Problems on Centipedegrass
Turfgrass Disease Information Note 1 (TDIN-001)
Henry C. Wetzel III, Extension Plant Pathologist
decline is a name used to describe the most common problems observed on
centipedegrass. These include dollar spot,
large patch, fairy rings,
nematodes, ground pearls
and nutritional problems.
Dollar spot is a disease that is often seen on centipedegrass
during the summer. The symptoms of this disease are light brown spots
2 to 4 inches in diameter. It does not appear to cause serious damage.
Centipedegrass that is declining because of other factors may have more
dollar spot than nearby healthy grass. Large patch
caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG2-2LP has been identified on centipedegrass
during wet weather in the spring, summer and fall. The symptoms in cool,
wet weather are usually large circular patches of thin grass, however,
early symptoms may be circular yellow patches. The grass may continue
to decline in the affected patches, especially in dry weather, for a long
time after the disease activity has stopped. Some fungicides may help
control these diseases, including Banner Maxx, Bayleton, Eagle, Prostar
or Heritage applied in the early fall should provide acceptable control
the following spring.
Fairy rings have been shown to be the cause of some
centipede decline problems. Fairy ring symptoms are large circular dead
spots, dead rings, or green rings (3 to 20 feet in diameter) that enlarge
for several years. Mushrooms of the fungi that cause this disease may
be present at the edge of the rings or throughout the circles sometime
during the year. Mushrooms may not develop for several years and suddenly
appear following a weather pattern that induces mushroom development.
Effective treatments are not known for fairy rings in lawns, however,
rototilling the soil and replanting healthy grass has eliminate the problem
in some cases.
Nematodes have been associated with the decline in
sandy soils in some cases. The sting nematode has been shown to cause
very serious damage on centipedegrass in sandy soils in southeastern North
Carolina. Centipedegrass affected by this nematode will become thin and
even die during hot-dry weather. The importance of the ring nematode which
occurs frequently in centipedegrass lawns is not known. Damage from large
numbers of this nematode has not been observed in many test plots established
in the state. Since no nematicides are currently labeled for use in residential
lawns, management practices will have to be used to help overcome damage
from nematodes. A good management program that includes irrigation when
needed can be used to overcome the effect of the ring nematode, but not
the sting nematode. Another grass such as bermudagrass or bahiagrass may
be an alternative to use in centipede lawns with high levels of sting
nematodes. Incorporation of organic matter in the soil may help overcome
nematode damage; however, care must be taken to avoid too much nitrogen
being released for centipedegrass.
Ground pearls which are small scale insects that
attack the roots of centipedegrass may cause circular dead areas that
resemble fairy ring. The spots enlarge each year and only weeds grow in
the spots. Ground pearls are identified by the presence of small pearl-like
bodies on the roots or in the soil. The pink adult stage that crawls is
present during early summer. A control is not know for the ground pearls.
Other types of grass, such as bermudagrass or bahiagrass, appear to be
less sensitive to ground pearls and should be considered for lawns with
severe ground pearl problems.
Nutritional factors, including low potassium levels
in sandy soils, high phosphorus levels, the use of too much nitrogen fertilizer,
and low or high soil pH (5.5 is best) have been associated with the problem.
High soil pH will cause centipedegrass to turn bright yellow, especially
in the spring, due to iron deficiency (iron chlorosis). High phosphorus
levels can increase iron chlorosis since it can replace iron in the plant.
The use of fertilizers high in phosphorus may contribute to the decline
of centipedegrass. Soil test results should be used to correct these problems
and to determine fertilizer requirements.
Improper mowing and fertilization have been indicated as factors in experimental
plots where centipede decline developed. More decline was observed in
the spring where the grass was mowed at 2 inches than at 1 inch and where
high nitrogen rates (2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.) were used. More thatch
accumulated at the higher mowing height with high nitrogen and caused
the stolons to be above the soil. These stolons are more susceptible to
damage by cold weather. More centipede decline usually occurs in the spring
and summer following very cold winters or following winters with unusually
warm weather and then late cold periods. Excess nitrogen increases the
thatch and reduces cold and drought tolerance of centipedegrass. Usually
not more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. per year is needed
on sandy soils. The use of fertilizers that are high in potassium and
low in nitrogen may help to reduce stress during the summer and winter.
This grass has grown well on clay soils without any fertilization for
many years. Centipedegrass has a naturally light green color when managed
properly. If a darker green turf is desired in the lawn, another type
of grass such as bermudagrass or zoysiagrass should be considered.
Centipedegrass is not very drought tolerant and may be damaged during
very dry weather. Irrigation when needed will help reduce damage from
drought stress. Localized dry spots of soil that are hydrophobic (difficult
to wet) have been associated with declining patches of centipedegrass.
The soil in these patches may be powder-dry even after rain or irrigation.
Loosening of the soil and heavy irrigation is needed to wet the soil in
The use of certain herbicides (as sprays or in fertilizers) has been associated
with the decline problem. Centipedegrass is very sensitive to some herbicides
and recommended herbicides should be used according to label directions
for centipedegrass. Damage has been observed where fertilizers containing
some types of herbicides have been applied at rates suggested for other
types of turfgrasses. In addition to herbicide damage, too much nitrogen
is often applied from the herbicide plus fertilizer products for centipedegrass
and causes problems discussed above. Once a good stand of centipedegrass
is established, weeds usually are not a problem because of the allelopathic
activities that centipedegrass has against other plants. Therefore, herbicides
should not be needed each year on centipedegrass if it is managed properly.
Centipedegrass is not very shade-tolerant and does not grow well under
trees with dense foliage. Root competition from nearby trees may increase
drought stress and sometimes causes fairy ring-like symptoms. The landscape
should be redesigned to use mulch or shade-tolerant plants in these areas
if the trees cannot be removed.
Centipede decline may be caused by a number of different factors and accurate
records of previous treatment may be useful in diagnosing the problem.
Centipedegrass will usually spread over dead areas more rapidly if the
old grass is removed and the soil loosened. New sprigs should be planted
in the areas in late spring or early summer for faster recovery.
Additional information on the management of centipedegrass and diseases
is given in the N.C. Agricultural Extension Publications AG-381, "Centipedegrass
Lawn Maintenance Calendar", and AG-360, "Diseases of Warm -
Season Grasses." Your local Cooperative Extension Agent can provide
these publications and additional information.
Disease Information Notes Home Page
Carolina Insect Notes
Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual
assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension
of specific chemicals are based upon information on the manufacturer's label
and performance in a limited number of trials. Because environmental conditions
and methods of application by growers may vary widely, performance of the
chemical will not always conform to the safety and pest control standards
indicated by experimental data. All recommendations for pesticide use were
legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use
patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory
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Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Distributed in
furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment
and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race,
color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University
at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of
Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
Dec. 2000 by avlemay