public looks at the lab as being something they can rely on and put their faith in.”
That faith was tested in 2011 when professional lawn care providers were faced with problems involving the herbicide Imprelis. His industry group suddenly was inundated with complaints from providers who suspected that the new herbicide was damaging trees and ornamental shrubs near where it was applied on lawns.
“We didn’t know what we were looking at because the damage didn’t look like normal herbicide damage,” he says.
The complaints continued to mount. “People wanted answers right away,” Andrews says.
Members of the association submitted samples to the PPDL, which determined that an herbicide indeed was present in them. The Office of Indiana State Chemist — also based at Purdue —confirmed the chemical as Imprelis. The herbicide soon was banned from sale and use in Indiana.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Andrews, “and I hope I never do again. But it’s reassuring to know that we can turn to the diagnostic lab in a time of crisis.”