University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden


Rust Problems Returning to Lawns

July 30, 1998

Orange lawns are once again appearing. This is due to rust, which has been a common problem in recent years. With dry weather likely to continue in the near future, rust will likely continue to become much more visible.

Rust develops on lawns growing very slowly. Low fertility (in particular nitrogen) and low water availability slow down the growth of turf, allowing rust to develop. Rust may also be a problem in shade and also on newly seeded lawns. Overall, the turf may assume a yellow, red, or brown appearance. Close examination will reveal the pustules, which easily rub off on your hand. Rust spores can easily be tracked into homes.

On established lawns, the best way to manage rust is to get the grass growing more vigorously, such as by watering and fertilizing. Unfortunately, early August weather usually is not ideal for lawn growth. If watering, apply enough to get down into the soil. Wait until around Labor Day (or early September) for fertilizing lawns.

When renovating lawns or putting in new lawns, choose a quality turfgrass seed blend of several cultivars of the species adapted to the site. Resistance to rust can vary according to the race of the disease present. A diverse turf stand helps combat rust and numerous other turf problems. Read seed package labels and look for listings of named cultivars.

Maintain lawns through sound watering, mowing, and fertilizing. Manage problem thatch.

Increase vigor with an early fall nitrogen application, but don't overdo it. Check soil phosphorus and potassium levels soil testing. Also assure good air flow over the site by pruning trees and removing excess vegetation.

If rust is severe on a particular site every year, a preventative fungicide program may be needed in addition to following sound cultural practices. Fungicides may also be needed to protect newer seeded areas. Fungicides for rust control include chlorothalonil (Black Leaf Lawn & Garden, Ferti-lome Liquid Fungicide, Hi-Yield Daconil, Ortho Multi-Purpose Fungicide Daconil 2787), ammonium chlorides (Hi-Yield Consan 20), and triadimefon (Monterey Bayleton). Read and follow all label directions.


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