UNIVERSITY PARK — When the grass is not greener on your side of the fence, plant pathologists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences may be able to provide the information needed to bring your lawn back to life.

Healthy turf not only provides aesthetic value, but it also supports soil stabilization and can hinder weeds from taking root, according to Wakar Uddin, turfgrass disease specialist, who oversees the Turfgrass Disease Clinic. He works with Sara May, coordinator of the Plant Disease Clinic, to diagnose the cause of damage, injury or death of grass and other plants.

The duo — who have more than 30 years of combined experience in plant disease diagnostics — have processed thousands of samples from Pennsylvania homeowners and the turfgrass industry in their several years of working together.

May is charged with processing home lawn samples, while Uddin takes care of commercial turfgrass specimens from golf courses, commercial landscapes, sod farms, recreation facilities, athletic fields and such. Both services accept samples, free-of-charge, from citizens and businesses in Pennsylvania.

While there are many turfgrass diseases that impact home lawns, landscapes and golf courses, some diseases are more common and can thrive under the right circumstances. For example, diseases such as Rhizoctonia brown patch, Pythium foliar blight and snow molds are common in both home lawns and golf turf, while anthracnose basal rot, gray leaf spot, take-all patch and dollar spot are more prevalent in golf turf. Symptoms can include circular to irregular brown patches, yellowing, diffused blights, leaf spots, general decline, wilting and root and crown rots, to name several.

May and Uddin begin by reviewing the information on a submission form that accompanies the turfgrass sample. This process includes identifying the species of grass, cultural practices and symptom assessment. They perform diagnostic tests. Their goal is to have a diagnosis and treatment recommendations back to the client as soon as possible.

May added that lawn and turfgrass diseases can be challenging to diagnose without a good sample and thorough information. To that end, she recommends following sample submission instructions, which can be found at https://plantpath.psu.edu/about/facilities/plant-disease-clinic/instructions. Photos that show the affected landscape are helpful, too.

“The turfgrass sample processing in the past decade has been steady due to the greater coordination of both plant disease and turfgrass clinics,” Uddin said.

More information is available online at https://plantpath.psu.edu/about/facilities/plant-disease-clinic. Questions may be directed to May at srm183@psu.edu or Uddin at wxu2@psu.edu.

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