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Fighting Brown Patch in Tall Fescue Lawns

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

Brown Patch, (Rhizoctonia species), is a turfgrass fungal disease that attacks lawns during humid and warm temperatures. While it can also be found in some ryegrass and bluegrass varieties, it particularly loves to infect tall fescue. If left untreated, Brown Patch will thin out and kill off large sections of your lawn. Adjusting soil pH and applying fungicides can keep it in check.

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North Carolina University Turfgrass Center reports that Brown Patch thrives in high humidity where temperatures exceed 85° F over a prolonged stretch of June and July. Applying nitrogen-based fertilizers during a bout of Brown Patch only makes it worse. You'll know you have Brown Patch if sections of your lawn form circular patches of dark, wilting grass. A grayish "smoke-ring" edge can form around the circles. The grass will turn brown as it dies.

Battling Brown Patch

Tall fescue and other cool-season grasses are typically mowed at taller heights than St. Augustine or Bermuda grasses. Hence, the tell-tale rings often seen from Brown Patch fungi on warm-season lawns may not appear.

Prevention is the best medicine. If you have tall fescue or another cool-season grass, water early in the morning, allowing the moisture to burn off in hot, humid weather. Be sure to remove excessive thatch every year, if necessary. Test your soil and keep the pH between 6 and 6.5.

If you traditionally allow mulching, stop the practice as soon as you see symptoms of Brown Patch to avoid spreading the fungus. You may have to resort to using fungicide. Fungicides come in granules, powders, and ready-to-spray concentrates.

Many brand containing thiophanate-methyl, chlorothalonil, propiconazole, triadimefon, and myclobutanil have been used with varying success on lawns around the country. You may want to hire a licensed lawn-care contractor to apply these powerful chemicals.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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