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Normally the expression “’tis the season” is linked to that of snow, Santa Clause, blistering cold, etc.  However, here at Brian-Kyles it sings a different tune during this time of year.  The season of turf disease is upon us here in Northern Ohio and this year’s weather patterns have created nearly perfect conditions for many common diseases.

It seems that we have been discussing the heat and drought for quite some time this year, with not much hope in sight.  With this lengthy heat comes the stress added to our cool season turf grasses.  Heat stress not only causes the turf to go into dormancy, but also opens up the opportunity for many nuisance and sometimes damaging diseases.  The concept is similar to our health and our susceptibility to viruses if we have a rundown immune system.

turf rust disease

Rust Disease is seen as a dusty orange coating on blades of grass.

One of the more common diseases that rears its ugly (dusty) head this time of year is Rust Disease.  Rust appears first as small light yellow-orange specks on the leaves themselves and is so widespread throughout the turf that the entire lawn looks, well, rusty.  The spores are often transferred to those items often in contact with the turf (shoes, mowers, pets, etc).  Although Rust is not harmful to humans or animals it can be minimally damaging to turf grasses itself by weakening the plant.  So why is Rust a problem?  At any time when something weakens the plant, it allows many other unwanted diseases or insects to thrive and cause much more extensive damage.  I guess you could call rust more of a “gateway disease” like a cold becoming pneumonia.

While a very complex cycle, Rust Disease is often easily managed or prevented.  Throughout the fall, spring, and early summer, many of the practices that Brian-Kyles follow will greatly improve the health, as well as the prevention, of such diseases within our turf.  However, if Rust has been a problem in the past, it will more than likely continue without the attempt at prevention.

Studies have shown that the three (3) primary cultural practices to keeping a healthy lawn, (mowing fertilization, and irrigation) are the most effective means to either prevent, or at the very least maintain Rust outbreaks.  Mowing at an elevated height will help promote a healthy root system that is needed to keep the turf grass healthy and sustainable.  Fertilization to provide adequate nitrogen throughout the growing season, also aimed at gaining the maximum growth.  Irrigation must be used appropriately to avoid any extra moisture or drought stress on the plant, but still allow enough to get deep into the root zone.  The easy way to explain all of the above is this:  We cannot allow the turf to grow at a rate slow enough for the actual spores to develop on the plant to the point that it weakens the plant.  So, letting the grass go into dormancy is not always the best idea, but sometimes preferred by property owners because of the cost involved.

If you are in a heavily shaded area, an area with clay soils, or just have some compaction concerns in the soil, another means of prevention is to have an aeration service done on the turf.  Doing so will break up the soil and allow oxygen and nutrients to better reach the root zone of the grass.  Thus, also promoting the rapid growth for the remainder of the season.

The last means of prevention is the application of a fungicide; however, this is often applied for curative means.  Fungicides in the case of Rust disease should be considered the last resort. This is mostly true because Rust disease is largely cosmetic in nature and not a major threat the long-term health of the lawn.  Sticking to the cultural practices that can controlled is the best method.

So, don’t let this season become your “tis the season”.  Contact your Brian-Kyles professional and knowledgeable team for more information on how to shake off the Rust Disease for this season and many others to come!

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