Take-all patch is a rampant disease in The Woodlands and can cause serious damage to lawns. Take-all patch forms roundish or irregular patterns of yellow grass, eventually turning to dead, brown grass.
What causes take-all patch?
The disease is caused by a fungus (Gaeumannomyces gramini). This fungus lives in the soil here. It can also arrive in already affected sod, or by landscape and lawn maintenance companies that move mowers from yard to yard without cleaning and sanitizing their equipment. Many people mistake take-all patch for chinch bug damage.
How does it get started?
Take-all patch, and its partner, brown patch, thrive in the following conditions:
- Soils that tend to be wet and overwatered. In Southeast Texas, because of the high humidity and rainfall, fungus is the number one disease vector in plants.
- Compacted soils. Try driving a six-inch screwdriver into the soil. If it goes in up to the hilt, the soil is probably not compacted. If it only goes in three inches, you have compacted soil. This is a very common problem in The Woodlands.
- Low oxygen levels in the soil. Compacted soil that is overwatered drives out oxygen. Plant roots (and the microorganisms that support the roots) need oxygen to survive.
- Low fertility or out-of-balance fertility. High nitrogen fertilizers can contribute to take-all patch.
- Low amount of beneficial microbes and earthworms in the soil.
- A high (above 6.0) pH in soil.
How can I prevent it?
Don’t overwater. Overwatering actually helps increase take-all patch. Water no more than one inch per week. One-half inch for each of the two days you can water under the Defined Irrigation Schedule. Here’s a website that can help you figure out how much you are irrigating now and if you need to cut back or increase: measure your sprinkler's water use watering gauges
Aerate your lawn twice a year. It allows air to flow into the soil, helps beneficial aerobic microbes to flourish, and helps grass roots grow deeper. The best times to aerate is just before you add organic material to your soil.
Add organic material to your lawn twice a year, immediately after aerating. The best time to add compost is in mid-October and early to mid-April. Basically, organic material is decayed organic matter, what some people call compost. Good organic compost can help disease repression, improve nutrient retention, improve soil structure , decompose toxic materials and help tie up and immobilize heavy metals.
Use a balanced, low nitrogen, preferably organic fertilizer on your lawn. Organic fertilizers are very low in salts and do not kill beneficial soil microbes. A slow-release organic fertilizer with a N-P-K ratio of 6-2-4, or 8-4-6 is best.
Use sulphur to lower the pH of the soil. It’s available at most nurseries and gardening centers. It comes in powdered or granulated form. There are also products like Actinovate, sold by a number of distributors . This product contains a bacteria that will kill the Take-All fungus.