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Managing Spring Dead Spot in Bermudagrass Turf

spring dead spot on bermuda grassSpring Dead Spot is the most severe disease of bermudagrass turf.  Infection occurs in the Fall, with symptoms becoming apparent in Spring green up.  The disease appears in circular patches or rings and remain dormant in appearance as the bermudagrass greens up.  This can linger into Summer and, in worse cases, not recover before Fall dormancy begins.Spring Dead Spot (SDS) is not like other diseases and consequently must be managed differently . Unlike other turfgrass diseases that effect the foliage , SDS effects the turf in the root zone.

 

How it Starts

The characteristic of SDS is the fungi attack the roots of bermuda in the Fall and winter, decreasing cold tolerance or cold-hardiness.  Practices that can improve cold-hardiness and help strengthen the roots are Fall applications of potassium and leaving the turf taller with the last mowing.  

Any soil condition that reduces bermudagrass growth will increase severity of SDS.  These conditions include soil compaction, poor soil drainage and excessive thatch accumulation. 

Keeping soil Ph between 5.5 and 6.0 can also help slow or manage SDS. Bermudagrass is very tolerant of soil Ph levels in this range.

What to Do.

Some turf professionals have used fungicides to help control SDS with limited results. This has caused many companies to abandon treatment with fungicides for SDS control.  In fact , most County Extension Service offices do not recommend fungicide treatments due to un-reliable results.

Spring Dead Spot can be managed with a multifaceted  program that is implemented over time. Use of resistant varieties of bermudagrass, improving soil conditions, Fall potassium application, proper mowing and keeping soil Ph between 5.5 and 6.0 should be used in management of this disease.

Change of Grass?

If SDS becomes so severe that the bermudagrass is rendered unusable or asthetically undesirable, there are alternatives.... 

A good alternative in the transition zone is replacing the damaged bermudagrass areas with zoysiagrass. In areas where St. Augustine  or Centipede will grow , this is also an option. 

If seeding, you can consider buffalograss and even bahiagrass turf. 

 

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