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Damaging New Fungal Disease for Rye Grasses

Gray Leaf Spot DiseaseThe first known UK case of 'Gray Leaf Spot' disease on perennial ryegrass turf signals the arrival in Britain of potentially the most damaging fungal disease for this grass variety – and it’s a problem that can be extremely difficult to control writes Dr Kate Entwistle of The Turf Disease Centre for The Grounds Management Association Magazine.

As a disease of amenity turf, Gray Leaf Spot initially developed as a problem on warm-season turf grasses (notably St Augustine grass, Stenotaphrum secundatum) in the USA but, in the early 1990s, it became a serious problem in Lolium perenne perennial ryegrass and tall fescue turf being maintained in sports facilities. The disease then began to appear in Europe and has, over the past 15 to 20 years, progressed through much of mainland Europe – most notably Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In August 2020, however, The Turf Disease Centre confirmed the development of Gray Leaf Spot disease in a UK sample of perennial ryegrass turf, with spores of the causal fungus abundant in the symptomatic plants. This is the first known occurrence of the disease in UK perennial ryegrass and the importance of this outbreak should not be underestimated. This is potentially the most damaging fungal disease that can develop on stands of perennial ryegrass turf and the disease can be extremely difficult to control.

Turf breeders have, however, made huge steps in producing varieties of perennial ryegrass that show significantly reduced susceptibility to the disease (and smooth stalked meadow grass – Poa pratensis –appears to be unaffected).

Read more on the Grounds Management Web Site

The Turf Disease Centre

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