Brown Patch is the most common and prevalent fungal lawn disease in the Kansas City area, and you likely see its damaging effects across lawns every summer. Caused by a fungus known as Rhizoctonia solani, Brown Patch is a foliar disease, meaning it attacks individual grass blades rather than the roots and crowns of the plant. Lawns that are affected by Brown Patch develop round patches of browning turf that can quickly spread and overtake an entire property if left untreated. Rhizoctonia fungi can affect all grass types, but Brown Patch is known to affect cool-season turfs. Tall fescue and bluegrass are two of the most popular grass types in our area, and they are also two of the most common victims of the Brown Patch lawn disease.
Development & Symptoms Of The Brown Patch Fungus
As a fungal disease, Brown Patch is spread via the proliferation of the R. solani fungus. This particular fungus develops when temperatures are between 70 °F and 90 °F, and especially when nighttime temperatures stay near 70 °F. The humidity of the day, plus several other factors mentioned later in this article, can cause your lawn to be too damp, and damp lawns in cooler/fluctuating temperatures are breeding grounds for R. solani. As the summer weather begins to heat up, avoid lingering dampness on your lawn as much as possible.
Foliar diseases, such as Brown Patch, only affect the leaves of a plant and will not necessarily kill a host. However, the damage caused will greatly weaken a lawn and could lead to many other issues that could cause turf to die. Brown Patch spreads by radial expansion, which means infected patches of your turf will grow as the “sick” grass blades touch the neighboring healthy turf. Those browning patches will appear as circles with irregular edges, and a darker outline is sometimes seen around the perimeter of an infected patch. These patches are unsightly, damaging to your lawn’s health, and must be dealt with promptly.
How To Prevent Brown Patch Disease
There are a number of methods available that can greatly reduce the chances of your lawn becoming infected with Brown Patch. While no lawn care task can guarantee the continued health of your turf, the following tasks are great ways to prevent the development and/or spread of Brown Patch. Don’t forget to call the specialists at Heartland Turf & Landscape for more information on all of our helpful services!
- Fertilize Properly – Fungal lawn diseases thrive in lawns that are already struggling to grow. Some people think fertilizer should just be applied liberally until healthy growth is achieved, but the truth is that improper fertilization practices will damage your turf and even allow harmful fungi to grow. Brown Patch, among other lawn diseases, will ravage lawns that have been fertilized with either too much or not enough nitrogen. To avoid this possibility, fertilizers with moderate levels of nitrogen should be used. It is especially important to make sure the fertilizers used on your turf do not have too much nitrogen, as R. solani and other fungi feed off of this element.
- Water In The Morning – Having a consistently wet or damp lawn is one of the leading causes of Brown Patch. Though there are many factors that can lead to your lawn being too wet, improper watering practices are typically a major cause. To keep your lawn properly hydrated while still helping to prevent diseases like Brown Patch, water your lawn early in the morning, and make sure you are not overwatering. By watering close to dawn, you are giving your turf the entire day to dry and become more resilient to fungi. It is also important to remember that if your lawn is already showing signs of Brown Patch, watering should be extremely limited (about 1 inch of water per week) in order to stop the spread of the fungus.
- Keep Mower Blades Clean – Several factors related to proper mowing practices can help defend your turf against Brown Patch. Unclean lawn mower blades may be the leading cause of the spread of fungi across your turf. Blades should be cleaned before every single mowing to prevent diseased grass trimmings from being introduced to the healthy areas of your lawn, thereby spreading the disease. Mower height is also an important factor, as grass that is too short will not be able to absorb adequate nutrition, and taller turf may block out the sunshine that is needed to keep your lawn healthy and dry.
- Aerate Your Lawn – Core aeration is potentially the most beneficial method of cultural control available in the fight against Brown Patch. The process of core aeration creates small holes in your lawn that can greatly improve poor drainage, soil compaction, poor nutritional intake for your turf, and several other factors that are known to contribute to the development of Brown Patch.
- Bag Grass Clippings – Many homeowners and lawn care providers prefer to leave grass clippings behind while mowing because those clippings act as a natural fertilizer for your lawn. However, if signs are visible, or if you even suspect that your lawn may be afflicted with Brown Patch, grass clippings should always be bagged and removed after mowing. Removing those diseased grass blades from your property is a great way to help control the spread of Brown Patch and other fungal diseases.
How Heartland Can Help
While all of the tasks listed above can be provided to you by Heartland Turf & Landscape, we also have services that are specifically designed for the prevention and control of lawn diseases. Even when the most effective and high-quality lawn care services are implemented, there is only so much cultural control can do for your lawn, especially if symptoms of Brown Patch are already present. When it comes to both preventive and curative lawn disease treatments, we know exactly how to help!
As part of our fertilization and weed control service, we offer fungicide treatments whenever necessary or requested. Preventive fungicide applications are helpful in preserving healthy lawns and making sure no symptoms of Brown Patch ever appear. The R. solani fungus goes dormant in winter, and it can survive for years in the soil without you ever knowing that it is present. Preventive fungicides will keep this and other fungi from causing visible damage to your lawn.
In order to give your turf the best protection possible, preventive fungicides will be applied three times per year, and the treatments we apply will work to protect your lawn through the hot temperatures of June, July, and August. Brown Patch thrives and is most active in hotter temperatures, which is why our treatments are strategically planned to keep your lawn fully protected through the heart of summer. By the time our first fungicide treatment wears off (roughly 28 days after application), we will be back at your property for the next application! You will not find a better or more complete preventive fungicide treatment anywhere in the Kansas City metro area!
Curative Fungicides & Overseeding
If preventive treatments were not applied, or if you call us after signs of Brown Patch are already visible on your lawn, we can apply fungicides to the affected areas to stop any further spread of the disease. These curative applications will not immediately eradicate an infection, but they will help you take control of the infection and make it much more manageable. Unfortunately, lawns that seem to have recurring fungal infections year after year, or lawns that have been completely ravaged by harmful fungi, may need to be reseeded in order to escape the infection.
If you are worried that Brown Patch has destroyed your lawn beyond repair, Heartland Turf & Landscape can still help! Damaged patches of turf that appear too far gone may still be saved by top-quality overseeding services. We use a fescue blend that combines three types of fescue seeds, which makes our overseeding applications naturally disease-resistant. Brown Patch attacks specific grasses, and blending turf seeds together over affected areas will essentially confuse the fungus and give it nowhere to go once it reaches an unfamiliar fescue. Our seeds have a 90% germination rate, so you can rest easy knowing that your new seedlings are working hard to save your lawn!
Call us at (913) 238-9278 for more information on how we can prepare your lawn for the fight against Brown Patch!