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Schill Blog

4 GRASS DISEASES TO EXPECT 2019

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Although rain is necessary for plant growth, too much rain within a short period of time can be highly destructive. The historic levels of rainfall we’ve had this year, has wreaked havoc throughout Ohio as Lake Erie water levels rose to 30 inches above normal.

Farmland has been hit hard flooding tens of thousands of acres of farmland, making it impossible for farmers to plant crops. Agriculture is one of Ohio’s core industries, employing about 1 out of every 7 Ohioans, but 2019 has been nothing but disaster for agribusinesses. 

Landscaping companies have also been feeling the effects from what has been one of the most unpredictable weather patterns in decades.

Within the past few weeks alone, we've seen a drastic shift from nonstop downpour to extreme heat and humidity. This makes a deadly combination for turf grass and creates the perfect environment for fungal related diseases.

Because there has been little to no sunlight to nourish along with the rain, grass has very little nutrition making it extremely susceptible to disease. 

Here's a list of 4 common grass diseases to expect this summer, many of which are already visible on lawns throughout the region:

dollar_spot_grass_disease_schill

What is it?

Dollar spot is a common lawn disease that occurs after heavy rainfall usually during spring and early summer. Because of the tremendous amount of rain, it causes excess moisture to the grass but leaves the soil dry.

What results, is a fungus known as mycelium beginning to form that resembles straw-like patches. 

 

What it looks like?

Dollar spot looks like straw colored spots about the size of a silver dollar. It can also appear in the form of a white cottony spider web in a centralized area which in actuality, is the fungus you’re seeing.

 

What causes dollar spot?

Turf grass that has excess moisture and dry soil simultaneously, is very susceptible to dollar spot. Although it sounds unfathomable, that soil can still be dry after lots of rain, it is very possible if  a thick layer of thatch has formed.

Because thatch doesn’t break down as easily as say grass blades, it can block air, water and nutrients from reaching the root system. Without proper nutrition, grass becomes prone to disease and eventually stops growth.

 

How to treat it?

Dollar spot can be prevented or treated with a fungicide. A Schill professional can advise whether this is a wise move.

In certain cases, once turf grass has dried out, dollar spot can go away. In any event, we strongly advise implementing a treatment program as soon as the disease is recognized.

 

grass_disease_pythium_blight_schill

What is it?

Pythium blight, also known as the grease spot and cottony blight, can be a highly destructive turf grass disease. It favors hot and very humid weather and will usually develop in low areas or swales in the turf grass. Severe outbreaks can completely destroy your lawn within a few days if weather conditions favor disease development.

 

What it looks like?

Pythium symptoms will first appear as small, irregularly shaped spots that are 1/2" to 4" inches in diameter and will join to form large patches that will often be long streaks.

Turf grass leaves will at first look and feel water-soaked, greasy, or slimy. Once dew or moisture dries up, the blade will shrivel up and collapse, often causing a matted brown turf.

The turf grass will develop patches that fade to a light brown or gray color. With high humidity in early morning or throughout the day, diseased leaves may be covered with white, cobwebby, mold like growth of the causal fungus known as Mycelium.

 

What causes Pythium blight?

Warm, humid, wet weather for prolonged periods of time causes pythium blight. Your lawn could be a target for pythium if the combined temperature and humidity exceed 150 for over 10 days. (That’s the formula we use at Schill to predict pythium onset.)

 

How to treat it?

Fungicides are an effective means of treating pythium blight. Also, be sure to bag and remove lawn clippings from the infected turf since pythium fungi can stay active in plant debris and then spread to a healthy lawn.

As with other fungal lawn diseases, proper air circulation and watering is critical for treatment and prevention. Make sure the lawn is properly draining—dethatch and aerate.

 

red_thread_schill_landscaping

What is it?

Red thread is a fungal infection caused by the fungus, laetisaria fuciformis. This disease will cause irregularly shaped patches of tan or red throughout the lawn, specifically in the leaves and stems of the grass plant. 

 

What it looks like?

Besides the pinkish-red color, lawns affected by red thread have grass blades that look ragged and seem to be dying back from the tip of the leaf.

The affected grass will appear in irregularly shaped, straw-like patches that range in size from 2 inches to 3 feet in diameter.

Red thread is commonly confused with a disease called pink patch. It also has a similar appearance to pink snow mold and dollar spot, as these diseases can appear around the same time of year.

However, red thread can be identified by its antler-like structure or mycelium clusters.

 

What causes Red Thread?

Red thread is generally caused by patches of dead grass on lawns during cool temperatures. (59 – 77 degrees) and wet conditions.

The fungus, laetisaria fuciformis that causes red thread develops because of turf grass poor in nutrition which inevitably leads to slow growth. These areas of the lawn are susceptible to red thread.

 

How to treat it?

Just like with dollar spot, red thread can go away with proper aeration and the right nutrition program, once conditions are consistently warm and dry. You can also use a fungicide on the infected area to stop it from spreading and help with growth. 

As far as nutrition goes, a nitrogen rich fertilizer will feed the soil and maintain a healthy lawn making it more difficult for fungal diseases to infect the grass. 

brown_patch_schill_landscaping

What is it?

Brown patch is another common lawn disease caused by the fungus species rhizoctonia. Brown patch is a foliar disease, meaning that it harms the blades of grass but not the crown of the plant or the root system. 

 

What it looks like?

Brown patch is another common lawn disease caused by the fungus species rhizoctonia. Brown patch is a foliar disease, meaning that it harms the blades of grass but not the crown of the plant or the root system. 

 

What it looks like?

Brown patch appears as irregular circular patches in the lawn that are brownish yellow and range from 6 inches to several feet in diameter.

The affected leaves usually are tan in color with a dark brown border and a distinctive “smoke ring” border that is sometimes visible on the outer edge, giving the patch a “frog-eye” appearance.

 

What causes Brown Patch?

Rhizoctonia is most likely to cause brown patch during periods of high temperature and humidity in mid to late-summer when night-time temperatures stay above 68 degrees and daytime temperatures are in the 80s or above. 

Other factors that can cause brown patch are excessive nitrogen and irrigation. So, the disease is not just susceptible in poor soil, it can also affect very lush and green lawns. Other contributing factors include lack of air movement, poor soil drainage, excessive thatch, and compacted soils.

 

How to treat it?

Once dry weather sets in and turf airs out, brown patch can fade naturally. Proper aeration is essential to treating brown patch. It can also be treated with a fungicide, which good as a preventative measure if your turf has had the disease before. 

A certified lawn care technician will know the correct formula and application rate to ensure that you’re getting adequate coverage.

 

Our Team of Specialists

At Schill Grounds Management, our team of industry specialists have expertise in treating and maintaining healthy lawns. The worst thing you can do is neglect turf care after drastic weather changes.

To learn more about our treatment programs, contact us by phone at 440 327 3030 or, fill out this simple contact form and one of our client care specialists will reach out to you.

Jerry Schill

Written by Jerry Schill

Jerry Schill is president and co-owner of Schill Grounds Management. He's received numerous accolades for his leadership in the Northeast Ohio business community and the commercial landscaping and snow management industry, including the National Leadership Award from SNOW Magazine and Lawn and Landscape Magazine. He is an active member of the Legislative Committee for the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) and the Snow and Ice Committee for the Ohio Landscapers Association (OLA).

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