Most grass turf diseases are brought on my microbes that live naturally in the soil, changes in weather, and a lawn that’s weakened by several factors including compact soil, heat stress, and other pests like weeds or insects.
Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM, can be a fantastic approach to proactively preventing turf grass disease in your front- or backyards. IPM is a broad-based, sustainable lawn care philosophy and practice built on proactive measures - monitor, track, prevent - that aim to suppress the problem while minimizing risks to people and the environment.
While the best defense against lawn disease, or any pest, is a healthy and strong lawn, you can use IPM as a complement to key lawn care basics in order to spot a potential problem before it becomes a full-scale issue.
Most lawns can and do defend themselves against diseases caused by microorganisms. Additionally, many common lawn grass diseases affect lawns for only a short duration of time because of specific environmental conditions: heat stress and humidity, as examples.
When weather conditions become more favorable for grass growth, lawns will often recover on their own without intervention, assuming proper management practices such as IPM, are followed.
Monitor – Regularly inspect your lawn and look for the action thresholds you’ve set or those that are recommended for turfgrass disease in your local area and for your turfgrass type. Note: A threshold is the point at which action should be taken. Be sure to review site specific concerns that may promote disease development.
For example: too much shade can increase stress on grass, making it more susceptible to disease. Some grass species are more shade tolerant than others and may be more susceptible for your lawn. Alternately, increasing light penetration through pruning and/or tree removal can decrease disease potential. Diseases often start out as small patches of dying grass. Inspect these patches quickly when they occur and rule out other potential causes of damage (such as damage from dog urine, herbicides, insect damage, etc.). When other causes are ruled out, identify the disease. Knowing common diseases in your area and closely inspecting the affected area can narrow down the potential choices. When needed, send samples to a laboratory for an expert analysis.
Track – Use a notebook or spreadsheet to keep track of when you inspected your lawn, what diseases and activity you saw, the population size and placement in your lawn, and what treatment actions you took, if any.
Prevent – The type of grass growing in your lawn has a profound impact on the potential for severe disease outbreak in your yard. Grass species compatible with your region and climate are more likely to withstand disease when conditions favoring disease development prevail. In addition, new and improved cultivars of lawn grasses can offer greater disease resistance for diseases common to your region. Choosing the right turf grass species for your local area and climate is key to preventing turfgrass disease.
Control & Evaluate – Reviewing what your pest control measures you took (i.e. overseeding), when you took them and to what effect they have had is an important step in an IPM for turfgrass disease prevention and management plan, so you can best understand effectiveness and evaluate what additional preventive measures, if any, should be taken.
Something to Know: The same cultural controls that prevent disease outbreaks can be used to help control disease outbreaks when they occur. For example, Pythium blight occurs in low spots that remain wet during warm periods. Improving drainage and aerating the soil, reducing shade, and avoiding overwatering can help control the disease and lessen the spread.
If an existing lawn is susceptible to frequent and severe disease outbreaks, consider completely renovating the lawn with turfgrass that has disease resistance characteristics.