What is Red Thread Disease?

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Is there any more satisfying summer activity than enjoying the lush, green grass you waited all winter . . .

Is there any more satisfying summer activity than enjoying the lush, green grass you waited all winter to sprout again? But wait. What's that? A reddish glow and patches of bleached-out lawn spoiling this idyllic scene could be signs of Red Thread Disease.

Fungus is the culprit in this unsightly lawn disease that literally causes red or pinkish threads to form on each blade of grass. While the threads don't always kill your grass instantly, they usually mean curtains for that grass within a few days. This pesky fungus most commonly crops up in warmer temperatures (between 65F and 75F) when the weather is more likely to be wet and humid--in short, the type of weather you might find during a typical Atlanta spring or fall. This lawn disease can also survive dry winter and summer seasons for as long as two years.

How does this affect your lawn?

In addition to the unsightly red or pinkish threads the disease causes, infected grass also loses its color, eventually turning totally white. The infection may take place in patches with non-infected grass interspersed with infected grass, giving your lawn a less-than-attractive polka-dotted look. When the Red Thread is particularly wide-spread, areas of the lawn may even seem to take on a reddish glow.

How do you prevent Red Thread?

Feeding your lawn with Nitrogen-rich fertilizer is one way to prevent Red Thread infection. Taking measures that allow your lawn to "breathe," such as aerating or removing layers of thatch, can also help. Making sure that your lawn is well-drained and free from excess moisture, which makes an attractive living condition for Red Thread fungi, can also keep this lawn bully at bay.

How do you keep it from spreading?

If you suspect that you already have Red Thread in your lawn, all is not lost. There are still things you can do to prevent it from spreading. Since threads from affected areas can spread to non-affected areas by clinging to the blades of a lawn mower, or the bottom of a shoe, be sure to mow the affected areas of the lawn independently of the non-affected areas and clean the blades between mowings. Also avoid walking in the affected areas.

Red Thread Disease doesn't have to mean the end of a great lawn. Isolating the affected areas can control the spread of the disease and eventually mitigate the problem. However, if the disease appears to migrate beyond the already affected areas or the bleached and dying patches of grass become even more prominent, it is probably time to call a professional lawn care specialist.

Depending on the severity and spread of the disease, a professional may recommend using one of the fungicides available to treat your lawn. Such chemicals are highly toxic and definitely not recommended for application by amateurs. They should only be used as a last resort.

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