From multipurpose school fields to multimillion-dollar stadiums, the ultimate priority for sports field managers is universal: providing a safe playing surface for field users. Pest and weed infestations can wreck havoc on turf surfaces, creating potentially hazardous conditions for athletes. While chemical companies offer a plethora of treatments for any insect or weed problem a groundskeeper may encounter, turf pros in some states may soon see their options becoming increasingly limited as a result of pesticide restrictions.

New Jersey is the latest state making headlines for proposing a bill that would limit chemical use on athletic fields and other turf areas. The “Safe Playing Fields Act” would prohibit the use of most pesticides on K-12 public and private school playgrounds and recreational fields; all municipal, county and state-owned recreational fields; and all daycare centers, making it the most far-reaching chemical control proposal in the nation. The bill expands on a 2002 law that required schools to develop IPM plans. At press time, the bill had cleared the Senate and Environmental Energy Committee by a unanimous vote, but green industry pros are speaking out in opposition, in hopes of enlightening lawmakers on the potentially disastrous effects the ban could have on the safety of playing surfaces.

In a statement to committee members, the New Jersey Green Industry Council (NJGIC) cites numerous concerns about the bill, including: duplication of current laws, additional costs, deterioration of field conditions and a reduced ability to control insects. The NJGIC also opposes the state’s current definition of IPM, saying, “Since the passage of New Jersey’s school IPM bill, it has been a struggle to find effective products that meet the requirements and will control crabgrass and pests of concern in the outdoor environment.”

The Sports Field Managers of New Jersey have also spoken out in opposition, stating, “As sports field managers, we would like to point out how this bill will cause presently safe sports fields to become unplayable and treacherous.”

Should this law pass, New Jersey field managers will face major challenges in maintaining safe fields while adhering to the strict policies, and you can definitely expect more states to follow suit. New York and Connecticut enacted similar laws in 2010, and there are bills currently making the rounds in Maine and New Hampshire.

Katie Meyers