RECENT CREEPING BENTGRASS PROBLEMS
Over the past several weeks, we have received many creeping bentgrass putting green samples. In every case, samples were submitted to check for a disease and in EACH case absolutely no pathogen activity was discovered. Therefore, our diagnosis was "a disease was not responsible for the damage". The common thread has been the combination of core aerification and topdressing with the unusually arid weather for this time of year. When the putting surfaces are opened up after aerification, they are more susceptible to drought stress, especially if the humidity is very low. This effect is exacerbated in areas that are already stressed such as clean up laps, heavy on/off traffic spots, etc.
This is a fine example of why receiving a diagnosis of "no disease" is just as important as receiving a diagnosis of an actual disease. Because symptoms developed during excellent growing conditions for creeping bentgrass, a safe assumption is a disease is responsible for the damage. Yet, in this case an accurate diagnosis can save time and money by preventing unwarranted fungicide applications. If you don't agree, feel free to make a fungicide application for drought stress and see what happens.
TREAT FOR LARGE PATCH NOW!
With soil temperatures starting to approach 70°F across portions of NC, now is the time to treat for large patch.
Large patch, which is caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, is a common disease of centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass, and bermudagrass grown for lawns, landscapes, golf turf, and athletic fields. Centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass are particularly susceptible to severe damage from this disease.
Symptoms of large patch appear in roughly circular patches from 2 feet up to 10 feet or more in diameter. The affected turf will initially be orange, yellow, or reddish-brown in color but will then turn tan and collapse to the ground. The disease can spread rapidly to encompass large areas of turf, and distinct circular patches may not be obvious in these cases.
Fungicides are available for large patch control, but they must be applied preventatively for best results. The first application should be made in the late summer or early fall when average daily soil temperatures are 70°F or below.
One fungicide application will control minor cases of large patch, but two to three applications on a 4 to 6 week interval may be needed to control severe cases. Fungicides are not very effective once the symptoms of large patch appear. Curative applications will help to reduce further spread of the disease, but the affected turf will be very slow to recover.
TREAT FOR SPRING DEAD SPOT NOW
So, your first question may be "Why on Earth are you telling me to apply fungicides for a spring disease in the fall and for something that will not show up for another 6-7 months?!" The answer is simple. The causal fungus, Ophiosphaerella spp., is active RIGHT NOW and you can bet it's infecting your bermuda and zoysia grass plants as I type this blog. We know through years of research that fungicides are most effective when the soil temperatures are between 60 - 80°F in the fall of the year.
Choosing the right fungicide and applying at the right time will not result in acceptable levels of control if you do not apply them correctly. Spring dead spot infects below ground plant parts. With that being said, you must either water-in your fungicide applications IMMEDIATELY with 1/4" of irrigation or apply with a carrier volume of 5 gal/water/1,000 sq. ft. You need to be running your irrigation the moment the applicator is out of the way. Do not wait until the following evening or night with your routine irrigation schedule or else you may be severely disappointed come next spring when these grasses green back up.
Just recently we have made some fantastic discoveries with fertilizers in regards to controlling this disease without having to use fungicides at all! Learn more about this on the NC State Turf Pathology blog.