Red thread is one of the most serious spring and summer lawn diseases. It is also one of the most common fungal patch diseases found on lawns in Pennsylvania – especially in places where the turf is deficient in nitrogen.
Known for causing brown patches of turf mostly in the wet summer months, red thread destroys the grass in the autumn months as well. The actual cause of it is the fungus named ‘Laetisaria fuciformis’.
Even though red thread does not kill the grass completely (happens in rare cases), the best way to recover the patches is with appropriate and remedial action. This disease can develop at any time of year but is most common in late summer and autumn.
What you should also know about red thread is that it is most serious on the red fescue grass, as well as other fescues, bents, perennial ryegrass and the meadow grass types which are among its “favorite” victims.
How Does Red Thread Occur: A Bit Of Biology
Scientifically, the thread-like structures (known as ‘stromata’) can survive on leaf debris and in the soil for up to two years. This makes red thread a serious disease which can spread both through airborne or waterborne spores – as well as on contaminated tools or shoes.
The prolonged leaf wetness is also required for infection which is why red thread is most commonly a problem in wet summers and during heavy dews in autumn.
Furthermore, the red thread lawn disease typically develops on turf which is poorly aerated and deficient in nitrogen. This is why core aeration is always needed for every lawn. But even if your lawn is full of nitrogen, heavy rain may wash it down below the root zone of the turf (especially seen in light soils).
The good news about this disease is the fact that it does not affect the root system of the grass – which is why the recovery is effective and may occur after a few days or a few weeks – even without remedial action. However, the more persistent patches may require more attention.
Depending on how badly your lawn has been affected by red thread, you may eventually see different shades of the disease. For example, the disease may occur as very bright red in some cases, as well as firm red infestation in other cases.
The Symptoms Of Red Thread
If you are unsure about red thread in your lawn, you should inspect the disease in detail. What you need to know is that red thread fungus appears as circular patches which may have a tannish-red appearance due to the red color of the fungus growing.
As we said above, red thread can spread fast and make your lawn susceptible to other diseases and insects which may permanently damage it. The most serious problem caused by red thread is causing your lawn stress and causing it to grow out naturally.
Some of the basic symptoms of red thread include:
- Patches of grass which is affected can appear as reddish with a tinge at first – one which later becomes light brown or almost bleached in its appearance
- Patches which vary in size from 3 inches (about 8 cm) to 10 inches (around 25 cm) in diameter, even though these patches can also be much larger
There are two types of fungal growth which may be seen on the patches, especially in wet and/or humid conditions. Both of them are visible to the eye but can be seen better under a special lens or magnifying glass.
Basically, the first type of growth of red thread takes a form of small, pink and cottony flocks. Because of that, it is often confused with the growth of the fungus which causes snow mould.
The second, on the other hand, is a disease that is specific to red thread and gives it the common name. It is described as pinkish-red, gelatinous and thread-like structures (stromata) which affect the grass and are about ¼ inches (1-2 mm) in length, produced on the leaves and binding them together.
Why Do You Have Red Thread In Your Lawn?
Before you start panicking, you should know that it is normal for most lawns to get a mild dose of red thread when the conditions are optimal. Mainly, this fungal disease is a symptom that occurs due to:
- Improper Watering – The fungus loves wet soil surfaces and dry roots. This occurs due to improper watering, which also causes the disease to get worse. The solution in these cases, would be to water more than ever 3 or 4 days per week and make sure to water in the morning or early afternoon so that the grass does not stay wet all night. Watering on the blades will cause the pink patches to get worse. Also, one or a couple of rounds of liquid aeration can make the disease less severe.
- Poor Grass – The pink patch associated to red thread as a disease is most severe on the Perennial Ryegrass lawn, which is susceptible to a lot of diseases. These include rust, dollar spot, red thread, and more. This is why planning is required in lawn care – and why you need to work with an expert and always know which blend of grass to buy before it is too late.
- Poor Soil – Third in the common reasons why red thread is hitting your lawn is the poor soil. The truth is, newer lawns do not have the most biologically active soil. Because of that, they are often subject to diseases. The more biologically active your soil is, the fewer problems your lawn will have. By fertilizing organically, you can gradually build soil biology and improve your soil and your lawn disease resistance. If you want to speed up this process, you might want to consider core aeration, liquid aeration and compost topdressing.
So, How Do You Control The Red Thread Lawn Disease?
There are two basic options in controlling the lawn disease known as red thread. Basically, there is the non-chemical control and chemical control.
Non-Chemical Control: Applying Nitrogen To Avoid The Production Of Soft Growth
If a red thread appears, the application of nitrogen to the affected area will often be enough to control it. In cases like these, nitrogen is best given as sulphate of ammonia at 15 grams per square meter (½ oz per square yard). It is best applied after August in order to avoid the production of soft growth which would then be prone to snow mould.
If you want to reduce the threat from red threat, you need to take action and improve the drainage and aeration of the turf. Here, scarifying the turf with a lawn rake or electric scarifier will remove the thatch and moss – as well as increase the aeration.
The poor drainage of the red thread affected areas can also be alleviated by forking or or by using a solid-tine or hollow-tine aerator. The aeration service will ensure that the soil is not deficient in nitrogen. Disposing of (and not composting) the grass cuttings will additionally reduce the amount of fungus to potentially re-infect the lawn.
All in all, non-chemical control is a great way to both treat and prevent red thread in the lawn.
Chemical Control Through Trifloxystrobin (Bayer Garden Lawn Disease Control)
There is only one fungicide available to home gardeners who are looking for red thread control. The name is trifloxystrobin (Bayer Garden Lawn Disease Control) and it can be used all year round except the drought conditions or when the lawn is frozen.
There is some risk of resistance which is always present in the fungal population. Because of that, the product should not be applied more than twice yearly and is best used in conjunction with other control methods.
Undoubtedly, the best way to treat red thread and prevent it is with the help of a Pennsylvania lawn care expert. There are lawn maintenance companies that offer treatment with professional fungicides – but there is strict legislation that controls the application of professional products to domestic gardens.
Other Activities That Can Control Red Thread & Reduce Its Severity
There are many other practices which can control red thread as a disease and reduce its severity.
These include the following:
- Fertilization: it is the main defence which promotes growth so that the fungal damage gets mown out relatively quickly. If you have recently fertilized with a slow release system, your lawn should be green and prepared. But if you haven’t, you should make sure to perfect the timing right. For more detail,s talk to a lawn care company and get an expert opinion.
- Removing Clippings: By removing your clippings after mowing, you can also reduce the red thread and prevent the disease from spreading out.
- Thatch Control: Some thatch (up to half an inch) can help in preventing red thread. However, too much thatch can also cause problems and scarifying will be necessary in cases like these.
- The Right Nutrient: A balance of nutrients is sometimes all you need to keep the lawn healthy and less susceptible to red thread. Still, too much nutrient will cause the grass plant cells to become weak and invite more of the red thread disease.
- Watering: You should water deeply and infrequently but only if the conditions are dry. You should never water in the evenings and refrain from using fungicide. If you use fungicide, you will reduce the resistance in your lawn and the next years’ attack may be even worse.
- Organic Compost Topdressing: Add beneficial biology with this amazing element in the autumn months.
Alternatively, you can always reach out to our expert team and ask our Pennsylvania lawn care company about any of these issues with red thread happening in your lawn.
Raking or scarifying your lawn also increases the damage and spreads the fungus. So, the best way to control and prevent it is by properly aerating, fertilizing and continuously taking care of your lawn.
Just like many grass diseases, red thread is very much related to the weather. Therefore, management of red thread is limited to checking and correcting any nutritional deficiencies or direct treatment with a fungicide material.
Effective and quick, lawn treatments with fungicides are nice because they are required in one or two maintenance applications – one in the spring and another coming again in the autumn.
Keep Red Thread Out Of Your Lawn With Our Annual Lawn Care Program
At the end of the day, red thread is a common but difficult lawn disease to control. It does not kill grass (and does not damage its roots), is common in fine fescue lawns compared to other grass types, recovers in a number of weeks and can occur at any time of the year.
In times when the number of lawns affected by red thread is rising, the best way to face this disease is with an annual lawn care program. Such programs are recommended for both residential and commercial lawn care owners who want their lawns to look healthy throughout the year.
At Green Turf Care, we specialize in the prevention of red thread and treat the disease with our unique 6-step fertilization program, our core aeration, moss control and weed control. In short, we make lawn care cost-effective for every lawn owner – and with guaranteed results which drastically improve the health of the lawn.
As part of our unique red thread programme in Pennsylvania, you can expect pre-arranged visits from your dedicated lawn care expert in early spring, early summer, high summer, autumn as well as winter.
This, coupled with the expertise of our Pennsylvania lawn care company, will give you a service that is worth every cent – and a service that will make your lawn look healthy, lush and green!
For more information and a chance to book your red thread service, contact us today via phone or email.