Lawn Troubleshooting - Fighting Fusarium
Fusarium patch disease is a common problem on lawns in autumn time. Here’s how to recognise and treat it.
Signs of Lawn Disease
A healthy lawn normally has a nice even colour with no discoloured spots, no slime, no bare bits and no moss. It looks great and it’s something to be proud of.
However, maintaining the health of your lawn is not always easy – which is why we all admire and envy gardeners who can achieve that perfect velvety sward.
If you have circular-shaped white or brown patches in your lawn, the chances are you may have been visited by one of our most common lawn diseases…fusarium patch.
What is Fusarium?
Fusarium is a fungus that is often found on plants and it soil. It’s a tiny organism and it doesn’t have a large fruiting body like a mushroom or a toadstool. When the conditions are right, the fusarium fungus will multiply into a large colony and that’s when it becomes visible to the human eye.
Fusarium patch disease, picture courtesy of Turfgrass Growers Association
What you will see is patches or blobs of white slime on the surface of the grass. Not to put too fine a point on it, it looks as though somebody has sneezed all over the lawn.
If the fungus spreads from the grass leaves to the crown, it can kill the plant so you need to be vigilant in preventing it and treating this disease.
How to prevent fusarium patch
Fusarium likes mild temperatures and damp places which is why it is most commonly seen in autumn and early spring. The common name for fusarium patch disease is snow mould because it is sometimes seen immediately after snow melts.
There’s nothing you can do to change the weather but you can do something to prevent your lawn being damp for long periods of time.
On golf courses, you will see early morning dew being swept from the greens using a switch. It’s a tried and tested method but probably isn’t practical for the average lawn-keeper….not unless you are very keen indeed to have the perfect lawn.
Keeping up to date with your feeding regime will boost the plants’ immunity to the disease and make it harder for the fungus to take hold.
Ensuring that your mower blades are clean – and more importantly – sharp, will also promote good lawn health.
Scarifying to remove thatch is probably the most important weapon in your arsenal. Thatch impairs drainage on the lawn and helps fusarium to survive. This fungus actually lives on dead plant material for most of its life, it’s only when fusarium colonies get huge that they start to feed on living grass. Taking away dead material not only improves drainage, it takes away the fungus’ food source and a good many spores at the same time.
How to treat fusarium patch
Unfortunately, the chemicals that used to be available for treating fusarium patch have been taken off the market. ….they weren’t particularly kind to the environment. That means that you have limited choices when it comes to treating this particular lawn disease.
First of all – don’t spread the disease. Disinfect your mower every time you mow - or avoid mowing altogether if you can.
Applying Iron Sulphate to the whole lawn helps to suppress the fungus – it will also kill moss and green up the grass.
The alternative is to contact a lawn care company who are licenced to use treatments that you can’t buy from the garden centre.
Sometimes it’s better just to be patient and let Mother Nature take care of it. As soon as the frost comes, the fungus will die and the problem will resolve itself.
One thing is for certain – prevention is better than cure!
Start now by applying an autumn/winter feed with plenty of Potassium in it to increase the hardiness and disease resistance of your lawn.