Grass rust making for orange lawns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grass rust making for orange lawns

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL)-- Have you noticed an orange dust as you walk through your lawn or during the mowing of a lawn?

Experts say the powder/dust is a fungal disease (caused by a Puccinia species) known as rust, which has been common the past few years about this same time of season. Although it may look bad, the disease is not generally considered a threat to kill a lawn.

Rust appears as an orange or yellowish-orange powder, which are fungal spores, on grass leaf blades. The spores come off very easily onto shoes and mowing equipment. Rust typically develops on lawns growing very slowly. Overall, lawns may assume a yellow, red, or brown appearance.

At this time of the season, the air is cooler at night leaving greater moisture for fungal growth. This combined with slower grass growth and less mowing allows fungus to spread at a more rapid pace.

One of the key reasons rust often develops is a low amount of nitrogen being available to the lawn. Low amounts of nitrogen and sometimes other nutrients along with low water availability slow down how fast the lawn grows. As the grass slows down, rust develops.

Seasons with excess rain, such as we've seen over the last three summers, may have led to rust outbreaks due to depletion of available nitrogen. Warm, cloudy, humid weather followed by hot, sunny weather also favors rust development on lawns. Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue can all be affected.

Control options include:

- Fertilization to increase grass growth using a higher nitrogen component. This a key issue in late September or early October.

- Aerate the lawn.

- Increase the amount of sunlight by proper trimming of trees and shrubs.

- Use a diversified grass mix.

- If dry, water in the early morning so the morning sun evaporates the moisture off the grass leafs.

- Check soil phosphorus and potassium levels through soil testing and apply appropriate products.

If your lawn has the condition, you can contact your local horticulture center for further information or search the Internet under "grass rust fungus."

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