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Disease Review: Brown Patch

August 13, 2009


It seems as if summer has finally caught up with us. An unusually mild July has left us and August has brought with it more typical Iowa summer weather. With increasing temperatures and humidity, coupled with the rain we received this past weekend, conditions have once again become favorable for disease development. Out at the ISU Horticulture Research Station we started our week off by discovering an outbreak of brown patch on some of our creeping bentgrass greens.




The turfgrass disease known as brown patch is caused by the fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani and can affect all of the cool-season turfgrass species. Brown patch is a summer disease whose development is triggered by hot, humid weather, night time temperatures above 65°F and long periods of dew. During these conditions brown patch may appear overnight. Brown patch is also considered a high nitrogen disease and excessive amounts of nitrogen in your fertility program during the summer can contribute to a brown patch problem.

Brown patch usually produces a circular brown to olive green patch with a grey perimeter giving a ‘smoke ring’ appearance. Often, more than one patch will be evident in an affected area with the appearance of the unique ‘smoke ring’ pattern more clearly defined on low mown turf. Individual leaf blades of the affected turfgrass will show lesions with a chocolaty brown margin. The brown patch lesions are most visible when observed on tall fescue, although they are present on all turfgrass species infected with brown patch.




One of the easiest ways to decrease disease pressure from brown patch is to implement a proper fertility program to avoid excess nitrogen during the summer months. Also, trying to promote shorter dew periods by avoiding late evening irrigation can help reduce the possibility of a brown patch. There are also a number of fungicides that provide brown patch control such as Heritage, Daconil, Medallion, Clearys 3336, and many others.

Nick Dunlap
GCSAA Campus Representative
Turfgrass Management
Iowa State University




Summer Turf Diseases on Home Lawns

September 11, 2016

This past summer has been an exceptional year for diseases on turfgrass, and home lawns weren’t immune to these diseases either. Dr. Christian’s has mentioned several times this summer that this summer was the worst Brown Patch in Iowa he has seen in 30+ years. Summer temperatures often in the 80’s and lows in the upper 60’s with high humidity and rainfall made the conditions perfect for these summer diseases. The good news is that the temperatures seem to have cooled and repairs can be made to yards.

With the warm temperatures, ample rainfall, and high humidity this past summer, Iowa lawn’s endured prolonged periods of perfect weather conditions for brown patch (Rhizoctonia solani). This disease was noticed in Iowa from June on into September. It is often noticed as circular patches from a few inches to several feet.

Brown patch at the ISU Horticulture Research Station
Brown patch on creeping bentgrass putting greens at the Iowa State Horticulture Research Station.

The area in the patch can become killed and create a sunken patch, often though this disease will not completely kill the turf, but rather just thin those spots, which can recover with proper care after the weather conditions change. Brown patch lesions on leaves are easy to identify and are irregular tan or light brown in color with the edges of the lesions being a dark brown in color.

Brown patch lesions on turfgrass leaves
A close picture of brown patch lesions on turfgrass leaves.

Another problematic disease this summer was summer patch (Magnaporthe poae) which happens predominantly on Kentucky bluegrass and commonly occurs when temperatures are above 82. It is caused by a fungus that colonizes the roots. These patches often appear suddenly as small yellow patches, since the roots are affected, adding water will not help the declining turf health. As the grass dies it will turn a straw color. These patches often have areas inside of the patch that are not affected and seem healthy. Symptoms of summer patch will not be noticeable when the weather cools. Promoting healthy roots will help to minimize the impact of summer patch by regular aeration in the fall, mowing at proper mowing heights, and improving drainage in the yard.   

Disease on turfgrass lawn

If these diseases injured your turfgrass the fall is a great time to recover from them, as healthy turfgrass is the best way to combat weeds and disease next year. Make sure your yard is fertilized this fall, aeration each fall to improve gas exchanges to the roots and improve drainage making them healthier can help, follow proper mowing heights for the turfgrass species that are present in the yard, and overseed with more grass seed if large areas of dead turf exist.
Aerators can help improve drainage and promote healthy turf.
Aerators can help improve drainage and promote healthy turf.

One final note, several calls and emails this week have been related to people mistaking disease damage for chemical damage. Remember that typically disease damage will be patchy, while chemical damage would be a complete grass kill or in straight lines.  

Below are a couple pictures of disease damage on lawns from the Ames area:

Summer disease damage to a lawn in Ames


Turfgrass diseases can become a large problem is conditions exist for a long time.


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