Fungal Disease or Water Stressed

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Smallaxe, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    How many professional lawncare folks ACTUALLY check the soil moisture FIRST when the grass starts to 'brown'???

    Who believes that the first step is to look at pictures and descriptions to figure out the best Fungicide to apply???
  2. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    I examine available site history, then current conditions and patterns, then address current complaint or visual damage, invasion, etc. if checking soil moisture is called for I do it. Two biggest problems I see both have to do with water: not enough water and too much water are 1 & 2.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    So when you see browning grass,,, checking soil moisture may or may not be called for??? :)
  4. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    My response was meant more for your second question but yes, I suppose, if I know the watering, fertilizing and mowing history I may not get the soil probe out of the truck. Obviously, I am not going to suggest a fungicide if any of those things is wrong.

    In my opinion, fungicides entail a level of care most places I work would not consider. Typically by the time they call me things have been ignored far too long. I have had a couple coaches insist on sprayimg fungicides right away but once I explained the changing weather forecast and planned nitrogen app would likely take care of it they were happy to not spend more money. I have probably sprayed more fungicides and more types than 95% of the people here but my last golf course job was almost 30 years ago and there have only been a few dozen apps since then. To me it's like step 99. Guys hit with pythium or real bad brown patch would have to spray but I do not see much of that any more. When I see symptoms or signs of those, or dollar spot I don't think examining soil moisture is step one or absolutely necessary. What is important is making an accurate diagnosis before acting.

    Like Bob Dylan said, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing."
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I like that you say there is a requirement to properly diagnose and that is generally what prompted my question... If you look at browning turf,,, how do you know it is a fungal disease or if it is water stressed???

    I never hear of anyone getting a lab test to verify that "brown Patch" is indeed the culprit and very few people even think to check the soil for moisture availability... in fact I'm mocked for even suggesting that dry soil is the likely culprit...

    So in the final analysis,,, How do you know for sure,,, what kind of fungi you're actually dealing with??? Again,,, not trying to be contrary, but actually wonder if there is a way to know if a fungi has indeed raided some new seeding...
  6. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    We occasionally had lab tests run at golf courses, most notably in my "placement training" (like an apprentice or internship in today's world) year when we were trying to identify and control what was eventually shown to be bacterial wilt called (named then as a result of research at several Chicago area golf courses) C-15 decline of Toronto creeping bentgrass. Dozens of greens died while universities, superintendents, and chemical companies worked very hard to figure it out.

    Generally lab tests are not needed and often there is not time. If you have signs or symptoms (and you better know one from the other) of pythium on a golf course you can count on skipping lunch to spray immediately. If you see mycelium you're probably treating for dollar spot (or closely monitoring weather and N). Smoke rings, you're going after brown patch unless it appears temperature and humidity are going to nosedive tonight. Every region has its worst problems. Whatever area you work in you need to know what they are and what to watch for Those plus helminthosporium leaf spot were the big ones here. None of them could be confused with inadequate soil moisture. There is another example: you're not going to spray for helminth in July no matter what signs or symptoms you think you see. Wilt can be spotted from 100-150 yards away and can cause damage quickly. Wind out of the north today? It probably ain't wilt. And yes, we sprayed for wilt: well water (syringe).

    Sometimes you do not know 100% for sure. You do the best you can with your eduction, training, experience, and site history intuition. The last step is always "evaluate results."

    Lawns and golf courses are different, I realize. Not all golf courses or all lawns are the same or have the same standards, of course. The first item on my checklist when I evaluate a new site or group of athletic fields is which ones are irrigated vs non-irrigated. They are probably going to be treated differently for weeds and fertilizer in my world. Soil type is next or maybe tied for top of the list. Third is intensity of use (game field only or game and practices both held on same field).

    I've wandered a little from where I started or meant. My main point is you use all of the information and knowledge at your disposal, call for help if you need it and have time. Lawnsite is a source of help not available when I began. It's great.
  7. ChiTownAmateur

    ChiTownAmateur LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 386

    Dry soil and fungal infections are not necessarily incompatible of course.

    An infected area that also is very dry can make the infection far worse....for example on sandy soil if an area becomes infected how will it recover if it has little or no moisture?
  8. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Messages: 5,955

    1) I use a "truth detector" (soil probe)
    2) Diagnosing via pictures is something retail garden centers rely on. They always have one finger on the cash register while they're talkin' to customers.

    A soil probe tells it all. Soil moisture/at what depth/ root depth, etc, etc.
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I can appreciate the various points of view and I suppose golf courses have major issues for sure... From my POV it generally isn't fungi, mainly becuz we never seem to have fungal issues here... I saw Red Thread, 1 time and it cleared itself up rather quickly probably when the dry air came in from the North...

    In fact EVERY time I started noticing brown spots beginning to form I added more water and they cleared up right away... Even the lawns that are over-fertilized and over-irrigated don't seem to get fungal issues,,, they are more susceptible to sunburn/heat tracks, but nothing traces back to fungi...
    Is it likely that Centro Wisco is that different from the rest of the Midwest???

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