UMass tries to calm concerns over Deerfield chemical sprayings

  • The Joseph Troll Turf Research Center at 23 River Road in Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/8/2019 12:59:07 PM

DEERFIELD – Representatives from the University of Massachusetts Amherst attended the latest Deerfield Selectboard meeting to explain how staff at the Joseph Troll Turf Research Center plan to quell residents’ concerns about the spraying of chemicals.

But the gratitude expressed by Selectboard members was not shared by all abutters of the research center.

Hannah Yaffe, who lives at 5 Beaver Drive, said she has had skin issues since she moved into her home and her dermatologist wants a list of all chemicals used at the facility at 23 River Road.

“As a resident of South Deerfield, I feel like the Board of Health is here to protect the residents,” she said. “I don’t feel protected.”

Yaffe asked Selectboard members Carolyn Shores Ness and Trevor McDaniel, who expressed admiration for how UMass has handled the concerns, if they would be willing to live next door to the facility, and both said they definitely would.

Ness said she is more concerned about residents using Roundup on their lawns.

“Nobody in my area uses anything like that,” Yaffe replied. “So, to be backing up to them is just appalling. And I will be looking into this more.”

The research center has scheduled an open house May 28, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Residents will be able to visit, meet staff and faculty members, get a tour of the research being conducted there, and ask questions.

Joe Shoenfeld, the associate director of UMass’ Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, told the Selectboard April 3 that the university is doing its best to mitigate concerns.

“Steps are already employed to limit our pesticide applications to optimal weather conditions and are employed in conjunction with the use of equipment and application techniques that reduce drift potential,” Shoenfeld said. “These include the use of low-pressure sprayers and close proximity of nozzles to the ground to eliminate unintended movement of pesticides from the turf. Whenever possible, we apply pesticides early in the morning, when wind speeds are typically lower.

“The Selectboard requested that we apply pesticides only during specific conditions, such as limited wind speeds of 3 to 5 mph or early in the morning to reduce drift potential and only at times of reduced neighbor outdoor activity,” Shoenfeld said. “While these are understandable requests, please understand that due to the nature of the work, we can’t limit all applications to a specific time of day on a regular basis.”

The facility’s focus is the management of turf used on public grounds and playing fields, not home lawns. Much of the work involves trying to identify which grasses require little to no water or pesticides.

Shoenfeld said the facility’s neighbors want to know which pesticides are being used and when, and the Selectboard has suggested specific notification systems to use.

“While we take our neighbors’ concerns and your recommendations seriously,” Shoenfeld told the Selectboard, “we are limited in what we are able to provide in terms of notification of the facility activities. Many responses to pests at the facility are curative in nature, and therefore cannot be planned far in advance. We will, however, begin a system of notifying the neighbors.”

Shoenfeld said the facility has alerted the local fire department to its on-site chemical storage, which was audited by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and deemed satisfactory. He also said one of the facility’s research goals is to establish practices that eliminate the potential of off-target movement of applied products.

The facility – which consists of 17 acres and includes a 3,000-square-foot structure that houses offices, lab space, meeting rooms, small classrooms and storage and space for equipment maintenance – is named after the late Dr. Joseph Troll, described as a pioneer in turfgrass management and a longtime leader in the turf program at UMass.

Deerfield Selectboard Chairman Henry “Kip” Komosa said he has wondered why UMass has not considered moving the facility’s operation to The Hadley Farm, a teaching and research facility at the university, where there is a greater deal of distance between facility land and private residences.

Shoenfeld said The Hadley Farm is not feasible, as it is a livestock facility.

“It’s not really suited for this kind of research,” he said. “And the research that’s been done here has been done on plots that have been worked on for 40 years.”

“It looks like a large site, but it is actually all used,” he added.

According to a list of proposed mitigations from UMass, the university has proposed a barrier of trees, including evergreen, to act as a buffer to four abutting homes.

Fungicides the research center uses include Banol, Chlorothalonil 720 SFT, Enclave, Iprodione 2SE, Propiconizole 14.3, Segway, T-Bird, Tebuconazole 3.6F, and Velista. The facility also uses insecticides Meridian 25WG and Triple Crown. It uses herbicides Fusilade II, Honcho, Prodiamine 65 WDG, Sedgehammer, Tupersan, Trimec Bentgrass Formula, and Xonerate.

Anyone with questions can contact facility superintendent James Poro at or 413-665-4360; farm manager Bob Skalbite at or 413-545-0143; or Shoenfeld at or 413-545-5309.

Reach Domenic Poli at


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