Take-all Patch in Saskatchewan

The Mainprize Golf Club located in the Mainprize Regional Park, Saskatchewan has faced its fair share of challenges over the last few years. In 2011 major flooding spread across a lot of southeastern Saskatchewan and the Mainprize Golf Club became one of the victims of the Souris River/Rafferty water system. Mainprize lost 4 golf holes, a part of our campground, boat launch and beach. We have since recovered and have re-established the four flooded holes plus 3 abandoned practices holes that were used during the re-establishment of the flooded holes.

So after all of the flooding and other issues that came along with the flood the topic that I am writing about may almost seem insignificant but that is not really the case. Take-all Patch has definitely presented its own unique challenges to myself as the Golf Course Superintendent in Mainprize. One of the most difficult things about it is has been dealing with the disease while attempting to re-establish my flooded golf course and attempting to bring back the customers that were lost from the flood years.

Take-all Patch as I can remember learning about during my post-secondary education at Olds College was a disease that was most common in climates of high humidity and temperatures, and areas of frequent leaf wetness. So basically at the time that meant that in Canada it was really only commonly being seen in areas like southern Ontario. It was not commonly being found in the prairies of Alberta or Saskatchewan. In our area of the province we have been seeing a bit of a shift in the weather and climate patterns the past few summers and we believe this is a big reason why something like Take-all Patch is beginning to show up. Humidity and moisture levels have been significantly greater than normal in our area recently, and this seems to be a major reason why Take-all Patch is now showing up.

Take-all Patch can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like a lot of other diseases or general turf problems. The most common misdiagnosis seems to be diagnosing it to be just localized dry spot. So unfortunately wetting agents, irrigation, aeration, etc do not end up removing the spots and you then are starting to realize it’s something else. Hopefully by this point it is not too late and the pathogen has not destroyed your root structure. The disease seems to be a lot more common now in our province than I think we realize as it seems that there have been a few other courses that have had it and did not realize and it has gone undiagnosed. Since it is so commonly confused I would recommend sending samples away to a diagnostic lab for a second opinion as this is relatively inexpensive and it is always great to have the peace of mind to know what you are dealing with.

So to start off with we know that it is a fungus that is causing the problem and that it is most commonly observed on creeping bentgrass turf species. We start by seeing small, circular, brown/ rusty or purple (oily) coloured patches. The disease is at its strongest in the spring and fall at my golf course but we still see it throughout the entire summer just not as severely. The disease spreads by contact so that means all the golfer foot traffic, our mowers, etc are all making the disease worse when it is present. The disease is more common in soils with low organic matter and with a high pH (6.5 or above). This is definitely true in my case as our greens are all well above 7. My course draws our irrigation water from the Rafferty Reservoir which also happens to have a high pH, so once again the problems build up and continue.

Ideally to control Take-all Patch the main point always said is to lower your soil pH. And obviously that would be an excellent way to go about it and that is a target that I am shooting for. But we all know that lowering our soil pH is not something that we can simply do overnight. So the next step in my mind since I know that we have it, and once you have it you cannot get rid of it quickly (most sites the disease is quite severe for atleast 5 years), is to manage it and my turf together in the best possible ways that I can. So what does this mean?

This just means growing the healthiest plants that I possibly can to outcompete the disease. By the book they say to reduce watering and nitrogen applications to reduce the severity of the disease. From my experience that could not be more wrong. Doing that just simply seems to put the plant into a level of stress and then the disease becomes more severe and turf loss is soon to follow. So for us we maintain normal amounts of water and nitrogen and the plant seems to be stronger to fight the disease and avoid infection or at least reduce its severity. If we see that the plants are infected that means that it is inevitable that some of the infected plants will be stunted or lost. We then must continue with our irrigation schedule and nitrogen applications to promote new growth to take the place of the infected turf quickly so that there is no reduction in the overall playability of our putting surfaces.

I am on Take-all programs through one of my fertilizer and chemical suppliers with the basic idea being to do most of the work in the early spring and fall to hopefully prevent severe infection. Timing with these programs seems to be everything. Missing your application window by a week means an entire season of battling to stay on top of the disease. So basically we have observed that as soon as the snow has cleared; the turf is beginning to actively grow and soil temperatures are at growing levels (10°C or above), that we better be out there right away applying our products. We are using ammonium sulfate or a similar liquid version of it as an acidifying fertilizer to lower our pH along with a few other mixed products to aid in recovery and prevention. We are also applying two fungicide applications that help to control Take-all Patch. So the first application of fertilizer and fungicide is applied as soon as we can, and the second application is applied two weeks later. Getting the products out early enough means getting ahead of the pathogen and this really will make the difference in controlling it for the rest of the year. We also make one fungicide applications in the fall when the disease is becoming more active again.

The biggest struggle in timing the applications right in the spring is having the irrigation system up and running in time as it is needed to ensure proper soil contact of the products as Take-all is a soil borne disease.

We have been battling Take-all Patch for quite a few years now and the disease is starting to become less severe. It still is the case though where if conditions are just right for the disease or we have missed an application of a certain product just by a little bit then the disease can still flare up very quickly. I am still experimenting with the control of the disease and always learning new ideas about it, but these are just a few of the ideas that I have observed and discovered about it so far.

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About the STA

  • Saskatchewan's Turfgrass Association, founded in 1979, is a non-profit organization. The S.T.A. was organized by a group of Turfgrass Professionals which has grown to include people from Parks, Golf Courses, Sod Growers, Cities and Commercial Companies.