Take-All Root Rot devastating area lawns

Published 2:44 am Monday, October 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, especially if you have a brown St. Augustine lawn.

Homeowners with St. Augustine lawns in Natchez have been dealing with a fungal disease known as Take-All Root Rot.

Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said root rot is something he is seeing for the first time in numbers in Natchez.

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“This disease can have devastating impacts on established lawns and is harder to detect in early stages,” he said.

Carter said root rot can be mistaken for other problems St. Augustine lawns usually have.

“The biggest problems we see in St. Augustine lawns in our area are chinch bugs and brown patch,” he said. “Brown patch is usually a bigger problem during the cooler months of spring and fall during times of rainfall and high moisture, while chinch bugs are more obvious during hot dry times in area of full sun.”

There are ways to tell if your lawn is suffering from brown patch or root rot, Carter said.

“With brown patch the lawn dies off in small or large areas when the leaf blade looses color and dies,” he said. “With take-all, the root system dies first then the leaf blades show signs of stress.”

Anne Vidal Willette, said her St. Augustine lawn has been completely destroyed by Take-All.

“It started really slowly and at first we thought it was St. Augustine decline,” she said. “It just kept getting worse and worse until it took over my entire lawn.”

Willette said she first noticed the problem approximately six months ago.

“We treated it for everything,” she said. “It wasn’t getting any better so I had to call the extension.”

Carter said that since Take-All destroys the roots of the lawn, it is easy to tell if your lawn is suffering.

“If you try to pull up a handful of St. Augustine lawn, the runners often pull up and the whole root system comes out of the ground,” he said. “With brown patch the leaves may appear dead but you can still pull up the roots and they appear strong.”

Carter said if you are suffering with this problem, there is very little you can do to fix it.

“A fungicide treatment is the only real option and it has limited effectiveness,” he said. “Some scientists say this is a stress-related disease which things like excessive rainfall, excessive nitrogen fertilizer, over liming soils, excessive herbicide use, or poor management practice contribute to.”

Re-sodding the lawn won’t help the problem either since it is a root-based disease, Carter said.

“If you are going to re-sod, wait until next spring,” he said. “You can even swap to Bermuda Grass, because it is more resistant.”

Carter said the best way to prevent the disease from coming back is to keep the stress of the lawn low.

“Usually if you have this problem you didn’t do anything wrong,” Carter said. “Reducing the stress to make the root system stronger and putting a fungicide on the lawn to keep it from spreading are two things you can do.”

Willette said she is going to have to deal with her lack of a yard until spring.

“The yard is almost like a powder and you can kick the grass up,” she said. “Until I can re-sod or re-seed next spring, I am stuck with this dead, brown hay in my yard.”