Brown patch (caused by Rhizoctonia solani) and Pythium blight (caused by Pythium spp).
These diseases are often the most severe diseases for cool-season grasses, especially on tall fescue and ryegrass.
Pythium blight has the potential to cause significant damage to turfgrass quickly. The disease starts as small spots, which initially appear dark and water-soaked. Affected turfgrass dies rapidly, collapses, and seems oily and matted. White, cottony mycelia may be evident early in the morning. The disease is driven by hot-wet weather, which correlates with increased stress on the turf. Similar environmental and cultural factors that encourage brown patch also promote Pythium. Therefore, cultural practices for control of brown patch will also help to minimize Pythium blight development. A correct diagnosis is essential because Pythium control requires specific fungicides.
Several fungicides are available for each of the diseases described above. Consult the Georgia Pest Management Handbook or the Turfgrass Pest Control Recommendations for Professionals (www.georgiaturf.com) for proper fungicide selection and usage. Read the label and follow proper guidelines.
Pythium blight on tall fescue (Photo Lee Burpee)
Brown patch can cause a foliar blight, which results in necrotic leaves and circular brown patches up to 4-5 ft in diameter. High soil and leaf canopy humidity, and high temperatures increase disease severity. Higher than recommended rates of nitrogen in the spring promotes disease. Management options include: avoid nitrogen application when the disease is active, avoid infrequent irrigation and allow the foliage to dry, mow when grass is dry, ensure proper soil pH, thatch reduction, and improve soil drainage.
Brown patch on tall fescue (Photos Alfredo Martinez)
Figure 1 (left) and 2 (right). Gray leaf spot on St. Augustinegrass (images by Alfredo Martinez)
Gray leaf spot (Figure 2) is a fungal disease that affects St. Augustinegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue in Georgia. The disease is particularly aggressive in St Augustinegrass. Hot, humid summer weather and high nitrogen levels can make turf susceptible to this disease. The fungus causing the disease is Pyricularia grisea.
Symptoms: The symptoms of gray leaf spot vary depending on the grass cultivar. On St. Augustinegrass, gray leaf spot first appears as small, brown spots on the leaves and stems. The spots quickly enlarge to approximately ¼ inch in length and become bluish-gray and oval or elongated in shape. The mature lesions are tan to gray and have depressed centers with irregular margins that are purple to brown. A yellow border on the lesions can also occur. In cool-season turfgrass, the symptoms are similar to those of melting out.
Conditions Favoring Disease: Gray leaf spot is favored by daytime temperatures between 80ºF to 90ºF and night temperatures above 65ºF. It is also found in areas with high nitrogen levels and that are stressed by various factors, including drought and soil compaction. This disease is most severe during extended hot, rainy and humid periods.
Disease Management Tips: Management practices that minimize stress and avoid rapid flushes of lush growth during the rainy season lessen the likelihood that severe gray leaf spot symptoms will develop. If irrigation is used to supplement inadequate rainfall, water infrequently but deeply.
Proper irrigation regimens should protect against symptoms of drought stress without increasing disease pressure by extending periods of leaf wetness. Excessive soil moisture and leaf wetness promote gray leaf spot. Irrigating in the late afternoon or evening should be avoided, as this prolongs periods of leaf wetness.
Proper mowing practices are most important for gray leaf spot management in St. Augustinegrass. This grass must frequently be mowed during the summer months to remove excess leaf tissue and keep the canopy open and dry. Mow the turf at the correct height for the designated turfgrass species and remove only one-third of the leaf blade per mowing. Collecting clippings reduces the spread of the disease when gray leaf spot symptoms are evident. Thatch layers should be removed if they are greater than 1 inch in depth.
St. Augustinegrass is especially sensitive to some herbicides. If possible, manage weeds using cultural management techniques and minimal amounts of herbicides. The timing of any atrazine application should be chosen carefully, as this herbicide can stress the grass, especially when temperatures may climb above 85 degrees F. Atrazine applications made before or during disease-favorable conditions increase the likelihood of severe gray leaf spot symptom development. Spot-treating trouble areas with the herbicide may also be considered. Herbicides should always be applied according to the label instruction
Fungicides are available to control the disease. Consult the current Georgia Pest Management Handbook — www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/.
Rhizoctonia large patch is the most common and severe disease of warm season grasses (bermudagrass, centipedegrass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass) across the state of Georgia. Due to spring and fall disease-promoting environmental conditions across Georgia coinciding with grasses leaving and/or entering dormancy, large patch can appear in warm season grasses in various grass-growing settings, including home lawns, landscapes, sports fields, golf courses, and sod farms. Symptoms of this lawn disease include irregularly-shaped weak or dead patches that are from 2 feet to up to 10 feet in diameter. Inside the patch, you can easily see brown sunken areas. On the edge of the patch, a bright yellow to orange halo is frequently associated with recently affected leaves and crowns. The fungus attacks the leaf sheaths near the thatch layer of the turfgrass.
Large patch disease is favored by:
Excess soil moisture and poor drainage.
Too much shade, which stresses turfgrass and increases moisture on turfgrass leaves and soil.
Early spring and late fall Nitrogen fertilization.
If large patch was diagnosed earlier, fall is the time to control it. There is a myriad of fungicides that can help to control the disease. Fungicides in the following classes are labeled for large patch control: carboxamides, benzimidazoles, carbamates, dicarboximides, DMI fungicides, di-nitro anilines, control. For a complete and updated list of fungicides available for commercial control of large patch, visit http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=SB28 or http://www.commodities.caes.uga.edu/turfgrass/georgiaturf/Publicat/1640_ Recommendations.html. Preventative or curatives (depending on the particular situation) rates of fungicides in late September or early October and repeating the application 28 days later are effective for control of large patch during fall. Fall applications may make treating in the spring unnecessary. Always follow label instructions, recommendations, restrictions and proper handling.
Cultural practices are very important in control. Without improving cultural practices, you may not achieve long term control.
Use low to moderate amounts of nitrogen, moderate amounts of phosphorous and moderate to high amounts of potash. Avoid applying nitrogen when the disease is active.
Avoid applying N fertilizer before May in Georgia. Early nitrogen applications (March-April) can encourage large patch.
Water timely and deeply (after midnight and before 10 AM). Avoid frequent light irrigation. Allow time during the day for the turf to dry before watering again.
Prune, thin or remove shrub and tree barriers that contribute to shade and poor air circulation. These can contribute to disease.
Reduce thatch if it is more than 1 inch thick.
Increase the height of cut. Reduced mowing heights result in a more dense turf stand, which may create a more favorable environment for large patch development
Improve the soil drainage of the turf.
Control traffic patterns to prevent severe compaction, and core aerate to improve soil drainage and increase air circulation around the shoots and root
Fall cultural practices and fungicide applications are key for Spring Dead Spot management. The disease is caused by fungi in the genus Ophiosphaerella (O. korrae, O. herpotricha and O. narmari). These fungi infect roots in the fall predisposing the turf to winter kill. As indicated by its name, initial symptoms of spring dead spot are noticeable in the spring, when turf resumes growth from its normal winter dormancy. As the turf ‘greens-up,’ circular patches of turf appear to remain dormant, roots, rhizomes and stolons are sparse and dark-colored (necrotic). No growth is observed within the patches. Recovery from the disease is very slow. The turf in affected patches is often dead; therefore, recovery occurs by spread of stolons inward into the patch. The causal agents of SDS are most active during cool and moist conditions in autumn and spring. Appearance of symptoms is correlated to freezing temperatures and periods of pathogen activity. Additionally, grass mortality can occur quickly after entering dormancy or may increase gradually during the course of the winter. Spring dead spot is typically more damaging on intensively managed turfgrass swards (such as bermudagrass greens) compared to low maintenance areas.
Practices that increase the cold hardiness of bermudagrass generally reduce the incidence of spring dead spot. Severity of the disease is increased by late-season applications of nitrogen during the previous fall.
Management strategies that increase bermudagrass cold tolerance such as applications of potassium in the fall prior to dormancy are thought to aid in the management of the disease. However, researchers have found that fall applications of potassium at high rates actually increased spring dead spot incidence. Therefore, application of excessive amounts of potassium or other nutrients, beyond what is required for optimal bermudagrass growth, is not recommended.
Excessive thatch favors the development of the disease. Therefore, thatch management is important for disease control,
Implement regular dethatching and aerification activities.
There are several fungicide labeled for spring dead spot control.
Timing, selection and application of fungicides are important for preventative management of SDS. Fungicide application in the fall when soil temperatures are between 60° and 80° F provides the best control of SDS
A complete list of fungicides, formulations and product updates for SDS can be found in the annual Georgia Pest Management Handbook and the Turfgrass Pest Control Recommendations for Professionals (http://www.georgiaturf.com). Some fungicide options are exclusively for golf course settings. Always check fungicide labels for specific instructions, restrictions, special rates, recommendations, follow-up applications and proper handling.
Severe leaf and crown rot, caused by Bipolaris ssp. can occur in bermudagrass lawns, sport fields, or golf fairways. Initial symptoms of this disease include brown to tan lesions on leaves. The lesions usually develop in late September or early October. Older leaves are most seriously affected. Under wet, overcast conditions, the fungus will begin to attack leaf sheaths, stolons and roots resulting in a dramatic loss of turf. Shade, poor drainage, reduced air circulation; high nitrogen fertility and low potassium levels favor the disease. To achieve acceptable control of leaf and crown rot, early detection (during the leaf spot stage) is a crucial.
Dollar spot is still active in the fall/early winter
Dollar spot is most prevalent during spring and fall with infections developing rapidly at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit combined with long periods of leaf wetness from dew, rain, or irrigation.
Excessive moisture on turfgrass foliage will promote dollar spot epidemics. Irrigating in the late afternoon or evening should be avoided, as this prolongs periods of leaf wetness.
If feasible, prune or remove trees and shrubs to promote air movement and accelerate drying of the turfgrass canopy
A variety of fungicides are available to professional turfgrass managers for dollar spot control including fungicides containing benzimidazoles, demethylation inhibitors
(DMI), carboximides, dicarboximides, dithiocarbamates, nitriles and dinitro-aniline. Several biological fungicides are now labeled for dollar spot control.
Following a late winter or early spring pruning of Maple, Birch, Elm, or Grapevines it is common to observe “bleeding” from the pruning wounds. This phenomenon usually occurs just before and during leaf emergence in the spring, especially during years of abundant soil moisture. The temporary bleeding is generally not detrimental to the health of the plant and primarily consists of a watery sap solution. The bleeding usually ceases once the leaves have fully emerged and water begins to evaporate through the leaf stomata, creating transpirational pull that overshadows the root pressure.
The upward flow of water is caused by osmotic pressure in the root system that begins with the imbalance of water molecules between the soil and the root system. A high concentration of minerals and carbohydrates in the root system generally translates to a lower concentration of water molecules when compared to the surrounding soil. Water molecules enter the root cells to equalize distribution, causing root cells to become turgid and force water upwards in the vascular system. (Incidentally, the reverse is true when too much fertilizer is applied and a higher concentration of minerals in the soil prevents the osmotic absorption of water into the root system.)
Occasionally, bleeding can be a nuisance where these plants drip on parked cars and pedestrian spaces. In such cases, delay pruning of these species until late spring-early summer to help to reduce the issue.
If prolonged bleeding occurs and you observe any unusual signs or symptoms of pests or disease, report the information to your local extension agent for further assessment.
Bulging, blister-like spots on leaves, may cause leaf distortion. Underside of leaf turns brown following spore production. Can be confused with eriophyid mite or midge damage. Affected leaves drop prematurely.
Disease seldom causes significant damage. Apply fungicide spray when leaf buds swell in the spring and reapply at 7-10 day intervals until the leaf fully expands to reduce disease.
Azalea leaf gall, caused by the fungus Exobasidium vaccinii, are common on azalea in the spring during wet, humid, cooler weather.
The fungus invades expanding leaf and flower buds causing these tissues to swell and become fleshy, bladder-like galls. Initially, the galls are pale green to pinkish. Eventually, they become covered with a whitish mold-like growth. Fungal spores are produced within the white growth and are spread by water-splashing or wind to other expanding leaf or flower buds, or they adhere to newly formed buds, over-winter, and infect these buds the following spring. Older leaves and flowers are immune to infection. As the galls age, they turn brown and hard.
The disease does not cause significant damage to affected plants. It just looks unsightly.
Azalea leaf gall can be prevented in subsequent years by removing the galls by hand as soon as they are detected and destroying them before they turn white and release spores. Fungicides are generally not needed or recommended for control of this disease.
Be on the lookout for fungus affecting native azaleas in Georgia
Dr. Marin Brewer at the University of Georgia is working on a fungus that affects Rhododendron canescens, which is commonly known as Piedmont Azalea, Pinxter Azalea, Wild Azalea, Sweet Mountain Azalea, or Wild Honeysuckle. The fungus, known as Exobasidium, forms a flower-shaped gall from the leaves of the azalea. The galls emerge in April and last into the summer.
If you see these flower-shaped galls on azalea in Georgia or have seen them in previous years please contact Dr. Marin Brewer at email@example.com. We would like to collect them fresh and record their locations. They have been previously spotted in Florida and Alabama.
Jean Williams-Woodward, Extension Plant Pathologist
Freeze injury symptoms can include blackening or bleaching of foliage, tip dieback, stem or branch splitting, and plant death. The damage may not be readily apparent, especially on trees. Trunk damage and splitting may develop months to years later.
Often weak pathogens invade the damaged tissues resulting in trunk and branch cankers (usually from Botryosphaeria spp. infection) and secondary infection by weak pathogens, such as Colletotrichum spp. and Pestalotiopsis spp.
The best approach to deal with freeze injured tissues is to prune off the affected tissues. Prune dead branch tips after bud break. Give plants, such as liriope, a shearing to remove dead foliage.
Freeze injury symptoms of bleached, necrotic foliage and split bark (seen at arrows) on boxwood (left), cast-iron plant (upper right) and holly (bottom right). (Images of holly and cast-iron plant by Jean Williams-Woodward; Image of boxwood by Greg Bowman, Gordon County Extension Coordinator)