WET WEATHER PROMOTES FUNGAL DISEASE, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Recently much of Northwest Florida has experienced the typical summer pattern of frequent late afternoon and evening thunderstorms. And high humidity is common this time of year. Our wet, warm weather adds up to fungus “heaven” in our lawns, landscapes and gardens.

Most fungal diseases are dependent on moisture, especially foliage or leaf spot diseases. Many of these disease-causing fungi spread by microscopic airborne spores that require moisture to germinate, infect and colonize our plants.

Many fungal leaf spot diseases rquires a 12- to 14-hour period of uninterrupted wetness. A UF/IFAS Extension factsheet on gray leaf spot of St. Augustinegrass states, “Warm rainy spells from May through September commonly produce extended periods (12 hours and greater) of leaf wetness and relative humidity greater than 95 percent. During these periods, turfgrass leaf blades can remain wet and air temperatures often hover between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Environmental conditions such as these are ideal for the pathogen growth, infection, and colonization of St. Augustinegrass.”

This is true with many other fungal leaf spot diseases that are seen in our lawns this time of year. A Texas Cooperative Extension fact-sheet on Bipolaris and Exserohilum fungi states: “The severity of the disease increases with temperature and humidity. At 78 degrees, a period of eight to 10 hours with 100 percent relative humidity is all that is required for a high level of infection to develop.”

These two fungi once were grouped under the name Helminthosporium and are common pathogens of bermudagrass and St. Augustine grass.

Many fungal leaf spot diseases of trees and shrubs follow this same scenario. With higher humidity and frquent rains come diseased leaves. It’s common to find entomosporium leaf spot on red tip photinia and Indian Hawthorn and black spot on roses with these weather conditions.

Many spring-planted vegetable crops are spent now as a result of the heat, hmidity and frquent showers. These conditions promote foliage and fruit rot diseases. It’s best to remove and dispose of these diseased, worn out vegetable plants as they succumb to these conditions.

Not all plants are equally susceptible to these foliage diseases. It’s wise to learn the landscape and garden plants that are likely to experience disease problems as a result of our classic summer weather here in Florida.

A fungicidal spray program can be used to prevent and reduce many of these diseases. But it needs to begin ahead of the symptoms in order to be effective. There are also cultural practices that can be helpful in managing some of these diseases.

Contact your county UF/IFAS Extension Office for identification and control options of diseased plants.

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