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Brown Patch, a Fungal Disease

At the top of the list of fungal diseases we deal with on a regular basis is Rhizoctonia, aka Brown Patch.


During the moderate-to-cool temperatures of spring and fall, Brown Patch becomes active and attacks the grass blades of mainly St. Augustine turf.  It can and does attack Zoysia grass as well, but never Bermuda.  However, St. Augustine is by far the most susceptible to Brown Patch.

How we diagnose Brown Patch: Yellow blades present at the margin (areas between healthy and sick/dead grass blades) indicate an active issue.  If grass blades are already light brown like hay or straw at the margin, then the disease is dormant.

How we check for Brown Patch:   Pull on one of the yellow blades in the margin area. If the blade pulls out with zero resistance, it is very likely an active Brown Patch issue.  Per the close-up image here, you can see the brown fungal mass on the bottom of the blade close to the node (joint where it attaches to the runner/stolon).

Brown Patch is commonly mistaken for several other common issues like Take All Root Rot, Gray Leaf Spot and even grubs or chinch bugs. Brown Patch is easily controlled but can quickly create major visual damage that, depending on the time of year, is usually present for several weeks or months.  Rarely does Brown Patch cause complete die back of St. Augustine where re-sodding would be necessary.  This is because it only attacks the blades of grass rather than the runner/stolon or roots.

Brown patch can be successfully controlled organically with Horticultural Corn Meal which is an organic fungicide.  Brown Patch is NOT treated with corn gluten meal which is marketed as an organic pre-emergent and not a fungicide like Horticultural Corn Meal is.  Brown Patch can also be treated successfully with a chemical fungicide but the organic method works much better and is longer lasting.

Once Brown Patch is an issue on any given property, chances are it will return in future seasons.  With properties that experience Brown Patch every year, preventive measures should be taken in early spring and/or fall.  Preventative treatments should be coupled with targeted watering practices.

Mowers can easily move Brown Patch from one yard to the next and the disease needs a lot of moisture (irrigation or rain) to become active and spread aggressively.

Preservation’s Turf Healthcare Specialist, Steve Clary, says he often suggests to clients to “defer to a bit of dehydration in the grass during the spring and fall seasons rather than over-watering like it’s summer time.”  

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