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What Disease?

August 7, 2013
by Lee Butler

Summer patch symptoms on creeping bentgrass
Summer patch symptoms on creeping bentgrass
Pythium root rot on grass; the path of the root rot follows a drainage route
Pythium root rot following drainage route

If I had a wooden nickel for every time someone has said the following to me in the past few weeks, I'd be able to build a raging fire ... "I bet you are swamped with samples in the clinic right now with all the rain we've had, etc. etc., etc." Actually, outside of a few oddball cases, we haven't seen or heard of any major disease problems on creeping bentgrass putting greens. The missing link has been heat stress. If we look back at our records, some of our busiest years have been those that were hotter and drier which ultimately leads to more stress on the plant therefore making them weaker and more susceptible to infection by pathogens.

One of the oddball cases we have diagnosed in the past couple weeks has been summer patch on creeping bentgrass putting greens. The symptoms of summer patch appear as circular patches or rings, ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet in diameter. Turf within these patches initially turns off-colored, is prone to wilt, grows poorly, and may appear sunken in the turf stand. Over a period of a few weeks, the turf continues to decline, turns yellow or straw brown and eventually collapses to the soil surface. The outer edges of the patch are usually orange or bronze when the disease is actively developing. The patches recur in the same spot annually, and can expand at a rate of 2 to 4 inches per year.

The summer patch fungus attacks the roots, stolons, and rhizomes in the spring when soil temperatures reach 65°F. Summer patch symptoms are rarely seen during the early stages of disease development, instead, the symptoms appear in mid-summer after considerable damage has been done to the root system. Heat, drought stress, and nutrient deficiencies are the main factors that encourage the expression of summer patch symptoms. In North Carolina, the symptoms typically appear in early to mid-July.

Read more information about summer patch, including control recommendations, here.

Finally, if any of you are wondering about Pythium root rot, we have only diagnosed a handful of cases thus far with all of those happening within the past 7-10 days. In every case, we have found the Pythium to be active in the upper thatch layer around roots closest to the plant. With that being said, if you are treating for Pythium root rot, don't water those fungicides in TOO much. We typically recommend about an 1/8" ... which in most cases equals about 3-4 minutes with part circle heads. Either way, you may want to take the time to see just how long it takes to put that amount out.

Read more information about pythium root rot, including control recommendations, here.