Wait...lemme guess…you’ve got brown spots in your lawn. Well, the good news is you’re not alone, nor do you need to panic. You’ve probably got Ascochyta (ass-co-kite-a) leaf blight. And it’s caused by drought stress or an inefficient irrigation system. Whoa Nelly! You think we’ve had lots of rain? Unfortunately, that was weeks ago and our soils were so dry that the moisture was used or lost to the atmosphere almost immediately.
But I’m confusing disease versus stress. Let’s go back:
|Classic Ascochyta symptom--withered leaf tip|
Ascochyta is a fungus that lives on the leaf blade. The fungus enters the leaf blade through the cut end (when you mow). It causes the blade to turn a straw-color and wither to a point. Why the fungus happens or how it works is not well understood by researchers. It does seem to coincide with periods of cool weather followed by hot, dry weather….in other words, your normal, typical Colorado spring.
|Looks like the mower did it...|
but really, it's because of drought-stressed turf.
Don’t go to the store and reach for the “lawn disease control” products. They will not cure the problem or hasten the recovery. You’ll spend a lot of money for nothing (and you won’t get your chicks for free).Instead, focus efforts on your irrigation system. Look for broken or tilted heads and fix them. Adjust the spray/arc of your sprinkler stream to get more uniform coverage between heads. And water appropriately—your goal is to water as deeply but infrequently as possible. Under current conditions, for a bluegrass lawn, this will be about 1.5” water/week. But make sure you have an idea of how much water you’re putting on by collecting water in cups during an irrigation cycle.
Mow as normal, but time mowing a day or two after irrigation and do the deed during cool parts of the day—early morning or late evening. Keep your mower height at 2-3” tall and keep the blades nice and sharp. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn (to recycle your fertilizer) or if you collect them, it’s ok to use them in compost or in your vegetable bed. Remember, this is a lawn disease and will not spread to veggies or flowers.While patience may not be your virtue, keep in mind that this disease usually disappears by mid-summer. And if your entire lawn has this, with regular irrigation and hopefully some natural precipitation, the lawn will recover to its former glory.
For more information on Ascochyta, read CSU Extension FactSheet #2.901.
|It looks worse than it is. After a little irrigation |
and a little time, the turf will recover nicely.