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How to Treat Spring Dead Spot

With the arrival of spring comes dormant turfgrass that eventually begins to green up again. When this happens, many homeowners may begin to notice circular brown or yellow patches of damage in their lawns. This may be a symptom of spring dead spot, a common turfgrass disease that can affect various turfgrasses but is more commonly found in bermuda grass. 

In summary, spring dead spot gets its name from presenting dead spots of turfgrass in the spring. Spring dead spot actually occurs during the fall or winter season when turfgrass is dormant. Disease begins taking over the lawn and because the lawn is dormant, physical symptoms aren’t visible until the spring when turfgrass begins to green up again.

The article below discusses facts about spring dead spot as well as methods for treatment and prevention.

What does spring dead spot look like?

The first step to dealing with spring dead spot is properly identifying the turfgrass disease. Spring dead spot is a turf disease that causes bleached, sunken, circular patches on the ground ranging between a few centimeters to large patches, depending on the severity of the condition.

Damage from the disease typically measures out to be around 6 inches to several feet in diameter on average. These dead spots usually appear during the spring when the color of the grass begins to change and green up from winter dormancy. Although these characteristics help with identifying spring dead spot, the absolute best way to officially diagnose this turfgrass disease is by sending in a sample to your local extension office.  

What causes spring dead spot?

According to Clemson’s Cooperative Extension, “spring dead spot is a fungal disease of bermudagrass lawns and is a result of infection by one or more species of  Ophiosphaerella.” 

This problem usually occurs when the grassroots take damage from fungal infections and build up. However, this issue may extend to the stolons and rhizomes of turfgrass. The disease only infects these areas of the turfgrass which then makes it more vulnerable to other stressors like winter injury. Wet, moist winters will have more damage than dry, warm winters. As a result, home lawns and landscapes located throughout the northern parts of where bermuda grass can grow have the most severe spring dead spot outbreaks.

When does spring dead spot appear in lawns?

Although the disease begins infecting turfgrass during the fall and winter, physical symptoms don’t appear until the spring season as the turfgrass begins to green up again. 

What types of grass does spring dead spot affect?

As previously mentioned, spring dead spot can show up in a number of turfgrasses but is most commonly found in bermuda grass. 

How do I treat spring dead spot?

The best way to control spring dead spot is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. By practicing the following techniques, you can avoid the severe damage that spring dead spot causes. 

Cultural Control of Spring Dead Spot

  • Collect a Soil Sample: Collecting a soil sample from your lawn will inform you of the soil’s current pH and what you can do to improve it. This often means maintaining a soil pH that’s slightly acidic. Learn more here
  • Fertilize Appropriately: Select a fertilizer based on the recommendations your soil analysis comes back with. If you aren’t sure how to select a fertilizer, learn how to read a fertilizer label so that you can make the most educated fertilizer selection. It should be noted that adequate potassium levels in your soil will increase turfgrass’s cold tolerance and disease resistance. 
  • Aerate the Lawn: Lawn compaction is another serious reason why lawns develop spring dead spot. However, you can counter this problem by aerating the lawn properly. Better air, nutrient and water provision to the roots will allow the grass to absorb better nutrition and aid its growth. It will allow grass blades to replenish their lush green color and become healthier again.
  • Reduce Thatch: The interlined layer of dead roots and grass, also called thatch, is a major contributor to spring dead spot outbreaks, especially if you have bermuda grass. Thatch reduces cold weather hardiness. You should dethatch your lawn in May to ensure healthier growth.
  • Irrigate Properly: Bermuda grass usually only needs about 1 inch of water per week including rainfall. The amount of water the lawn is receiving may differ by the various zones located throughout a lawn or by the soil type. For example, clay soils won’t absorb as much water and may have a larger drainage issue than sandy soils. If the landscape has poor drainage issues, it may promote spring dead spot outbreaks. Conduct an irrigation audit to get a better idea of how long to run your irrigation system, how to better distribute water throughout the various zones in your lawn and to save money on water bills

Sod Solutions recommends the Lawnifi® Fertilization Program. Lawnifi gives your lawn what it needs in the form of nano-sized nutrients, exactly when it needs it in the form of easy-to-apply monthly applications from March to November. For these reasons, Lawnifi is less likely to cause fungus outbreaks.

It’s important to note that even with the use of an improved fertilizer program, the timely applications of fungicide is still necessary for overall lawn health. If you fertilize your lawn with nitrogen before applying a fungicide and presently have a fungus, that fungus will expand exponentially, which can be disastrous for your lawn.

Chemical Control of Spring Dead Spot

If spring dead spot has already occurred in your lawn, the next step is finding the proper treatment. Although applying spring dead spot fungicide can be slightly challenging, it is definitely effective for controlling the disease in your lawn.

What is the best fungicide for spring dead spot?

When searching for the best disease control for spring dead spot, there are many options to consider. For best results, you may consider using Azoxystrobin (Heritage G) or Fluoxastrobin (Fame) for controlling spring dead spot. Spectracide Immunox is labeled for treatment of spring dead spot but may not be as effective in severe cases.

How do I prevent spring dead spot?

While disease control products are generally used for fixing spring dead spot in your lawn, it may also be used to prevent spring dead spot from occurring in the first place. Apply one of the products above at a preventive rate during the spring or fall on turfgrass if you’ve had spring dead spot before. 

Because applications vary with different grass types, it’s important to follow the label’s directions precisely. Generally, fungicide applications take place in 14–28 day intervals, although the time of year for application may differ among cool season and warm season turfgrasses.

Finding an effective spring dead treatment does not have to be a difficult process. By using one of the fungicides mentioned above, you can control and prevent brown patch from appearing in the future.

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