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Take-all is a fungal disease of lawns, particularly those with a high percentage of fine bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.). It causes brown patches of grass, most often in summer when the turf is under drought stress.
Take-all patch. Image: STRI
Take-all patch is caused by a fungus, Gaeumannomyces graminis, which is found commonly in soil. The disease is very damaging to bentgrasses (Agrostis species). Most turf initially contains a fairly low percentage of bentgrass (usually browntop bent, Agrostis tenuis), but the proportions of the different grass species can change with time. Expect to see damage from mid-summer until autumn.
The same fungus also causes a serious root and foot rot disease of cereal crops.
These symptoms are seen most often in summer, especially if the lawn comes under drought stress.
You may see the following symptoms:
Take-all patch can be difficult to eradicate once it has developed. Over time, there may be a build-up within the soil of micro-organisms antagonistic to the take-all fungus, resulting in lower disease levels (a phenomenon known as ‘take-all decline’). In practice, however, it may be better (and certainly quicker) to over-seed affected areas with ryegrass or fescues.
Scarifying the turf with a lawn rake or electric scarifier in autumn will remove thatch and moss and increase aeration. Poor drainage and compacted areas can be alleviated by forking or by the use of a solid-tine or hollow-tine aerator. Ensure that the lawn is growing strongly by applying adequate (but not excessive) fertiliser. The pH of alkaline soils can be reduced by using acidifying fertilisers such as ammonium sulphate.
There are no fungicides available to home gardeners for the control of take-all. Some lawn maintenance companies offer treatment with a professional fungicide, but there is strict legislation controlling the application of professional products to domestic gardens. You will therefore need to satisfy yourself that the company is operating within the law.
The development of take-all patch is favoured by alkaline soil conditions. A soil may be naturally alkaline, but the pH can also be increased by liming, top dressing with a material with high lime content or even by irrigating with hard (alkaline) water.
Poor drainage can lead to rapid spread of the disease, but soils with a high sand content are also very prone to attack. Excessive thatch can also lead to problems by increasing moisture levels.
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