Protect Your Michiana Athletic Field From These Common Lawn Diseases

When you think of lawn disease, naturally you think of your residential lawn. But athletic fields, suffer the occasional lawn disease as well.

The major cool-season grass species used for sports fields in Indiana and Michigan include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue. They are chosen for their ability to withstand heavy foot traffic, climate lawn stressors, pests, and their innate ability to recuperate fast. But with all of the rain we’ve been having here in Michiana this past summer, fungi are growing more rapidly. rust disease on grass

That’s why if you own or manage an athletic field, it’s important to learn what these different lawn diseases are and what you can do to help prevent and stop them from destroying your baseball, soccer, or other sports-related fields. RZ Sports Turf is here to help you learn about the four most common lawn diseases that can wreak havoc on your game day.

Rust Diseases

While rust usually appears more on residential lawns, it can appear on athletic fields and golf courses made from Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrasses. A variety of related fungi cause rust, including leaf rust, crown rust, and stem rust. It usually occurs in late summer or early fall during dry weather or when the grass is low in nitrogen. It can be identified by the small orange or red spots that grow into blister-like growths on the leaves. Often this orange residue rubs off onto your athlete’s sneakers and can be found on your lawnmowers. These growths contain spores that are released, spreading the disease to other areas of your lawn. Grass blades coated with lawn rust are unable to photosynthesize and collect fuel for growth, eventually causing your athletic field’s grass to become thin and weak.

How to Prevent and Control Rust Diseases on Your Michiana Athletic Field
There are certain types of Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass species that are more rust-resistant, but if replacing your field’s sod is not an option, there are other measures you can take.

  • Mow the lawn frequently to keep it at a moderate height.
  • Rake and remove any thatch to help keep air circulating.
  • Water early in the day so that the grass has a chance to dry before becoming prone to heat stress.
  • Fertilize in the fall. 

Red Thread

Red thread is a foliar disease that usually occurs during spring and fall’s cool, moist conditions. The fungus most commonly affects Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue, and is one of the most common diseases to affect athletic fields and golf courses. This fungus thrives in the spring and appears as medium-sized irregular patches of dead grass. Inside the dead patches, you will see red thread-like growths. Red thread usually occurs when the temperatures are between 68 and 75 degrees, with high humidity and when nitrogen levels are really low. 

Red Thread Prevention and Control
The basic treatment for red thread is to fertilize the lawn with the proper amount of nitrogen as part of an ongoing feeding program. Proper irrigation is also important as prolonged wetness makes an ideal environment for red thread. Try to have your irrigation set to water the field between midnight and 6 a.m. to ensure wetting of the entire root zone, and only water when necessary. Maintaining a healthy field will go a long way in preventing this fungus from appearing on the blades of your grass.

Dollar Spot

You can’t miss dollar spot! It appears as small patches of white, tan, or straw-colored patches of dead grass on your lawn. The patches are usually about the size of a dollar coin, hence where the disease got its name. Over time, these spots can merge and create large patches of infected turf. It starts and becomes active in the spring when the temperatures at night reach at least 50 degrees. It takes advantage of drought-weakened grass or grass that has been oversaturated with water for too long. Heavy dew and consistent wet weather help fuel the growth of dollar spot. dollar spots on grass

Dollar Spot Prevention and Control
When it comes to preventing dollar spot, the most important factor is irrigation. Dollar spot wreaks havoc on improperly watered lawns. Whether it be too much or too little water, getting it right can mean the difference between healthy grass and diseased grass. Make sure you only water early in the morning. This gives the grass enough time to dry out during the day, reducing excess water sitting on the grass. You can also help prevent this disease by keeping your field healthy through proper fertilization.

Gray Leaf spot

The first signs of Gray leaf spot are small ovals spots tan in color with a dark brown border. From a distance, the disease often resembles drought stress. Close inspection reveals blighted leaves, some with distinct lesions. Moderate outbreaks of gray leaf spot result in clusters of thin, off-colored turf. Severe episodes, however, can result in the death of your entire athletic field. This disease is active during cool, wet weather between April to early May and particularly targets perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. 

Gray Leaf spot Prevention and Control
Some ways to help manage leaf spot include proper irrigation techniques to avoid excess moisture. Like the other diseases listed above, water after midnight and before 6 a.m. or first thing in the morning. Fungicide treatments can and should be used on golf courses and athletic fields and use a fertilizer with less nitrogen.

Protect Your Michiana Athletic Field From Lawn Diseases With RZ Sports Turf

RZ Sports Turf specializes in providing safe, natural turf for athletic fields. We have in-depth knowledge regarding the care necessary for an athletic field surface. We use an innovative technique developed by Michigan State University called the Sand-Capped Athletic Field System. It is a cost-effective solution to all your drainage problems. With the amount of rain we have been having this summer, it’s important to make sure your field is properly drained to help prevent the spread of these and other fungi. Our Sand-Capped Athletic Field System can do just that.

We also specialize in athletic field renovations and repair and offer a complete fertilization program to help keep your turf healthy and robust, and better able to ward off disease. For those hard to control fungi, we offer effective fungicide treatments.

You do not have to maintain your athletic field alone. RZ Sports turf serves the entire Michiana area. Learn more about all of our services by visiting our website, contacting us online, or giving us a call today. You can reach us at 574-674-5296. Want more information about maintaining your athletic field? Follow our blog! And be sure to share this article with those in your circle.


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