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Biological management of turf diseases

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At this time, many research programs are investigating biological controls for turf diseases. The two main areas of emphasis are the use of organic composts and the use of specific microbes that inhibit disease-causing fungi. There are some new commercial products for the biological control of turf diseases that consist of specific microbes, and many potential products are currently under study. Several organic composts have exhibited some suppression of certain diseases, but much more research is needed before recommendations can be made. Such composts are thought to contain microbial populations that inhibit disease-causing fungi. Different composts inhibit certain diseases but not others; other composts do not appear to suppress disease at all.

Genetic resistance can also be considered a form of biological control because certain turfgrass cultivars are resistant to or tolerant of some diseases. Selection of disease-resistant cultivars or disease-immune species is a priority in many turfgrass breeding programs. If a certain disease is a continuing problem, it can be helpful to investigate the availability of new disease-resistant cultivars that can be used for over-seeding or reestablishment of damaged areas. See Turfgrass Selection: Species and Cultivars for information on disease tolerant cultivars that are well-adapted to Massachusetts conditions.

There is little doubt that the use of biological control products and improved genetic resistance will become a more significant part of turfgrass disease management in the near future. However, these new alternatives will work best as part of an integrated disease management program that includes a strong cultural approach to reduce stress factors and minimize opportunities for infection by pathogenic fungi.