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K-State Turf and Landscape Blog

Month: June 2015

Slime mold, or Country Stampede?

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

Hmm, did a Country Stampeder camp at my house and, uh, regurgitate some beer?

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No, this is just some slime mold activity. Slime molds are primitive organisms that feed on organic matter. They are not fungi, and they don’t feed on plants. There are lots of different kinds. Here is a slime mold in turf:

gray_slime_mold_zoysia_3 slime mold 3

If it’s bothersome, you can scoop it out of the mulch with a shovel, or brush it off the turf with a rake. You might continue to see more growth, though, especially in humid conditions.

Too much rain = root strain

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

Remember when it was raining every other day? Soils were saturated. There were standing puddles. When the puddles disappeared, the water was still there lurking in the soil profile, clogging up pore spaces, and damaging root systems by depriving them of oxygen.

Now, it’s getting hot and dry, and guess what? Those plants that had their root systems compromised during the wet times are the first to crash and burn. And, though those were the WETTEST areas before, now they are the sites that may need the most babying.

Take this site – this is my own backyard. We’ve done all we can to improve the grading and slope. The only way to improve drainage in the turf would be to send water towards the house, and I’d rather have declining turf than a wet basement! The spots that are brown and thinning now are the same spots that were puddles back in May and early June. (At one point during a heavy downpour my son thought we should try fishing in the backyard).


So, we’ll baby it along with a little extra water during the dry periods, and do some aerification and overseeding in the fall.

Bring the donuts, it’s time for a barn-raising

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

The KSU turf team spent the morning working together on a big task – putting the plastic up on the big rain shelter at Rocky Ford. It was a beautiful, calm morning – perfect for hoisting a giant plastic sheet across the supports.

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Ross Braun, PhD student,will be investigating the physiology and performance of Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass under drought stress and different management scenarios (mowing height and traffic).

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Smut on the internet. (Wait – what? Oh – leaf smut)

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

The following photos were kindly shared with me by Peter Orwig, Agronomist with Ryan Lawn and Tree (thanks Peter!).  You can click to zoom and see the symptoms close up.

Peter-Orwig-stripe-smut-2015-05-07 08.34.32  Peter-Orwig-stripe-smut2015-05-07 08.34.46 Peter-orwig-stripe-smut-2015-05-07 08.35.51 Peter-Orwig-stripe-smut-2015-05-07 08.36.57

There are several “leaf smut” fungi that occur in turf. The most common is stripe smut, but flag smut also occurs. The disease causes stunting and yellow or gray streaking along the leaves. Eventually those streaks rupture, releasing powdery masses of smutty, sooty black spores. When a plant is infected, it is infected systemically, for life. Infected plants are more susceptible to drought and other stresses.

Flag smut and stripe smut are difficult to tell apart at the plant level, but they are easy to distinguish in the microscope. Smut fungi can look similar, but they are different in various ways, including host range. For example, flag smut occurs in Kentucky bluegrass but not annual bluegrass. And the flag smut that occurs in Kentucky bluegrass is different from the flag smut that occurs in wheat and other grasses. In Kansas, we see leaf smuts most often in older varieties of Kentucky bluegrass. The best way to prevent leaf smuts is to use improved variety blends with resistance to these diseases. Spring and summer applications of nitrogen may increase smut, so focus on fall applications if smut is a problem. In addition, smut-infected turf might need to be babied along during times of drought. If smut is severe, your best bet might be to just start over with newer resistant varieties.

*If you come across smut in turfgrass, send me an email (kennelly@ksu.edu) because I’m  interested to collect some this year. *

A rainy spring meets a rainy summer. A cornucopia of turfgrass diseases

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

We are at the junction/transition of spring to summer. Large patch is still raging in the zoysiagrass. Dollar spot is active in bentgrass and other susceptible turfgrasses, especially in susceptible varieties. In addition, we’ve had some nights with lows in the upper 60’s or low 70’s, and that can mean brown patch activity. It’s a busy time for diseases. As one of my colleagues said, “It’s a fungusy sort of year here in Kansas.”

With all the rain, it’s been hard to keep up with the mowing. We are feeling it at Rocky Ford, with Cliff and the students busy mowing whenever they can sneak it in. And, it’s hard to spray fungicides when it rains every other day. I put out a trial this past Monday since it was the only day that looked clear. Good thing it was not on the agenda for yesterday, when we had 3 thunderstorms in the same day!

Large patch is still rolling in the zoysia:


Dollar spot is active:

dollar spot

Brown patch might not be far behind:


With all the wet, saturated soils there could by Pythium root rot as well:

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(Pythium spores stained pink in the microscope).

As a final note, I’ve gotten some questions and photos recently about algae.

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Like other weeds, algae likes to take advantage of thinned out turf. Saturated soils and poor root growth can thin out the turf, and algae loves wet conditions. If you didn’t know where your drainage problems were, algal growth can point the way. There are some fungicides labeled for algae, but addressing the underlying site issues is key.

For a list of fungicides for algae, check HERE and go to page 7.


Winter Golf Cart Traffic and Turfgrass Paints

(by Evan Alderman and Jared Hoyle; KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

IMG_2679As some of you may know there is currently a lot of research right now at Kansas State University focusing on the use of buffalograss, and how it can be better utilized to lower water usage. We are looking at many different aspects of buffalograss in homelawns, golf courses, roadsides, parks, athletic fields and more. But one question that repeateadly comes across KSU Turfgrass Extension desk is how does buffalograss hold up against golf cart traffic on a golf course.   Research is currently being conducted to see how buffalograss handles simulated golf cart traffic during the summer months, but how does it handle golf cart traffic in the winter? And how can we conserve water going into the winter months?

One way is turfgrass colorants! There is a lot of research conducted on the dormant application of turfgrass colorants instead of overseeding the dormant warm-season turf. But how do these colorants stand the time when subjected to normal golf cart traffic?

The objectives of this research were to;

  1. Investigate the longevity of turf colorants when subjected to simulated golf cart traffic
  2. Explore the effects of turf colorants on buffalograss at fairway height
  3. Evaluate the effects of simulated golf cart traffic on dormant buffalograss.

As summer is approaching and a blistery winter has passed us, the first year of this research has come to an end.

Three turfgrass colorants (Endurant, Endurant Premium, and Green Lawnger) and a overseeded treatment (Perennial Ryegrass @ 10lb./1000ft2) were investigated over a period of 24 weeks beginning in late October of 2014. The colorants were applied at 43 gal/ Acre at a 1:6 dilution (colorant to water). Traffic was applied weekly at 0, 2, 4, or 8 passes with a golf cart traffic simulator. Traffic was not applied if day temperatures did not reach 40°F or the turfgrass plots were covered with snow.

wintertrafficThe data in Table 1 represents evaluations for percent green cover. As the weeks progressed percent green color decreased for all treatments presented. At 12 weeks after treatment it should be noted that with 0 and 2 passes of traffic weekly, Endurant Premium had more green cover than the overseeded treatment at those traffic levels.

Turfgrass colorants could be a viable option to help with water conservation efforts. Turfgrass colorants performed best when traffic was not applied. If traffic is applied to an area with turfgrass colorants, repeat applications of the colorant may be needed.

IMG_2686At 24 weeks after treatment it can be seen that all treatments are starting to green up after the long winter, with treatments receiving no traffic having the highest percent green cover.

To all the golf course superintendents that allow traffic on your buffalograss in the winter, be aware that in the spring you are going to have to increase your management practice to get that buffalograss to recover before the summer. The buffalograss eventually will recover but…why do you want to start from behind in the spring?

***Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for identification purposes and does not imply recommendation or endorsement, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned by Kansas State University.***

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