Researchers warn conditions perfect for lawn disease

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COLUMBIA - MU Extension experts said the heat and moisture right now are perfect conditions for a fungal lawn disease called the brown patch lawn disease.  

Brown patch is just what the name suggests: A fungal disease of turf grass that looks like a dried out brown patch of grass. MU turf specialist Brad Fresenburg said it may trick homeowners into adding extra water or fertilizer to the grass, but doing so feeds the disease and causes it to grow and spread.   

The fungus Rhizoctonia solani causes the disease and is a summertime disease because it spreads rapidly in heat and moisture.

Lawn care worker Cody Brown said there's an important difference between dry grass and brown patch. 

"When you have a big full area of dry grass, that usually means just that area isn't getting enough water. When you have individual circles and patches of dry grass throughout it, that's a good sign of disease," Brown said.

He said his company has a specific division that handles diseases and fertilization.

Fresenburg said people who are unsure whether their lawn has the disease can take a blade of grass into the local MU Extension office or lawn care specialist.

"You will notice brown lesions on the leaf blade. It could be along the margins of the blade or in the center. It's usually a straw or tan-colored lesion that has a dark margin," Fresenburg said.

Golf course lawn specialist Casey Cunningham said it's important to try to prevent the disease because it's harmful to the turf.  

"Brown patch is pretty devastating toward the turf on yards or golf courses. It will recover, but it takes time," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said keeping conditions dry and keeping good airflow are good preventative measures because stale air and wet conditions are a breeding ground. He also recommended watering at night instead of during the day because of lower humidity at night. 

Another preventative measure is cleaning off lawn mower heads. 

"If you cut your grass make sure to clean off your mower after you treat your grass because that disease will stay on your mower. So if you cut your grass, have the disease, had someone treat it, and don't clean off that mower, that mower will put the disease right back into your grass," Brown said. 

Fresenburg said the disease needs to be treated as soon as possible because it would continue to spread if it goes untreated. He said the best treatment approach is to hire a lawn care professional.