Are you noticing patches of dead grass scattered across your lawn? Or maybe blades and leaves of grass are turning brown. Whichever, these may be indicators of a fungus takeover.
What is Fungus?
What exactly is fungus? Well, it’s not just the mushrooms and it actually has a lot more to do with your soil health than you would think. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, fungus is defined as, “any of a kingdom (Fungi) of saprophytic and parasitic spore-producing eukaryotic typically filamentous organisms formerly classified as plants that lack chlorophyll and include molds, rusts, mildews, smuts, mushrooms, and yeasts.” As noted in that definition regarding the lack of chlorophyll, fungi differ from a plant in that they require a host and do not undergo photosynthesis.
Instead, fungus actually thrive in dimly lit conditions. Fungus spread through spores and typically thrive in environments with poor airflow, excessive moisture, and low light conditions. This is why after a rainstorm, where clouds are prevalent and grounds are wet, you may notice signs of fungus. According to Graham Simmons, Director of Turf Grass Operations for Woerner Farms, ”Rainy and cloudy weather are prime conditions for fungus.”
Just like bacteria and insects, there are harmful fungi, but there are also beneficial fungi. According to Mr. Simmons, some of the harmful fungi can cause various effects ranging from an unsightly lawn to a lawn decline and potentially death. On the flip side, in conjunction with soil bacteria, they can contribute to organic matter and break down harmful substances in the soil.
How to Get Rid of Fungus
If you are aiming to rid your lawn of fungi, Mr. Simmons recommends you take a holistic approach. “The best practice is to take a multi-step approach and not rely exclusively on chemicals. If there is a way to prune some bushes to create better airflow or prune a tree to provide more sunlight, do that in conjunction with fungicide treatment.” Fungicides are obviously the most common treatments and they come in two kinds: preventative and curative. Like its namesake, preventative fungicides are sprayed before the appearance of fungus to prevent fungus from growing. Curative fungicides are sprayed after the fungus has attacked your lawn and are relatively effective in eliminating fungus.
These treatments come in another two forms: contact and systemic. Contact treatments work on whatever it sticks to once sprayed. Systematic treatments, as Mr. Simmons refers to as the better option, is absorbed by the plant and then translocated throughout the plant. Mr. Simmons cautions against repetitive use of fungicides saying, “When applying fungicides you do not want to spray the same one back to back to back, rotate your mode of action so you do not build up a resistance in the fungus. Just because you applied the product and it cured it, it is not a good thing to spray the same spot.”
Soil Health is Key
As previously mentioned, soil health plays a major role in preventing these problems in the first place. Mr. Simmons explains, “Anything that will do damage to your yard is going to have a better chance at doing it if your lawn is unhealthy. By maintaining a healthy soil, your lawn will be less susceptible to disease, and it will be set up better to recover from it. General soil health which equates to plant health means that you should see less chance of disease and a quicker recovery.” And a regular lab-based soil test can help identify and correct any abnormalities in your lawn.